Review: Qix++ (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Qix++
Developer: Taito
Publisher: Taito
Genre: Arcade
Release Date: 12/9/2009


Anyone who’s read any of my articles knows that I’m not only a huge fan of Taito games, but have been an even bigger fan of their latest releases. A quick look at my own archives shows that most of what Taito releases scores well with me; it’s not because I’m a fanboy, it’s because they make really good games. This is ironic because their good streak has only happened since they were bought out by Square-Enix, a company that hasn’t been able to get out of its own way for almost a decade. The ultimate perk of being a video game reviewer is that we get free games, which is nice because Taito has given us our games – in almost every case – for free, with the exception of Space Invaders Extreme 2, a game I didn’t receive specifically because I loved it so much that I imported it, therefore allowing me to send it to Aileen instead.

Therefore, not getting Qix++ for review didn’t bother me; once I was done with my infernal Christmas shopping, I dropped some money on Microsoft points to pick it up. I figured that even if it sucked, I could consider it thanks to Taito for being on a really nice roll lately.

So… did it suck?

Modes

It’s really hard, in late December, to review this game’s modes, because this is an incomplete section. That’s right; not all of the modes are available as of now, nor are they unlockable. The only mode you get is Standard Mode, which is the same tried-and-true Qix game we’ve played for years; cover X amount of the screen, win the stage, go on to the next stage. This in itself is fine, but there are a couple of problems: for one, there are only two scenarios to start the game. That isn’t so much of a problem until you combine this with the fact that there are only eight stages per scenario. Each stage takes anywhere from a couple minutes to twenty seconds, depending on your skill and how the Qix are moving. It literally took me less than ten minutes to beat the first scenario, and fifteen – two tries – to beat the second one, and with that – less than a half hour – I was done with single player mode.

There ARE two other modes, according to the game’s instructions: Float and Hunt. I don’t know what they’re like, because I couldn’t play them; they will be available as DLC, most likely paid DLC to go with the last two scenarios. This is inexcusable! This is a $10 game; that’s not a lot of money compared to some other titles, but it’s still advertised as a full game. I cannot believe that Taito/Squeenix are charging for a full game, then not giving us a full game. I can see extra levels as DLC; both Bubble Bobble Neo! and Bust-A-Move LIVE! did it. However, those games were complete as they came out; there were a lot of levels to play in both games without needing the DLC. There are a grand total of sixteen stages in this one, AND only one of the three game modes. In short, you’re paying $10 for about a third of the game. At this point, I figure if they’re going to give us a third of a game, the LEAST they can do is throw in the original arcade game, just as a museum piece.

There is also a multiplayer mode, which I was unable to try due to the fact that there was never an opponent to be found online. If you have a bunch of Qix fans in your house, have at it, but Live support is a big factor in this mode, and since there’s no supporting something that isn’t there – I still can’t find an opponent – I’m going to ding this.

Considering the fact that the one mode we do have is just the arcade mode – a mode that should be required by default – it’s insulting to think of just how little consumers are getting for their money, especially when compared to other Taito games.

Modes Rating: Awful

Graphics

The original Qix was as simple as graphics got; you were a dot, you drew lines to make boxes which were then filled in, and your enemies were either sparkles, or the Qix, which was nothing but a bunch of lines. Super Qix and later Volfied improved on this by having actual enemies, and allowing gamers to uncover pictures of castles and the like. Qix++ settles between the two; the backgrounds are plain, but there is a variance in enemies, such as the addition of butterflies and polygon monsters. Obviously, the graphics have an added sheen to them that comes with being a game released in 2009, but there is nothing that will make you say “wow” here; in fact, this game could have easily been done on the Playstation ONE with minimal fuss. Just giving us some background images to unlock would have helped immensely.

Graphics Rating: Very Bad

Sound

The sound and music in this game are so nondescript I specifically had to boot it up again just to see if there WAS any. Most of what you hear is a New Age/Techno combination that, again, you never pay any attention to during gameplay. The menus have the same music, more or less. Sound effects during gameplay, I assume, are supposed to ape those of the older Qix games, which works well enough, but there is nothing aurally pleasing about this game.

