America - Front
America - Back
By zexen_lowe 24th Jan 2010 | 1,339 views
Let me say this before anything: I loved Qix for the arcades. Therefore, when I heard about Fortix, a launch PSP Mini based on the old classic, I didn’t have much choice but to try it. But, what did I find, an excellent reimagining of the game I played to death, or an offence to the Qix memory?
For those who don’t know, let me give you a quick rundown of the Qix gameplay. The objective of the game was to claim the majority of the playing screen (a rectangle). You did this by drawing shapes in the field, and when such shape was closed, it would become your claimed territory. Of course, nothing of this is would be good without some hazards, that’s why you’d have the eponymous Qix moving randomly inside the unclaimed territory, and it would kill you if it touched any of your shapes that hadn’t yet been closed. This, coped with two little sparks that traveled along any of the lines and a fuse that would chase you if you took too long to close the shape, ensured challenging gameplay and an instant classic.
Now, 28 years later, Fortix keeps the formula mostly intact, with some significant changes. The most obvious is the focus on the forts. In this game you won’t have to claim a certain percentage of the playing screen to win (though I’ve found that claiming most of it usually gives you a mission accomplished), but claim 100% of the territory occupied by forts. These are always guarded by a number of turrets, which will shoot at you as soon as you start drawing a shape, and will kill you if they hit any of your unclosed lines. To counter this inconvenience, there are objects (one for each turret, they look like two crossed swords) scattered across the playing field, claim one for your territory and a cannon will shoot towards the turret and destroy it.
Other hazards you’ll happen across your play through are bats and dragons. The bats act like the sparks of the old Qix, traveling across your drawn lines. Dragons, conversely, act like the Qix, flying freely in unclaimed territory. There are multiple types of dragon, one that will breathe fire at you, one that will ignore you and just fly randomly and one that will try to attack you as soon as you start drawing shapes. Also something to consider are terrain types, as walking or drawing lines over surfaces like water or mountains means your speed will be significantly lower than if you do it over plains.
The core gameplay of Fortix is good on paper, and as a Qix clone, it works mostly well. Still, that doesn’t prevent the game from having a couple annoyances that will pop up during your play through. The main one you will notice arises from something that was in Qix and was omitted here, and it’s the fact that before you needed to press (and hold) a button to start drawing lines. Here, just by walking towards unclaimed territory, you’ll start drawing. How is this exactly bad? Well, the controls aren’t exactly 100% precise; therefore, I found myself often drawing lines when I meant to turn and walk over an already drawn line (causing my character to be shot and die). Add that to the fact that sometimes the objects (your character and the enemies) are too big compared to the small size of the lines you’re drawing, and thus they may obstruct your view, plus one weird glitch that caused me to win the level when I was way below the territory needed to pass (I don’t know how frequent this glitch is, it happened to me only once). You have gameplay that, while decent (and playable), is not exactly annoyance-free.
The main problem of Fortix, though, it’s its length. The game consists of 12 levels, and overall the adventure should take less than 2 hours to complete, even taking into account having to retry levels multiple times due to dying (something that should be quite frequent in the latter levels as difficulty ramps up). Given that levels aren’t very different from one another (they only change in terrain types, forts and enemies), there’s no excuse for the game not having more levels.
Considering it’s a PSP Mini that’s less than 50 MB, Fortix looks good, the environments are nicely drawn, and the animations are well done, especially the dragons. I haven’t noticed any hitch in performance whatsoever, yet load times are frequent (since it loads again every time you retry a level); thankfully they aren’t very long, so it’s only a minor annoyance. The music isn’t exactly memorable, but it’s not bothersome. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from a game of this kind, truly background music and nothing more than that.
In all, Fortix fits the Mini concept too well; it’s a playable (and even decent) game, an interesting re-imagining of the almost three decades old Qix, that doesn’t do much to stick in your memory for a long time, but at least doesn’t make you insult the developers for ruining a classic. Notwithstanding some gameplay issues, it can be fun while it lasts; the only problem is that the “while” isn’t exactly much time. Still, if five dollars for less than two hours of decent gameplay doesn’t sound like a bad deal, by all means go for it.