Game Review: Urbanix (PSP Mini)

I love old games. There, I’ve admitted it. I’ll be honest, for me there is something about some classic games that really show the true quality of their originality and design. If you look back at a lot of games developed back in the 80s in the arcades or some of the early home computer and console games, many of those are still being reinvented today for Android tablets and phones, iOS and we’ve been treated to countless games through the Minis and Playstation Mobile range as well as plenty of low-cost games for the PS Vita and PS3. Not that this is a bad thing at all – if it’s a great game and the playability remains intact, who really cares if we get a 20th century game with 21st century presentation?

Urbanix is one of those and gives the lesser-known 1981 arcade classic Qix a makeover… The original’s charm and appeal was in its simplicity – you basically had to control a small spark that drew horizontal and vertical lines as it moved around the screen. Your goal was to fill up the initially blank playing area while avoiding contact with creatures that were after you. As the lines formed behind you completed boxes by joining lines together, they filled in and once you covered a set percentage of the screen you completed a level. Incredibly simple, quick to pick up but hard to master as the area you needed to fill to complete levels increases and more creatures appear as the game progressed… A well deserved hit and one that spawned countless clones – and a few that are available for the PS Vita too!

Onto Urbanix and this time you are in control of a cartoon tractor tasked with building towns. You are faced with a completely barren patch of land and have to section off areas of land with the tractor and once you have squared a piece of land off then buildings spring up. Once you’ve covered enough of the land with buildings you move onto the next. Initially, you can only move your tractor around the outer road of the land and through the empty land itself but once you start playing, you can only move along empty ground or roads you have already constructed… but not backwards along a path you are currently digging.

That would be simple enough if there weren’t other trucks out to stop you and – on later levels – demolition trucks out to knock down any buildings you’ve already constructed. Help is at hand with some handy power-ups that you can collect including extra lives, speed boosts and extra time… oh, yes, I forgot to mention that you’re up against the clock to complete each level so you have to think quick on your feet… err… wheels on this one.

There are three main zones to the game – Earth, the North Pole and the Moon and all three have their own distinctive visual style and sound as well as adding new elements to the game. While the first set of levels on Earth are relatively straightforward, things get a lot tougher in the latter two areas when you no longer just have to section an area off to build but you also have to prepare the land and then go back over it again to build on it. In the North Pole levels you need to go over an area twice to build it and three times for the Moon making things all the more difficult to complete each level!

This is a great little game and a fun and novel variant on the Qix genre. The graphics are bright and bold and while they’re not going to win any awards, they work well for the game and they’re clear and easy to see and the 3D perspective doesn’t spoil the game in any way. My only real gripe with the visuals is that the game scrolls to follow the action and it would have been a lot better to have been able to see the whole playing area at once.

I certainly wouldn’t say that this is the best Qix clone out there, but it’s still great for a few quick games now and then and will certainly keep you amused in between bigger and more involving games (and isn’t that what the Minis range was intended for anyway) and it’s a bargain at the price. And with 150 levels on offer, it’s not something you’ll complete quickly either so you could do worse than give this a shot!

Simon Plumbe

At A Glance

  • Title: Urbanix
  • Publisher: Nordcurrent
  • System: PSP Minis
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: No
  • Online Multiplayer: No
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 22Mb

 

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