Sound Rating: Pretty Poor

Control and Gameplay

It’s pretty hard to screw up Qix unless you make it so difficult that it becomes cheap (there are some “adult” games in Japan that copied the Qix gameplay that accomplished that, sadly). This game is called Qix++, but in reality it plays the closest to Volfied. For those that don’t know how to play Qix, you are a little dot (in older games, a spaceship), and by pressing the A button while venturing out onto the world map, you start to draw a line; complete that line to create a box, and that part of the world is permanently “claimed”; it changes colour, and the outer line of that area becomes the outer part of the world. While you do this, there’s an enemy floating around the unclaimed area; in the original game, it was a series of lines called a Qix, though in this game, the Qix can be one of a number of entities. There are also Pawns and Sparx; the Pawns are smaller enemies that float around in the unclaimed space, while the Sparx roll around on the outside edge of the lines. Anytime you’re either hit by an enemy, or a Qix/Pawn hits an unfinished line, you lose a shield marker, which constitutes a life. Run out of lives, and it’s game over.

The main difference between this and previous versions of Qix is that the difficulty has been turned WAY down. While this is a good thing – we’re past the era of quarter munchers, after all – Qix++ takes things too much to the other side, and the result is a game that’s way too easy. You begin every stage as if you didn’t lose any lives in the previous stages, so even if you’re down to your last life when clearing a previous stage, you go back to having your regular amount of lives (or “shield points”) the next stage. This plays into stats that determine how effective your spaceship is; you’re given four bars that measure shield, speed, cutting and luck, with Speed being how fast your spaceship goes when not cutting a line, cutting being the opposite of that, and luck determining how strong your powerups and score are. The better you do during stages, the more points you can add to these four metrics, which change the look of your ship superficially after enough points.

One thing I’m disappointed didn’t end up in this game is ability to cut a slower line, with the result of a successful box being a higher score; it was in the first Qix game, but wasn’t put into later games. It would have added a little bit of variance to the game, but as it stands, the gameplay is a bit dry and banal, and the new changes make it horribly unbalanced to boot. Combine that with the lack of stages and modes in the default package, and you have a game that plays well for what it is, but won’t keep anyone for longer than five or ten minutes at a time.

Control and Gameplay rating: Mediocre

Replayability

One of my readers who I’ve since befriended noted to me recently that he enjoyed the Qix++ demo. Fortunately for him, I was able to point out that he’d basically played the entire game already, and there was no need to spend $10. It’s true; there’s so little to do without buying DLC that even the full, unlocked game strikes me as being a demo that allows you to put your top scores online. Yes, having online leaderboards kind of helps, but even as a good Qix player, it’s hard to get above the 50% line in terms of my score, and the top scores are so obscene that I have to wonder if the players cheated.

Unless you’re willing to wait and then pay for the later DLC packs, there is nothing to do in this game other than repeating the same sixteen stages over and over again to gain a few extra points. Quite frankly, I no longer have an interest in waiting to find out if it’s worth it.

Replayability rating: Dreadful

Balance

Qix was never a truly balanced game; the Qix itself was so random and moved so smoothly that it was very hard to get a good score without randomly making a mistake. Later games were just as intense, and almost as random. Qix++, with its point system, powerups and slower enemies, takes things in the exact opposite direction by completely breaking the gameplay, thanks to the fact that your lives reset in every stage. Furthermore, there’s no difficulty option, so even hardcore players can’t just increase the difficulty and make the enemies more random, or faster. The game is too easy, from start to finish, except for the very last stage of the second scenario, where the difficulty spikes pretty harshly.

There are cases where games being unbalanced don’t really hurt. This is not one of those cases.

