ULTIMATE QIX| Players: 1 | Release: 1991 | Taito


Whatever happened to Taito?

Back in 1994 I was given an old Apple IIC computer by an uncle. Glorious green monochrome graphics, 5.25 inch disks, a 9(!)'' monitor and <1MB of RAM. It's no surprise most of the games on this machine were pretty boring and crappy. But, while going through all the disks that I got with it, I came across a game that instantly became my favorite: XONIX. The objective in this game was pretty easy. By crossing from one border of the screen to another, it was possible to 'steal' land from some blobs (mere pixels) that bounced around the screen. When one of these blobs was hit during your crossing, you died. If enough land was stolen the screen folded together, you were given a bonus based on how much land was left and the next level started. Naturally, all the enemy blobs started moving faster every level and it became increasingly difficult to capture enough land to progress to the next level.  

Now Ultimate Qix is a lot like Xonix. Or should I say Xonix is a lot like QIX, because it is a clear rip-off of the original arcade version of QIX. Qix already was released on multiple formats (think Atari 5200,C-64, Nintendo Game Boy, NES) before it made its debut in 1991 on the Megadrive (under the name of Volvied) and on the Genesis (as Ultimate Qix). What was new? Lets find out..

One of the first things you'll notice when playing Ultimate Qix is that the backgrounds are no longer just black boxes, but contain actual graphical themes such as small islands, bridges, lava pools and various other elements. Even better is the way the overlapping is done. When a large enough part of the screen has been 'captured', the texture is changed into the layer below, which is the background of the next level. Very clever. One of the other things that was changed for the better is that the enemies no longer are just 'blobs' or 'sticks' but actual monsters. They aren't very impressive or detailed but its a lot better anyway.

One of the things that Xonix had that Qix didn't, was the option to divide the screen into two or more sections. That way you could split the blobs from each other by building borders, making it easier to steal land. Ultimate Qix was kept true to the original Qix, so it doesn't work here either. This is because every level of Ultimate Qix consists of one BIG creature and various smaller 'drones'. All land that was seperated from the area in which the BIG creature moves automaticly becomes void space and all drones that were in that area are being destroyed in an instant. Because of this, the game becomes very strategic which is a great thing. You can either 'capture' all the little drones before moving onto the boss, but you could also try to 'just' steal as many land as possible untill you reach the required percentage.. (but with a larger risk of being killed by one of them).

This should be a safe trip across the screen..
Not really the 'hand of god'

The capturing (as I would like to call it) of enemies is great fun and my favorite thing about this game. By stealing small slices of land you can create actual 'walls'. The enemies are bouncing around randomly on the screen (although they seem to like to annoy you by staying relatively close to the power-ups) and will also bounce off sections of land you've stolen. Now what I do (and I daresay most of the people playing this game) is creating small 'chambers' for enemies to
bounce into. Wait at the edge and quickly close the room when they've entered. Instant carnage!  The true warrior uses this technique on the boss creature. It ain't as easy, but it's do-able. Successfully capture a boss creature in a small room and loads of bonus points are yours!

Taito also were nice enough to add another few things, which certainly add to the gameplay. First of those are power-ups. A couple of blue orbs (or should that be 'nodes') are appearing every now and then. Steal the land they are on and they're yours. Here's what they are:

(P) - Power. Stops the timer. Appears the most. Not very useful.
(L) - Laser. Gives you a laser. Rare as hell. 
(S) - Speed. Increases your speed. When you've picked up multiple expect some serious speed!
(T) - Timer. Freezes all enemies (Including the large ones!). Quickly capture something!
(C) - Crush. All smaller drones are instantly killed. Rather useful.
(1UP) - 1 up. RARE!
( * ) - Special. Press the B button for a three-way bomb. Good for bosses.

As you've might have guessed from the first description above, the game has a timer as well. It doesn't really makes the game much harder but the 'chamber capturing' technique often takes a lot time, so beware. There's four difficulty settings (EASY-NORMAL-HARD-PRO) which all have steeper time limits but, more importantly, require a bigger percentage of land to be stolen before you can enter the next level. As follows;

EASY - 75%
NORMAL - 80%
HARD - 85%
PRO - 90%

If all of that wasn't enough already, there are three play modes as well. (Called A,B&C)
Here's the differences (and I quote):


*It is possible for player vessels to return to or erase orange lines that they have drawn.
*If an enemy touches an orange line, a lightning fast high-energy force travels along the line, threatening the player's spaceship.
*The content of the item blocks change at random. How the items appear changes each time you play.
*When the timer has expired, Balboa (Some meanie - Segafreak) appears and attacks the player's spaceship.
*If a player stops while drawing an orange line, Balboa appears and attacks the player's   


*The player's spaceships cannot erase orange lines previously drawn.
*If an enemy touches an orange line, the player's spaceship is immidiately eliminated.
*The content of the item blocks is fixed and does not change for each play.
*When a fixed time has elapsed, Blue Sparks appear and move along the green lines while multiplying. (Which is nasty! - Segafreak)
*If a player stops while drawing an orange line, a Red Spark appears and attacks the player's spaceship at high speed along the line.

C-Mode (Masochists only - Segafreak)

*The player's spaceships cannot erase orange lines previously drawn.
*If an enemy touches an orange line, the player's spaceship is immidiately eliminated.
*No items appear.
*When a certain amount of time has elapsed, the blue sparks appear and attack player's spaceships at high speed along the lines.
*If a player stops while drawing an orange line, red spark appears and attacks the player's spaceship.
I usually play the A-mode, because it's more fun..and because I'm a wuss.

'There's no lack of modes is there?' you might say. Well..actually there is. You see, Ultimate Qix only has eight different fields, which are done twice, but with some palette swaps. That's sixteen fields total, but you'll be battling the same foes multiple times, which is a bit boring. With double the cart size (it's only 2 meg now) it could have been a far more varied and interesting game, which is a shame. Other niggles? Yes, the sound is pretty dire. The SFX is basic at best and the
BGM only consists of a neurotic string sample, which is looped every two seconds. Some good BGM could've really helped to set the pace and the lack of it is kind of a mystery to me..

Another major omission is the all-important 2 player mode. Most Qix games had a 2 player mode, which had players cooperating to reach the objective, which worked a treat. Bugger. Conclusion; Ultimate Qix is very playable game with classic arcade gameplay, that should kill many a dull hour. Shame about missing multiplayer mode and the sound, but it still comes recommended.

Meet 'Slicey', the crab of doom
'Congratulation!' 'Fank you!'
This 'thing' freaks me out. Four eyes..it's just not natural.


Not very impressive with plenty of graphical repeats, but this -after all- is a 1991 Genesis
game were talking about. The graphics aren't that important in this kind of game anyway.

Crap. Pathetic 'BGM' and lame sound effects. The game's biggest flaw.

Very playable because of the good controls and addictive scoring system.

Plenty of game settings but a painful lack of 2 player action. A couple of decent
bonus round wouldn't have hurt either.

Graphics 7
Sound 4
Gameplay 85
Value 7.5
Overall 78



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