Overall Score 87%
If youíre an old gamer like me, chances are that youíve probably played Qix at least once or twice in the Eighties. The player controlled a small blip that could be moved around the perimeter of a rectangular playfield. You could also dart inwards, avoiding an array of very abstract enemies and try to cordon off and accumulate bits of the board. Once the controlled territory reached a certain threshold, the level would be won, and you would move on the next. Pixie is a natural progression of Qix; itís a very entertaining and well presented remake of the classic.
The basic premise of Qix is retained, but thatís about all that remains. Everything else has been given a wonderful makeover including the music, sounds and graphics. The blip is now a Pixie, and instead of just being confined to sliding around the outside of the playfield, it can be controlled by the mouse and has free roam all over the board. Rather than slowly snaking in and marking out territory with a line, Pixie has the ability to shoot out vines in opposing directions from her current location. By default, left mouse button shoots them out to the nearest walls, either up/down or left/right. Using the right mouse button, the player can opt to shoot at the more distant walls as well. The controls are smooth and responsive, and Pixie can get around the playfield very nimbly. To make up for this, the levels are populated by hordes of fast moving enemies - bugs and spiders that will make the old Qix world look like itís moving in slow motion.
In order to clear a level, 85% of the playfield needs to be captured, regardless of the number of remaining enemies. By dividing an area of the level with her vine attack, Pixie claims the smaller of the two resulting segments, and any enemies caught in that section are destroyed. Clever players will be able to divide some areas equally into two halves, and in this case, both areas are awarded to the total captured. Killed enemies have a chance to drop one of many pickups (both good and bad) that Pixie then needs to physically catch as they fall to the bottom of the screen. Thereís a terrific variety of powerups, such as the Smart Bomb, and Lightning Attack which can be used directly on enemies for instant gratification, as well as the more sublime varieties that can speed up Pixieís vine attack, or slow down or stop the movement of the enemies. Some baddies might drop gold coins instead of powerups, and if Pixie can catch these, they can be used in a shop to buy many useful items and powers that can shield her from damage, add extra lives or replenish her health. Shops appear every 5 completed levels, and only if Pixie has money to spend in them.
Health will usually be lost when a enemy bug touches either Pixie or her vines while she is in the action of shooting them, although some of the tougher monsters can drain her health simply by touching her. The variety of enemy types on each level and the unique behaviour of each type, keep Pixie on her toes all the time. Spiders, for example, can spin pesky strands of web all over the level that will entrap Pixie until the player can shake her free using the mouse! The gameplay is quite fast paced, and decisions need to be made in split seconds on many of the latter levels. The levels all seem uniquely designed - most of them present the player with some interesting challenges, and some of the latter ones are very difficult to clear without the use of bought items from the shop.
Thereís no save game system at all. Once the number of lives remaining reaches zero, the game is over and the players score is entered into a local highscore list. The local list can also be uploaded to a central server via the internet and the best players from all over the world can compete for a global ranking. The player can, however, choose to start the game from any previously unlocked level. A level will become unlocked in this fashion after the player has progressed 5 levels beyond it in the campaign. Rather than this feeling like a missing feature, not being able to save actually adds to the immediacy of the action and works in favour of a good game design. A full game usually lasts me no more than half an hour or so, but judging from some of the tremendous scores posted online, there are some amazingly talented players out there! Conveniently, the game also offers multi-profile support and even an online auto updater that searches for updates and applies them as required, all from the in-game interface.
The game presents very nicely, with excellent sound effects and clear, colourful graphics with some attractive particle effects that really give the game a polished and professional touch. Pixie is a game that strives to retain all of the reasons that Qix was a popular game over 20 years ago, but still manages to pack in enough new features and content (including a new back-story) so that it feels more than a simple remake and is worth a purchase in itís own right. Itís got universal appeal to all groups of gamers across both age and skill level and Iím finding it both addictive and a lot of fun to play. Although full in-game instructions are available, without a doubt it is a very casual game, and by definition so easy to get into that you probably wonĎt need them. Pixie comes very highly recommended even if the $20 price tag does have a tendency to feel a little steep.
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