Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Review - Volfied

Taito's Qix, released in arcades in 1981, is a game about cutting a playing field into geometric shapes in order to fence in and destroy abstract enemies. Qix has been ported to a great number of systems and has seen its fair share of both sequels and spiritual successors. One of my personal favorites is Volfied, a 1989 follow-up by Taito that transforms the abstract world of the original game into a more physical, still bizarre mechanical setting. I first played this game as part of the Taito Legends collection, and it's one that keeps me coming back.

Like Qix, Volfied is played on a rectangular field occupied by a few unpredictably-moving monsters. The enemies in Volfied are mostly machine-based insects and objects, but they definitely look more like actual creatures than the color bands that chased you in the original game. You control the spaceship Monotros as you skirt the perimeter of the playing field, holding down an action button to cut the field into pieces. You cannot be harmed by enemies while on the perimeter, but as soon as you start cutting you are liable to be destroyed.

Each stage is completed once you've cut away 80% or more of the screen or if you get a rare power-up that allows you to take the level's boss down with firepower. In a nice detail, as you cut into one stage, you can see parts of the next level revealed beneath you. Smaller enemies can be trapped and destroyed by the zones you segment from the main stage body. Gray power-up boxes also pop up, giving you items once you cut away their area. These are largely random, ranging from extra points to speed boosts to lasers. Lasers make the stage much easier by quickly clearing out the lesser threats.

The challenge of Volfied, and of Qix itself, is in taking a gamble on how far you can cut into an area safely before getting rushed by enemies. Careful Volfied players can escape in time and survive an enemy coming into contact with the line they've drawn, but this becomes difficult pretty quickly. There's a lot of risk/reward to this game, which is probably a big part of its draw for me, even though I'm not particularly good at it. There are sixteen stages, each with unique layouts and enemies. I usually run out of ships around stage five or six.

Volfied is pretty forgiving compared to the original Qix, but it's still enough of a challenge for me. If you've never played a Qix-type game before, I definitely recommend giving one a try. They're great little action/puzzle games, and they're pretty easy to find on just about any system, classic or modern. I've played an original Qix machine, but never a Volfied one; someday I hope to do so!

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