Why I Love: Qix (Game Boy)

“Qix grabbed the gaming world with its color and imaginative design. Almost immediately it rose to the top of the charts.”

Qix was conceptually too mystifying for gamers … It was impossible to master and once the novelty wore off, the game faded.”

“Qix is a fascinating game. It is highly recommended to those who are at one with the universe … I do love and hate it so.”

A few quotes from reviews as far back as the early 80s on Qix. An interesting bunch which seem to hint at a game which was on the verge of greatness, but was maybe too clever for its own good. Apparently, gamers back then didn’t get it. They didn’t enjoy the randomness at play with the Qix (more on this bugger in a minute) bouncing around the play area. How can you master a game with such a random element involved? This wasn’t like Donkey Kong and Pac Man with their programmed patterns, no-one could predict how the Qix would behave. Let’s take a look at the little fella:

Seems simple enough. Claim areas of the playing field whilst trying to avoid this slow moving ‘thing’ which just seems to be minding its own business. Easy! Let’s see where it goes from here:

Score on a huge area against the Qix! Take that you stupid Qix! I’m avoiding the sparx following me around the outside of the area which is good, and Qix seems to be getting a bit more aware at this point. What next…:

WTF. I swear that thing started to follow me along my line, also known as a stix. There’s NO WAY Qix was ever going to let me move on there. Clever little sod him.  Ah Qix, you are a naughty boy you. Bouncing around the play area in that way you do. That rhymes. I’m going crazy. I need to get back on track here.

So, Qix was ported to the Game Boy after having already been available for a couple of Atari’s, Commodore 64, Amiga and of course the original arcade release in 1981. As mentioned above, it never reached the heights of other classic arcade games due to its random nature. You couldn’t truly perfect a game where there’s absolutely no real way of knowing how your enemy is going to behave. Watch videos, play the game, study the different versions, there’s still simply no way you can ever figure out where Qix is going to go next. You can go crazy trying to work it out, BUT…

I love it.

I think it’s a brilliant title where no two games are ever going to truly be the same experience. There are actually ways of playing the game where you can hamper the Qix by boxing it off while you go rampant on the remaining area of the level. I’m more of a sensible boring player who just looks to box, box, box my way to victory. Huzzah! However, other players play like this:

You get an extra 1000 points for every extra percent you claim of the area above 75% so trying to gain that extra inch on the Qix is imperative to a high score. This chap decided he was going to work his way all around the Qix whilst leaving enough room at the top there to ensure all of the area left and right of Qix was still one solid lot. That 12% of area which he claimed by working around Qix suddenly becomes 79% because of that nice last join which seals the two Qix off.

… hang on a second…

YOU’VE GOT TO BE ****ING JOKING ME!!! TWO QIX!?!? Oooooooh yes, after you pass just 4 levels of the game, suddenly you’re thrown into true hell trying to avoid this 8-bit combination of Chuck Norris and Jean Claude Van Damme. I have not gotten past this stage with my dull way of playing, it would have to be time to get clever and start properly laying out my approach to the level. I haven’t got the time nor the patience to do this so will likely forever be stuck in this Groundhog Day of hell.

In-between every few levels, you get a little mini cut-scene, and the first one offers a cute little firework display. The second one features Mario in Mexican garb apparently serenading a vulture in the desert. How quaint!

What else is there to this little bastion of controlling madness? The audio is terrifying. The title screen starts off innocently enough with a jingle that sounds like it came straight out of Tron. However, once you settle into the first level, the Qix begins it’s travel… and you hear what sounds like a set of clippers buzzing… getting quieter when it slows down, and seemingly louder when it’s about to make it’s move on you. The tension it creates is remarkable because, what looks like a simple odd little graphic on screen suddenly becomes this unknowing monster. The sound makes it feel like Qix knows what it’s doing, like it’s planning out a strategy of attack to take you out. Genuinely, it’s creepy.

I’m not sure how many levels there are to the game as I can’t get too far but as far into it as I can get it’s still a great experience. I believe there’s also a two player mode which I imagine is a bit of race against each other to capture as much area as possible but I’ll probably never get a chance to try this out so I’m guessing. You’ll get out of this as much as your luck allows to take you along on the ride. Qix is simple, fun, and a reminder of a time when games didn’t have to be too in-depth. With a d-pad and 2 buttons, this game provides more of a challenge than most £40 – £50 AAA releases today. I paid a fiver for this last week from the London Gaming Market. Absolute bloody bargain.

FOR KIDS??? Yeah, if you want to impose irreversible mental damage on the poor buggers