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Stix

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Released: 1984

Genre: Puzzle

Format reviewed: BBC Micro

Publisher: AcornSoft

Developer: Andrew Trott

Submitted by: Retro Gamer

One of the great things about this job is the discovery of the unknown wonders that even a cursory browse of the internet can uncover. Realising that we hadn’t featured any standalone BBC Micro games in the magazine for a while, I began trawling various websites and forums in the hope of finding something interesting to read about. A few enquiries later and I was pointed to Stix, and it turns out it’s a surprisingly decent clone of Taito’s Qix.

In fact, it’s a really, really good clone, and aside from a slight drop in speed compared to the arcade original, it’s an otherwise slick piece of coding. There’s no front end, no screen with instructions; you’re straight into the action, which is just as compelling as it was in the arcade original. Each screen features a box with a roving Stix in it, which must be contained by creating boxes. Drawing slow lines puts you in more danger – you’ll die if the Stix hits the line you’re drawing – but offers you 20 points if you manage to finish drawing it, while a faster line is easier to complete but will net you only two points.

Matters are further complicated by the quark and anti-quark: two constantly moving cursors that move in opposite directions around the outside of the screen. If they come into contact with your own cursor, another life will be lost. Once you’ve filled in at least 75 per cent of the screen, you’ll move on to the next stage. It’s a fantastic concept for a game and, as a result, it was licensed to a number of different home computers and consoles.

Interestingly, the BBC Micro never received its own official version of Qix, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that Andrew Trott saw a hole in the market and plugged it so successfully. The BBC continually gets an unfair rep when it comes to gaming due to its educational roots, but it’s a system with a wealth of great games on it and some truly fantastic clones, filling the gaps in the library where official support neglected it. Here’s hoping that another delve into the great unknown of BBC gaming brings up another similar gem in the coming months.

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