Balance rating: Very Bad

Originality

There are literally no original thoughts in this game. They took the gameplay from the original Qix, took out a couple of elements, and added the varied enemies from Volfied. Oh, wait, they added what could loosely be called “RPG elements” – the stat system – if you had imbibed plenty of alcohol, but they’re ultimately superficial.

Combine the lack of originality with the lack of effort – I’m talking about the bland visuals, no significant gameplay enhancements, and the lack of anything to do – and you have a putrid package.

Originality rating: Worthless

Addictiveness

Picture an addictive drug. Think of the effect of that drug, or at least a positive one. Does it last a while? Does it last long enough to make you come back to it, at the very least? Does it last long enough to make you ignore any negative consequences incurred from its use to try to repeat that feeling?

That is the simplest definition of “addictive” that I can come up with. By those standards, Qix++ doesn’t last long enough to give you a reason to keep coming back. You feel good for five minutes – if that – and then it’s over. That’s not even long enough to make you forget the fact that your wallet is lighter for the experience, and certainly not long – or nice – enough to make you want to come back for more.

Playing this game was like my first time in bed. I came in excited, and way too soon, I was left with more questions than answers.

Addictiveness rating: Dreadful

Appeal Factor

Unlike with previous titles, Qix doesn’t have quite the name recognition – or adoration – of games like Bubble Bobble and Bust A Move. Qix has always been viewed as a good game, but not one that makes people wistfully discuss it as if they were discussing a lost love.

With that said, Qix does have its share of admirers and dedicated fans, and the newest game in the series is enough to make anyone interested in retro gaming – either new or old gamers – give it a cursory glance. Hopefully, they did what my friend did and stuck to the demo, instead of going the full monty.

Appeal Factor rating: Bad

Miscellaneous

I’ve been struggling in this review because I’ve almost run out of ways to describe my displeasure with this title. Unlike with Army Men: Soldiers of Misfortune, I didn’t even have the energy after playing this to go on a linguistic adventure in finding all the different ways I could say “this sucks”. I take my writing seriously, and throughout this piece, I’ve had this voice in the back of my head, and it’s been saying “you’re mailing this in”. I hate mailing pieces in.

I was able to reconcile this with myself based on one merit: I wouldn’t be doing nearly as much postage on this review as Taito did on the actual game. I cannot understate how this game is as lazy and shoddy as it is; the lack of effort put into the game is apparent from top to bottom. In fact, it seems more effort went into “monetizing” the game – determining what we were going to get for free, and what we were going to get in paid DLC – than actually making it, which is a guaranteed way to NEVER make friends, especially when your game is being reviewed by someone who’s made a career of writing pro-consumer columns.

Writing this makes me feel like I’m having a violent, horrible break-up with Taito. C’mon, guys, you’re better than this. I remember the good days, when we would sit around the fire, and you gave me such wonderful gifts as Elevator Action, Darius and the Golgo 13 games. I miss those days. Why do you make me have to hit you, baby? Come back to daddy and wear that Arkanoid negligee you know I love so much…

Miscellaneous rating: Worthless

The Scores:
Modes: Awful
Graphics: Very Bad
Sound: Pretty Poor
Control and Gameplay: Mediocre
Replayability: Dreadful
Balance: Very Bad
Originality: Worthless
Addictiveness: Dreadful
Appeal Factor: Bad
Miscellaneous: Worthless
FINAL SCORE: VERY BAD GAME


Short Attention Span Summary

Taito’s winning streak comes crashing with as loud a “thud” as you can imagine. Qix++ is a terrible game in almost every way, combining antiquated gameplay with lazy, shoddy game design that is specifically meant to suck gamers out of their money. This is, in all actuality, a $10 demo of a full game that might cost anywhere from $15-$25 when every piece of DLC is out. This combines a bad game with a misleading business model that, in one fell swoop, renders any goodwill the Square-Enix/Taito merger has engendered with their previous releases.

There is absolutely no reason to purchase this game. Even Qix fans are urged to look elsewhere, if for no other reason than to punish Taito/Squeenix for such a terrible release.

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