Movies nowadays are pretty damn expensive; you’re lucky to find a decent new release theater with ticket prices less than ten dollars. Yet many people still flock to the theaters to enjoy a two hour experience, drawn by the impressive screen size and booming surround sound. The experience justifies the price even in light of its relative brevity.
QIX++, the most recent XBLA release, is similarly banking on the hope that gamers will see past its extreme brevity and find it worthy of their precious points. But is this a hope doomed to be unrealized? Read on to see whether your ten dollars are best spent here, or better utilized paying for entrance into Old Dogs.
Let’s get this out of the way first: despite the fact the game’s title contains two plus signs, has nothing to do with its incredibly short length. By my calculation, the game has around eight minutes of gameplay. No, not hours. Minutes.
OK, this is a slight simplification, but the entirety of the content at present consists of sixteen stages split up over two groups that the game refers to as sections. Due to the game’s mechanics, each stage tends to last for only a fleeting moment before you move on to the next challenge.
The basic gameplay of QIX++ is based around a marker controlled by the player, a large, rectangular playing field, and a geometric rogue computer virus referred to as a Qix. As the marker, the player has the power to cut sections of the playing field away in an attempt to destroy the Qix, which happens automatically after a certain percentage of the field has been eradicated. All the while, players must avoid contact with the Qix and other quasi-threatening enemies that pop up from time to time.
The problem with this play style is that the game rewards you for cutting away as much of the field as possible before the Qix has a chance to destroy the very useful power-ups that populate each stage. These range from point boosts to a massively helpful shrinking power, which reduces the Qix to a tiny size and allows you to wipe away huge sections of the field without contacting the Qix.
Because the game’s focus is on quick completions, it is precisely what makes the game so short. Each stage, in my many play-throughs, lasted an average of 30 seconds–some lasted about five, while others were about a minute. And at a total of 16 stages, that led me and my irrefutable mathematical skills to conclude that this game is eight minutes long. If you somehow manage to get yourself killed, which is a rarity, then you’ll have to start the section over, but even this isn’t much of a problem since each stage is so short.
Still, your time with the game is extended in a variety of ways. For one, at the end of each stage, you’re given a certain number of points to upgrade your marker; you can devote points toward your shields, marker speed, cutting speed, and the ever-ambiguous RPG staple “luck.” At first glance, this is a great mechanic that adds depth to a simple game. Yet, these stats reset after each section, so once you’ve finished your extremely short session, your progress is lost. You can also adjust your play style and take things slowly, like planning your cuts carefully, but in my experience, this led to low scores.
In addition to the single-player experience, QIX++ offers both local and online multiplayer modes supporting up to four players or bots. The experience is pretty similar: players try to clear as much of the board as possible and destroy the QIX before the other competitors. Local multiplayer proved fun for only a few minutes, and if the utter lack of an online community is any indication, competition over Live has about the same lifespan.
In terms of the sound, there’s not much to say. The techno-infused soundtrack ranges from forgettable to grating and will have you mashing the guide button to get to your custom soundtracks. Sound effects do their job, but in a game all about cutting and zapping, there’s not much to hear. But, hey, the cutting sounds pretty much like cutting tends to sound. Take that as you will.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy of QIX++ is the overall concept is quite appealing. I didn’t hate my time with the game, and before I reached the end, I was genuinely enjoying it. In fact, even on my third and fourth runs, I found myself pushing toward higher scores and better completion percentages.
But even the most neurotic high-score fiend still has only sixteen high scores to obtain, and once this milestone is achieved, there’s truly nothing left. Strangely, the game’s hints menu refers to a number of game modes that aren’t anywhere in the game; these are apparently part of a DLC package that was intended to be released alongside the game, but this unfortunately was not the case. It remains to be seen whether this will add enough to the game to justify the ten dollar price point, and whether they will be free.
For now, though, all that’s present in QIX++ is a ridiculously short, demo-sized experience that, while offering some relatively unique puzzle-style fun, provides too little content (and at such a high price) that it’s extremely difficult to recommend, even for those who remember the original arcade version. As sad as it is to say, your money might be better spent on a ticket to this holiday season’s worst movie.
The game looks like many other retro updates in style, but with dull menus and lifeless graphics, very little is done to make it stand out.
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While relatively simple and far too easy, the basic formula is engaging, original and fun, and you'll enjoy pushing yourself to perform better in each stage.
The audio is unexciting but largely inoffensive. The sound effects do their job, but the music is mute worthy. Keep your custom soundtracks handy for this one.
With a length comparable to the average game demo, you'll be moving on from this before you know it. While more content is promised, the game is over in a matter of minutes, rather than hours.
QIX++ strays from its namesake, offering an experience so short that you'll wonder just what those plus symbols are trying to tell you. With some more care and a lot more content, this could have been great.