Silly rabbit, Qix are for tank-girls!
Genre: Puzzle, Action, Anime
Release date: 11 March, 2021
Clones of classic arcade games fall into an odd spot when reviewing them; they’re generally not exactly new, but like a remaster, you can still enjoy going back to an old favorite. Games like Breakout/Alleyway for example, are both popular and easy to clone. To set themselves apart, some developers of such easy-to-clone classics will just add anime girls (sometimes naked anime girls) and charge $2 a pop while re-releasing the exact same game over and over with new licensed art (if the dev is ethical enough not to steal it) slapped on the game to try to milk it for all it’s worth. So the problem becomes how to weigh this when reviewing the game?
I’ve actually played the previous entry in this “series” of Qix clones, and found it exactly the same, so I was rather bored with it, having found the original game to just barely start to overstay its welcome by the time I managed to force myself to finish the last few frustrating levels. I wound up running out of patience for this version because of that. However, I believe I should review the game for the player who’s never heard of Qix before, rather than someone who has and played the previous game, so I’m going to be a bit more charitable towards the game than I actually wound up feeling.
Just for Qix
Zoo Corporation – who is the actual maker of this game, and the sole developer and publisher for the Steam version, What Zoo Corporation is branding as its “Panic” line of games is actually a Qix clone. (Note I say “a Qix clone” singular, because it’s pretty clear these games are different only in the graphics.) Qix is an old Taito 80’s arcade cabinet title, although I remember it from playing on my aunt’s Apple IIe as one of the few games that actually used a joystick. I remember not being very good at it at the time, however, so I didn’t play it as much as other games like Think Quick.
You can find a YouTube video of the original Qix here. [WARNING: Turn your volume down or mute YouTube if you follow this link.] It turns out it took looking it back up to remember the second big takeaway I had from playing myself, which was that if you were going to play this game, you needed to mute it to stop the absolutely ghastly screeches the computer would make when filling in areas.
The game has almost completely abstract graphics of some wobbly line bouncing around and making you lose if it touches any of your incomplete red lines. The box art, however, implied that this was some sort of Godzilla-like monster, so I always thought of it as being some sort of effort to cage a giant monster by building barricades that increasingly box the monster in, and where the monster can just knock down the barricades and kill the construction workers if it slams into the walls before they’re fully complete.
The main objective is to cordon off as much of the map as possible for high score by drawing your lines to secure chunks of area without leaving yourself or your unconnected lines exposed to getting hit by the Qix. At the same time, the Sparx would chase your cursor and kill you if they caught up, being basically like the red ghost in Pac Man that force you to always keep moving.
Every stage requires you to uncover 75% of the background, and when you draw lines to bisect a portion of the map, it always chooses the smaller of the areas bisected as the part revealed. (This means the maximum amount of map to uncover at once is just under 50% of the map, so it always takes at least three cuts.)
In practice, however, because you make exponentially more points as you carve out larger chunks at once, while also being safer to take tiny nibbles from the map at a time, the best strategy is to just make tiny rectangles up the middle to create an expanding safe zone until you can cut the map in half with one big completion. This strategy works on every single map from start to finish, so it’s just a matter of how many enemies are bouncing around and how small and cautious your tiny nibbles setting up the big clears have to become to compensate.
(Note that these videos come from the harder stages in the 30s, so there are more of the harder enemy types. Stage 1, meanwhile, has only a single regular-pattern star enemy, which is much easier to just blow past.)
As mentioned, the game is basically Qix with a new skin and a few new enemy types to make things more difficult in later stages. Specifically, rather than a purely abstract game, there’s the picture of a girl and you’re trying to “clear away distortion” to see the full image. This is basically the same concept as one of those hentai slider puzzle things, however, there is no hentai here because they’re literally using the character art of some other game whose developer Zoo Corporation had a contract with.
The major change this game brings about to Qix, besides “having graphics beyond white lines and colored areas”, is that there are wider varieties of enemies beyond the Qix and Sparx.
One thing that I find really annoying (although I didn’t have as much trouble with this as I did in the original Pretty Girls Panic) is that hitboxes of enemies are larger than they appear and also affect an absolute area regardless of context, by which I mean the spiders in this game, as opposed to the Sparx of the original Qix do not kill you just when they catch up to your cursor as punishment for going too slowly, they will actually kill you for being too close to them even if you’re on the other side of a wall, which is massively disconcerting and feels quite unfair:
Likewise, you’ll notice in that video that I’m struggling with the controls quite a bit. Even using the Switch’s d-pad, the controls feel quite slippery, and I’m frequently finding myself not stopping where I want to, and running out and making a line (becoming vulnerable) when I only meant to follow the lines of walls I’d already created. I’m also constantly creating walls of different thickness, although this was also a problem back when I was playing on PC and using keyboard (which oddly felt more precise than d-pad). This slipperiness of control can easily lead to losing a life when you really shouldn’t just because the controls feel off.
