Home > Games I Like, Video Games > Qix It Up a Notch: Patchwork Heroes Review

Qix It Up a Notch: Patchwork Heroes Review

C.A.M.P./Acquire via SCEA; PSP (DLC); NTSC-U; Trailer

If you hale from the Jurassic-era wonderland that was the 80s arcade scene, you probably remember a variety of experiences quite vividly: quarters arrayed like sacrificial virgins upon the bezel shortly before plunging, desperately, into an insatiable, bottomless, coin box; ashtrays that resembled artifacts unearthed on an archaeological dig in greater Mesopotamia, caked with the detritus of a thousand lives lost to Donkey Kong and, in time, lung cancer; and, most of all, the games—oh the games! Nearly every week seemed to bring something new, something original, before—as Shakespeare with literature—their successors ran up against the cold, seeming unyielding, reality that all the great ideas had been done, giving way to an age of cliché. But before that dark day of reckoning would arrive, we basked in the glory of great idea after great idea—one of which begat something called Qix.

In time, Qix beget Qix II; Qix II beget Super Qix; Super Qix beget Shem, err, Volfied; and Volfied begat…Patchwork Heroes? Well…kind of. See, Taito ran with the cliché, desperate to ring every dime quarter out of the concept, and pretty much buried it with the release of Volfied in 1989. (There would be other attempts, misfires, digressions, etc., later on, but, for most of us, after four games in six years, we were Qix’ed out.)

However, the nice thing about battered, discredited, ideas1 is that they’re always just one remake or ‘reimagining’2 away from being all-new and exciting. Unless they’re only available on PSP via PSN—then they’re new but not really exciting since roughly 35 people know/care about download-only PSP games. Thus Patchwork Heroes begets this review, to raise awareness amongst the masses 35 people that read this blog.

In command of a squad of highly-trained, ship-sawing, commandos you’ll engage in wave after wave of combat with side-scrolling dreadnoughts bent on destroying your bucolic home. At the outset of each level, you’re ferried to the starting point in a (quirky) ‘copter with one goal in mind: saw, saw and saw some more, until most of the advancing enemy ship is sawdust, leaving the remainder (somewhat unfortunately in the case of any remaining friends/hostages still on board) to the crashing crushing embrace of the cruelest of the fundamental forces, Mistress Gravity.

In addition to the Qix-like act of ‘capturing’ space, you’ll have to rescue hostages locked in cages who, naturally, instantly become demolitions experts (they can drop bombs, doing sizable damage, but this will cost you their ‘protection’ a la Sonic’s rings); avoid enemies hell-bent on preserving their ship and, of course, killing you; all the while dealing with a variety of different surfaces that call for industrial strength sawing (when regular sawing just won’t…wait for it…cut it).

The actual movement of your squad of air pirates-cum-lumberjacks is tight and clean, though at times it can be difficult to tell if you’ve eliminated each and every pixel, which, late in the game can be quite costly since you could very well run out of ‘juice’ for super-sawing or find yourself boxed in by some very inhospitable foes with a single spec of missed sawdust being the difference between life and death. There can also some trouble determining where you are on the ship at any given moment which can be a bit dicey when you’re constantly zooming in and out of the map as this can lead to disorientation and misjudged steps that send your valiant team straight into the jaws of their unforgiving ‘hosts’. Outside of those sawcy speed bumps, though, it’s smooth sawing.

And…that about sums it up: It’s basically Qix 2010 but more fun than Taito’s own Qix++ (on XBLA and, at least via import, PSP). The best part, though, is even though your dedicated band of shipwreckers can tend to overstay their welcome if you attempt to sink ‘em all in one session (entirely possible, even though the later levels do get a bit chaotic), it only costs…wait for it…a sawbuck.

So, stripped to the boards, this is Qix with a coat of Benjamin Moore’s Matte Quirky & Whimsical, something Sony has been buying by the tanker full in the last several years, with LocoRoco and Patapon also benefitting from copious, somewhat over-zealous, applications. And like those two quirk-fests, Patchwork Heroes is a fun-filled (in moderate doses) romp through some slick and artsy3 skies, bringing us full circle, back to that dank and dimly lit arcade of yore, less the lung tissue-filled sepulchers and sacrificial virgins.

1 That aren’t communism, global warming (and cooling!), and Tiger Woods.
2 Remake in drag.
3 Artsy does not mean art.

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