There was always something cool about the way classic arcade games seemed like they could last forever. Sure, they'd eventually get prohibitively difficult, but you always had that feeling that maybe... just maybe... you could play the game forever on one quarter. That's why it's so weird that QIX++, a new Xbox Live Arcade update of the Taito arcade classic, Qix, only has 16 levels. Rather than trying to see how far you can go, QIX++ has exactly 16 levels. It's the sort of thing you could complete in under an hour, and unless you're going to start fiending over your leaderboard position, there's not much else to do.
For those of you without a proper base of Qix knowledge to work from, your goal is to use your triangular marker to draw lines on the screen, sectioning off portions of the playfield. You need to claim a significant percentage--usually 75 percent--to move forward. Standing in your way is the Qix itself. The Qix, originally just a strip of color-cycling lines, twists and turns around the playfield. If the Qix collides with your marker or with the line you're drawing, you take a hit. If you run out of shields, the game ends. As you move through the levels, the Qix takes different shapes, making it a bit harder to predict and, thus, a bit tougher to contain. But not all that tough, really. The game has two sections, each with eight levels. It's possible to whip through both of those sections on your first try. While the game has leaderboards in place for a third and fourth section, that appears to be for DLC purposes. Selling a 10 dollar game that's over in an hour and has obvious hooks in place for add-on content feels like... a bit much.
There's a bit more to QIX++, though. You can play multiplayer games, which allow up to four players. In these competitive rounds, the player who claims the most territory wins. Like many other Xbox Live Arcade releases, finding online players seems to be something of a rarity. The matches I got into were a little jumpy and definitely not as smooth as the average online game. You can play locally, though, so if you like the idea of fighting for territory while avoiding a Qix with friends, the option is there. It doesn't really add much to the core game either way.
Visually, QIX++ is disappointing. While the game tries to paint some kind of weird "evil cyber crime virus" motif in the two pages of pause screen text that serve as its story, the backgrounds and designs of the different Qix are very plain and unimaginative. Remakes and updates of arcade classics have been done with far more class in the past, and Qix is a game that's practically begging for some sort of Jeff Minter-like hyperfreakout visual treatment. Instead, you get an uninteresting look supported by some bland, typical electronic beats.
Qix is a quality arcade game that's inspired plenty of sequels, remakes, and updates over the years. While it doesn't carry the weight of a Pac-Man or a Donkey Kong, the core gameplay works well enough that it's easy to see how it could be remade in a flashy new way that appeals to the digital download crowd. But QIX++ is a short, dull take on the Qix formula that won't rope in new players or satisfy aficionados.