The Game: You are a marker, trying to claim as much of the playing field as you can by enclosing areas of it. Drawing your boundaries faster is safer, but yields fewer points. A slower draw, which leaves you vulnerable to attack from the Qix Dragon and the Sparx, gives you many more points upon the completion of an enclosed area. If the jumpy Qix Dragon touches your marker or an uncompleted boundary you are drawing, you lose a “life” and start again. And the Sparx, which travel only along the edges of the playing field and along the boundaries of areas of the screen you’ve already enclosed, can destroy you by touching your marker. And if you linger too long, a fuse will begin burning at the beginning of your unfinished boundary, and will eventually catch up with you. (Taito, 1987)
Memories: The beauty of the original Qix was that it was a simple-but-difficult, instinctive puzzle game, and it was gloriously abstract. No motives were assigned to anything or anyone; the helix-like Qix was automatically your antagonist because it would stop you from drawing your stix (in essence, as Daily Variety might say, nixing your stix pix). Simple as that.
Flash forward some six years, as arcade game makers desperately try to draw NES-weaned video kiddies out of their living rooms and into the arcades. Quite a few companies tried to dust off their classic-era breadwinners and give them fancy new makeovers – hence games like Super Qix and Pac-Mania. Same old game, just a new look. Now, not trying to be a Luddite here, but what was wrong with the old look? It’s essentially the same game, and yet the cosmetic changes that turn Qix into Super Qix drive me nuts.
First off – shades of Super Zaxxon! – the spiraling, undulating antagonist is replaced with an animÃ¨-style cute dragon. Occasionally it puffs up or its ears perk up before it attacks, but otherwise it might as well have been a static picture of a teddy bear. The subtlety of the fight-or-flight-inspiring movement of the original Qix is completely lost.
Furthermore, the object of the game seems to have been dwarfed by something akin to a common jigsaw puzzle. While claiming a certain pre-determined area of the playing field is still the game’s goal, doing so now uncovers pictures within the claimed space. This doesn’t trouble me as much as the screen saver-to-dragon transition, it bugs me on a purist level to throw in a macguffin other than the conquest of geometric space. Qix wasn’t broken – whose great idea was it to “fix” it like this?
As annoying as I find the changes to be, it’s still, at its heart, Qix, so in all good conscience I can’t give Super Qix too low a rating. But I’m not giving it an especially high one either; I can only recommend that you stick with the original, whose abstraction is its very charm, rather than a remake that reeks of a boardroom decision to cash in on the original’s reputation because, hey, we own the rights.