Review by Russ Perry Jr.
I heard the theme of this issue was “Neutered”, the first thing I did
was ponder what that meant in terms of games.
(Well, no, the first thing I did was speculate that the proper
title for the issue should be “Neuter”, as in ‘having no gender’
as opposed to ‘having gender removed’).
A lot of suggestions were for games starring the standard
spaceships, which isn’t quite what the theme is looking for in my mind,
and robots which is closer, but given human sensibilities are often
anthropomorphized with gender anyway.
the other hand, Qix is one of
those games where you’re never really sure what you’re supposed to be,
so you’re pretty sure it doesn’t have gender.
Oh, the instructions refer to the Qix as “he”, but refers to
you as using a “chromium electronic marker” -- no gender there (though
the pencil-looking thing on the cover may intimate a Freudian suggestion
as to gender after all :-).
it really comes down to is that Qix is an abstract game, something you won’t
see as much of in the modern age of gaming as you did in the days of
Of course, Qix’s graphics are startlingly sparse, and
unfortunately a bit boring.
It would take years before the game was reinvented with pretty
pictures in the background to uncover as you play, in games like Gal’s
Panic and Ultimate Qix.
the other hand, the Qix itself, merely a collection of lines traipsing
about the screen chaotically, yet hypnotically, is a very powerful draw
[ugh, no pun intended, swear to God] graphically.
It’s not enough to keep the game from being labeled as bland, but
it’s a little “something special” that keeps this game from sinking
lower in the ratings.
is just right for the times.
It’s a little sparse, but interesting enough.
The Qix just sort of hums as it flits about, and in general it all
sounds very “electric”.
course, it’s the play that matters, right?
As I sit here, I can’t decide whether I should write glowingly
about the game, or temper my enthusiasm for it.
I suspect it’s a game that’s aimed more at the logical,
intellectual types than the twitch gamer.
That’s not to say that there aren’t “twitch” moments where
nerves of steel are required, but I don’t think the average twitch gamer
is going to see this game and decide that they HAVE to play it.
But, to help you decide, here’s a summary of the gameplay...
you’re there to draw Stix to partition off bits of the main playfield.
You can do this quickly, or slowly, depending on which fire button
you press (although on the emulator I have you apparently move slowly by
default even if no button is pressed, so be careful!).
Drawing slowly means twice as many points, but entails more risk,
because the whole time you are drawing you are vulnerable to the Qix.
When you close off a box, you capture part of the playfield, which
you get points for, and you are no longer vulnerable to the Qix.
The box will fill in orange if you drew slowly, or blue if you drew
There is a threshold, which starts at 50%, and when you’ve
captured that much of the screen, you go to the next round.
so far this doesn’t sound too difficult, does it?
Well, the second round features a more intelligent Qix that will
actually track you a little bit, making your task a bit harder.
The round after that you face two Qix, though both dumb, and you
can choose to complete a secondary objective -- split them up -- rather
than capture the screen threshold.
The fourth round sees the two Qix become intelligent.
After that, I’m not sure they continue to get MORE intelligent
(the instructions don’t say), but it’s certainly possible.
doesn’t sound that hard?
This all assumes you’re playing the novice level, which is not
the full arcade experience (yes, this started as an arcade game, made by
You see, there are also Sparx and the Fuse in the skilled level.
Sparx are two little sparks that travel around the perimeter of the
playfield, and running into them is fatal.
The Fuse occurs when you stop drawing -- a little spark starts
where you started drawing and follows the Stix until you finish drawing,
or it catches and kills you.
Oh, and on the skilled level, forget that easy 50% -- now you’ve
got to capture 65%.
The Sparx don’t sound like much trouble?
Well then, bump up to the advanced level, where the threshold is
Oh yeah, and then there are the Super Sparx.
You see, after a certain amount of time, Sparx evolve into Super
Sparx, which can then traverse the Stix you’ve drawn.
That makes them a little bit harder to avoid!
This is, as I recall, the proper arcade experience.
course, if you want it tougher yet, Atari has thoughtfully provided an
expert level, where you need to capture 85% of the screen and the Qix are
pretty intelligent all the way through the game, and the time it takes for
Sparx to evolve into Super Sparx is shorter than ever.
wait, you want some strategies?
Well, if you’re playing the novice level (wuss!) you can
definitely use patience to your advantage.
Draw skinny lines (quickly if you have to) in various places to
section off the screen a bit without actually capturing much territory.
For instance, build two tall trees one third and two thirds of the
way across the screen.
That way you guarantee getting roughly 66% without much trouble.
Of course, each of these can be sectioned off further so that you
trap the Qix in as small an area as you feel safe closing before it
touches your Stix.
Go for that magical 99%!
higher levels you won’t have the time to be quite so methodical about
trapping the Qix, unless it’s far away, because every time one of the
Sparx comes by you’ll have to quickly draw a new box to get out of its
Still, you can manage to set up lots of small areas for the Qix to
meander into, and you can close off passage to other areas to give it less
options (note however that there is NO gap that the Qix can’t pass
through -- it will often avoid small gaps, but not always; still, the
smaller the gap, the less likely it will go that way).
Still, claiming over 95% is quite possible, at least on early
get trickier when you’re talking two Qix...
One strategy is to kind of encourage them to be apart by ALMOST
splitting them up -- leaving a very small gap they’d have to pass to
join back up -- and then drawing small boxes to capture just UNDER the
threshold amount to maximize score before splitting them for good with a
final Stix across that narrow gap you left.
The reason this works is because there is a score multiplier that
goes up every time you split the Qix.
I’m not sure there’s a limit on it, as I’ve seen up to 7X on
Or you can simply (ha!) trap both at once (not too hard when the
threshold is low, but tricky when it gets higher).
I’m not sure which strategy leads to more points, but if you just
try to split the Qix without capturing an amount of territory near the
threshold level, you’ll be hurting your score for sure.
is relatively straightforward...
If you fast draw, you get 100 points for each percent of the
territory captured, and if you slow draw, it’s 200 points for each
Once you pass the threshold, you get 1000 points for each percent
over the threshold.
Note that if you split the Qix, you won’t get that 1000 point per
percent bonus, but you’ll get the bonus multiplier times the 100 or 200
points per each percent captured under the threshold, and when that
multiplier is up there high enough, I’m sure it’s a lot of points.
Oh, and if you’re going to split them, don’t be afraid to use
the fast draw, since that last Stix won’t score any percentage points
and you therefore won’t lose anything for not using slow draw.
I liked this game in the arcades, and I this version is pretty well done.
I don’t think it’s for everybody, and even I might have to be
in the right mood to play it, but it’s pretty solid.
An occasional frustration is trying to draw a very small path and
ending up with the Fuse getting me because I stopped instead of moving
that tiny bit over to start drawing back to my start point (in fact, I
just had a brief flash of paranoia that the Fuse was going to start up
when I stopped typing briefly to consider what word I should use :-).
But there is a decent challenge, some adrenaline moments, and a
fair amount of thought and strategy required.
A solid game for the time.
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