QIX is the story of... aw, forget it. The eShop download screen has more of a story than QIX does, but that's a good thing. It means that the game can be played over and over again without feeling even slightly repetitive. The gameplay isn't just pushed to the forefront in QIX... the gameplay is all there is.
QIX is a relic from a far simpler time in gaming. It's a game of the sincerest simplicity that still never manages to feel like the same game twice. If you've ever felt the appeal of Pac-Man, Space Invaders or Arkanoid — and we don't just mean played, we mean truly felt — QIX is an impressive addition to that elite minority of games that simply won't grow stale.
The object of the game couldn't be simpler: little by little, it is your job to carve the playing field into smaller and smaller pieces. This limits the movement of your enemies — and of the titular QIX — but it also ends up restricting your own movement as these areas are removed from play. If you carve out a large enough percentage of the board, the level is complete and you move on to the next.
You can only ever move along the boundary of the playing field, unless you're in the process of carving away another slice of it. Sparks can also move around the boundary, and if they touch you, you lose a life.
The QIX itself is a snake-like series of dashes. Many of you are too young to remember this, but in the bygone era of classic gaming, abstract shapes were almost all we had! If it touches you, you lose a life as well. The difference is that the QIX flits around the playing field, and isn't restricted to boundaries. Reacting ahead of time to its movements is essential, because you'll lose a life if it so much as brushes against the line you're drawing. The game itself claims that the QIX moves randomly, but before long you're going to swear it has at least some kind of AI. And also that it really, really hates you.
You control a diamond and by tracing shapes in the playing field you remove them from play. You can choose to trace either slowly or quickly. Quickly has obvious benefits, as your reaction time is increased enormously, but you won't score as much for shapes completed at this speed. Shapes completed more slowly are worth significantly more, but the movement speed is about the same as that of a snail in molasses.
And... that's really it. It's a game you'll learn in about 30 seconds, but it's quite likely one you'll return to time and again. It's easy to pick up and play, difficult enough to keep you engaged, and addictive enough that you'll have trouble putting it down.
It's no masterpiece, though. As strong as the central concept is, the Game Boy version of QIX is all too quick to show its age.
Visually, the game might as well be composed of ASCII characters. This isn't a complaint per se, but anybody looking for a visually engaging experience, or even something that's at least artfully simple, will be disappointed. Aurally, the game is nigh-on offensive: the endless mechanical drone that takes the place of music will not be a welcome addition to anyone, and it's no coincidence that the game's manual reiterates several times that you can turn off the sound effects, almost as though it's begging you to do so.
Two other issues of note: the game's two-player mode sits on the menu mocking you, as it cannot be selected. Obviously this is a sign of a larger issue with the 3DS's Virtual Console in general, but it will never be not worth mentioning to prospective customers.
The other issue is a little less obvious, but there's no doubt you'll feel it. You're playing a game on your 3DS that involves — and is entirely limited to — tracing shapes in a playing field. And you're doing it without a stylus in your hand. Feels almost sacrilegious, doesn't it?
We're not saying that QIX should have been remade to incorporate touch screen controls. For the price, that's absurd. But playing a game like this on a console that's downright perfect for it, and not being able to use those very features that make it perfect, well... it just sort of hammers home how far gaming has come in such a small amount of time. It doesn't detract from the experience for us, but some gamers may well feel that it's just a little too far behind the curve.
QIX is a classic game that suffers — if it suffers at all — from being born too soon. Regardless, it's still a great deal of fun, and satisfyingly simple to learn. This is definitely a game that some will find divine, while others will be puzzled by its popularity. It's quick to learn, easy to play and impossible to truly master. We can't promise you that you'll like this game, but if the game sounds even slightly appealing to you, we'd confidently say that it's worth the risk.