There’s also a slight refluffing of the game’s mechanics to fit the “cyber” theme, although they sadly don’t carry it through all the way. They say that you’re trying to cut through “distortion” to reach the soldier girls on the other end of the line, and sometimes refer to “lives” as “tools”, so you could write the text to say that you’re part of military HQ trying to contact these soldier girls though enemy communications jamming, and you’re clearing away “distortion” and need to defeat “viruses” while avoiding having your “tools” disabled, which would make everything thematically coherent. But then, they still call them “lives”, and the enemies are still shaped like starfish and anemones from the earlier game that was beach-themed.
I should also stress that, in spite of the Steam store page having tags that say so, this is not a game with nudity. There are no alternate graphics for any of these characters, they’re just static character sprites taken from another game. They don’t take off their clothes or anything as you clear levels.
On the other hand, the Switch version of the game comes with a global score leaderboard for every stage. I even managed to rank pretty highly on some of these stages, while getting down around 300th place in others, even though my score wasn’t varying all that much so long as I restarted any time I lost a life. (The “perfect clear” bonus is pretty huge.)
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!
There’s no getting around this part – this is the exact same game, and I mean exact same game (I didn’t go back and check that they have the exact same enemy patterns, but it feels very similar) as Zoo Corporation’s Pretty Girls Panic. They’ve even since released a Pretty Girls Panic Plus, which has more gameplay content that this game does, in that the girls have slight animations (facial expressions change) and have voiced lines saying stuff like “sugoi” when you fill boxes, plus more animated enemy types.
Meanwhile, the character graphics are even ported in directly from a Girls Frontline/Kantai Collection/Azur Lane-style collectable mecha-girl game strangely called “Rick G Earth” that is apparently only available in Japan. In fact, Zoo Corporation apparently went and made a reskin of one of their other mahjong solitaire games with this exact same batch of girls, making buying this game because you really want to see this set of character art feel even more silly. (Definitely, definitely only buy this game because you like playing Qix. You can seriously find this art by just Googling “Rick G Earth characters”.)
The first ten stages are filled with what appear to be the infantry units of the game, while the next twenty are some form of tank or helicopter girl.
After clearing a stage, the girl’s art is added to a Gallery mode, which just lets you view the exact same artwork, but without having to clear the stage first, this time.
For a game this simple, the interface can still feel slightly clunky. You can’t just switch from one tab to the other with the R or L buttons, you have to move all the way down to the bottom of the screen, then hit left and right to pick tabs, then hit “A”. I only note this as a minor frustration because the menu controls are unresponsive, taking a quarter second between pressing and actually moving, making it take entirely too long for moving through a menu.
One other thing I’ll have to note is that the leaderboards appear to require logging into the server every single time you look at every single stage. This takes about 5 seconds of loading each time you change which stage’s scores you are looking at. This includes if you are looking at stage 11’s scores, go up to stage 12’s scores, then back down to stage 11’s scores, you have to wait through the login process for about 5 seconds for each one of those steps. It’s not huge, but it’s a frustrating waste of player time, especially since EastAsiaSoft seems to get “publisher” credit over Zoo Corporation just for porting this game, and this is one of the few Switch integration things that would take actual work, and it seems to be implemented without care for how players would use it.
There are no voiced lines in this game, so you’re limited to the music, which sounds synthy and fairly high-energy, as represented in some of the videos I posted above. Likewise, you have the very synthetic-sounding sound effects for other game elements, like “Pichoo” sounds when enemies fire projectiles or “Pwing” sounds to signify completing a wall. It’s totally serviceable, and I didn’t get tired of it in the amount of time you’ll wind up hearing the same track being played, although I will note that most of the sound effects and even the theme when you clear a stage is ported directly over from the prequel game.
It’s literally a reskin of a slightly better version of the exact same game. On the other hand, it’s also cheaper and the exact same game, so I can kind of see why someone who just wants the gameplay would be fine with that even without needing to wait for a sale. It’s short, yet also very inexpensive. Hence, while it may not entirely satisfy me, especially after having played the exact same game before, it does exactly what it says on the tin, so I can’t exactly feel disappointed, either. I’d still only buy this one if you don’t already own the original Pretty Girls Panic and prefer this game’s military themes to the beach themes from the original Pretty Girls Panic.
Just look at the gameplay videos above. If that looks like something you want to play, you get about 5 hours of that (more if you’re obsessive about leaderboards) for $6.
With that said I have to definitely recommend the Steam version unless you absolutely are dying to play this game on a mobile console if for no other reason than that this exact same game is $3 base price (before even going on sale) on Steam. Same game, half the price even before it goes on sale. I should also note that I got the original Pretty Girls Panic in a $1 bundle, so it’s not hard to find basically the same game in even more affordable bundles or trades.