Abstract line-drawing game Qix stormed the arcades in the early 1980s, winning players over to its frenetic action and unpredictable enemies. It was ported, cloned, and adapted dozens of times for nearly every platform during the years that followed, most famously in 1992 Windows game JezzBall, which had you trapping balls by building horizontal or vertical walls with the mouse.
I’ve played just about every Qix or JezzBall-style game that’s graced the Android platform, and put together this list of the best. With these 12 ports and adaptations you’ll be Qix-ing back for days.
With all the original graphics and mechanics, JezzBall Classic aims to be the definitive mobile JezzBall. Using vertical or horizontal swipes, you need to build walls that trap the balls in ever smaller sections of a rectangular grid. Walls are constructed in two directions, from the center of your swipe, so if one side is hit before it completes you lose a life and end up with a partial wall. Once the area cleared exceeds 75%, you advance to the next level.
JezzBall Classic offers 100 levels — more than the original — and 27 missions for the goal-oriented. It also includes 74 mods, which allow you to customize the rules in just about any way you please. The only real downside is that you need to install Adobe AIR to run it.
Let’s face it: JezzBall may be fun, but it’s an ugly game. Trapball makes it pretty, with luscious neon-futuristic visuals and a minimalist interface. You can choose from several alternative color schemes, including Green, Brown, Tennis, and C64, if fluorescent isn’t your thing. It also has options to vibrate and/or flicker the screen on death.
Trapball is less frustrating but more tedious than JezzBall Classic, thanks to a smoother difficulty curve and a requirement to always start at Level 1.
The ad-supported Slice starts out similarly slowly, with no means of skipping ahead. It does offer three difficulty levels, but these only affect the number of lives you get. The visual aesthetic is more consistent with JezzBall, albeit much thinner, but it lacks wall anchoring — your slices must reach both edges safely in order to partition the board.
Your efforts to slice away 80% of the board are helped by a novel feature whereby balls become encased in tiny boxes once they are isolated into a small enough area. It feels great to watch the box shrink down, earning you a few precious extra percentage points. Online high scores let you compete with players from around the world, provided you sign up for a Scoreloop account.
Trap! tries to improve on JezzBall with more detailed visuals, power-ups, a bonus-driven scoring system, speed boosts, and support for automatic music playback from your existing library. It does a pretty good job of it, too, with responsive controls, decent graphics, and a great difficulty curve.
Novices can learn the ropes in Training Mode, while experts can try their luck at Skill Mode and the rest of us mere mortals can stick with Normal Mode. There’s also a Time Challenge option. Trap!’s only shortcoming, in my book, is that you can’t build partial walls — it’s all or nothing, with none of that anchoring business.
Requires: Android 1.6 or above
Google Play link: Trap!
Developer: Matt Wachowski
BobBall is a no-frills, barebones, open-source port of the original JezzBall. It has no options or menus; if you complete a level, a prompt comes up to say well done and you move on to the next level. You have a time limit, a score, and need to clear at least 75% of the play area. Running out of lives brings up a retry button, and that’s it. If you just want to play JezzBall, and don’t fancy installing Adobe AIR, get this.
There’s not a whole lot to this game. It’s essentially JezzBall with a different color palette and a vertical screen orientation. The pace is slightly slower, and the balls are bigger, which leaves more room for strategy. If you’re the competitive type, you’ll appreciate the presence of both weekly and all-time online leaderboards.
Sometimes it’s good to lose a life on purpose in Marble Catch. The game gets crazy after half a dozen levels, with balls flying all over the place. It makes sense to build walls that you know won’t complete on the side farthest from your swipe, so that you can separate a few balls and take control of the scene.
Sparking Lines is Qix with balls instead of weird stick-like entities. You start with a rectangle containing balls and need to navigate your small marker around the edges to draw boxes that claim as much of the screen as possible (usually 75% to advance). You also need to watch out for sparks, which patrol the edges, killing you on contact, and a fuse that appears if you take too long to move back to an edge. If a ball touches your line as it’s being drawn, you lose a life. If you manage to trap a ball within a captured area, however, it disappears. Be careful when doing this — some balls change direction without warning (true to the Qix legacy).
You’ll have to put up with ads on menus, but they aren’t shown while you play. With a good soundtrack and 36 levels, Sparking Lines is incredible value (at the low price of free). It’s the closest thing to Qix that I’ve seen on a mobile device.
Requires: Android 2.2 or above
Google Play link: Sparking Lines
One of the hallmarks of Qix was its high-speed action. The fast movement, countdown timer, and ever-threatening Sparx added a sense of urgency. Claustrum bizarrely slows the action down to a crawl. There are some interesting ideas here, though, if you can put up with it feeling like a slow-motion Qix.
You can choose between three game modes — bounce, with a ball bouncing around; ricochet, with a less predictable rebound mechanic; or shooter, with a ship that flies around shooting your in-progress lines — and four maps, with power-ups that randomly appear. There’s also support for D-pads and trackballs, if your device has them, which is a great boon for people with big fingers. If you’ve never played Qix before, this may be a good introduction.
LineField gives you a split second to recover from collisions with enemies. If they hit your line before it solidifies, a fuse chases down your ship, destroying it. There are no enemies on the perimeter, and the fuse is not lit if you pause mid-flight. But that doesn’t make it any easier. The enemies move unpredictably and at lightning speed. You only need to claim 70% of the field to pass a level, though — less than in most Qix-like games.
With 12 rooms and just one difficulty level, it feels more like a demo than a complete game. Hopefully there’s a more fleshed-out paid version on the way, although it’ll need some tweaks to succeed — the touch sensitivity leaves a lot to be desired, and at times it feels like the ship is too slow compared to the enemies.
Requires: Android 2.1 or above
Google Play link: LineField
Developer: David Berlin
None of the other games in this roundup take as many liberties with the source material as Border Lines HD. Adding to the basic Qix formula, it includes obstacles that you need to go around when claiming territory, along with energy sources, turrets, shields, missiles, power-ups, power-downs, online high scores (via Scoreloop), scenarios, a space-themed campaign mode, and in-app purchasable upgrades. It’s a fun and creative twist on an old arcade formula.
Xonix for MS-DOS was one of the first home conversions of Qix. It tweaked the rules a bit to let you move anywhere, rather than being stuck on the edges, and to include a second enemy type that moves freely around the closed off area. It simplified the already-minimal visuals such that dots of varying sizes move around a CGA display, but preserved the same fast-paced frenetic action of Qix in the arcades.
XonixAttack is Xonix remade for Android. Controlling the green square via touch-screen, trackball, or d-pad, you need to capture 75% of the screen to advance to the next level. The graphics are on par with the 28-year-old DOS game, which is great for nostalgic purposes… but not for anything else.
Requires: Android 1.5 or above
Google Play link: XonixAttack
If XonixAttack is too oldschool for you, consider Xonix Blast by OmegaLabs. It has 96 levels (32 in the free version), several enemy types, and colorful modern graphics. You can also use points earned while playing to buy assistant bots, extra lives, teleport items, and missiles to help you clear the board. It’s a little slower-paced than classic Xonix, and the additional mechanics don’t always add to the experience, but Xonix Blast keeps you engaged.
The only problem is that Xonix Blast isn’t a true Xonix game. There are no enemies in the margins — only in the drawable area. It’s more like a Xonix-lite with power-ups.