RELEASE DATE: 01/25/91 – (JP), 1991 – (US)
Ultimate Qix is one of those games a well-meaning grandparent gets you for your birthday or Christmas. The cover looks action-packed, the name is weird (possibly hip?, your grandparents think) and your parents told them you like “the videogames.” Thus, Ultimate Qix – a game you wouldn’t have considered renting or purchasing – is now yours.
And why would you, a super weird, possibly hip kid/preteen not be interested in Ultimate Qix? Well, the game’s concept certainly isn’t for everyone. Ultimate Qix is one of many sequels to regular Qix, a game where you fill in the majority (75% or more) of a rectangular playing field using a tiny marker. This objective would be simple if not for the Qix, “a stick-like entity that performs graceful but unpredictable motions within the confines of the rectangle” (Wikipedia contributors, Qix). As the Qix dances and weaves, you use the marker to draw in chunks of the playing field. Should the Qix touch you, your marker bursts, and hope is cast to the abyss.
Ultimate Qix gives a blast of aggressive pomp to the Qix formula. No longer do you avoid Qix sticks; that’s early 80s fare. With Ultimate, your marker is a tiny space ship, and the “Qix” are large futuristic space beasts (with additional smaller enemies, depending on the Mode you select). These buggers move quickly and take up way more room than a few measly lines. There are power-ups that speed up your ship’s movement and provide you with lasers to shoot the smaller enemies, among others. Even with this concession, Ultimate Qix is considerably tougher than the original.
While the game is challenging from the first stage on, Ultimate Qix does provide an Easy difficulty, and you can choose from three different ways to play in the Options menu. Mode A is the default mode. Your ship/marker moves much slower than the enemies, you have four minutes to complete the stage, and if an enemy hits the line you’re creating, a pulse from their direction will rush towards you. The pulse kills you if it touches you, but if you complete the line before the pulse reaches you, you’re safe. In Modes B and C, if an enemy touches your line, you’re automatically dead. But in Modes B and C, there is no time penalty. In Mode C, pressing ‘C’ will make your ship move faster and the smaller enemies will disappear, leaving only the larger jerks.
Even set on Easy, Ultimate Qix puts you in a headlock and farts on your face. To the best of my knowledge (correct me if I’m wrong, Internet), the game has no continues, no passwords, and no cheat codes. You have to beat Ultimate Qix in one go. And as if that wasn’t enough, in each and every stage, an obnoxious beeping noise takes the place of music. The noise never stops beeping until you beat the stage. I’ll still ride for the Qix concept. Trying to fill in the rectangle while avoiding creatures is strangely addicting. But dang, it’s like Taito and I.T.L. want you to hate the game.
Because Ultimate Qix released in 1991, let’s assume your grandparents gave you this gift in the early 90s. During this time, your game selection is likely limited because games are expensive, and neither you nor your parents are made of money. You cherish each game you own – or at least, you learn to cherish them. You learn to cherish Ultimate Qix. Sure, it’s unbearably hard at times, but at least it can’t be beaten quickly. It’s next to impossible to beat all the levels in one sitting, but at least there’s decent replay value. You still don’t particularly care about Ultimate Qix, but you force yourself to see its worth. It’s a game that exists in your library, and thus, it should be played.
HOW I PLAYED (for the most part): Normal difficulty, Mode A, 7 lives (as opposed to 3 or 5)
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