Qix is older than I am, and the fact that it’s still a well-known game that spawns all kinds of variations and spin-offs really is saying something. There really aren’t many classics still “in circulation” that were invented before I was born. Bishoujo Battle Cyber Panic! is one of those variations. It’s stock-standard Qix, with really pretty girls. So of course I was going to love it.
The game is a homage to Gals Panic, a series of super-lewd arcade games in the 90’s. In those games, the main “hook” was that by playing well you’d get to reveal the silhouette of a character that, at the start of the level, was completely hidden. In Qix, the goal of the game is to uncover 70 per cent or so of the playfield by drawing “boxes,” while avoiding enemies as you do so. In regular Qix you’re just drawing boxes. In Gals Panic and Bishoujo Battle Cyber Panic!, after you draw a box, whatever was silhouetted underneath is revealed. Naturally, you want to reveal the girl, but since she’s in the middle of the playfield you generally need to take some risks to do that, because those enemies are bounding around and the middle of the playfield is where things get most dangerous.
Now, Gals Panic was pretty erotic, with nudity and everything (for those that didn’t live in markets that censored this stuff). In comparison to that series, Bishoujo Battle Cyber Panic! aims for the classy route, eschewing nudity for a sexy pin-up aesthetic. It’s art like you’d see in a calendar that a brazen person might display in the lounge room without needing to worry about being called an out-and-out pervert should a guest arrive. By that, I mean there are some provocative “camera angles” and poses, but no exposed boobs, and I can’t even remember there being a panty shot. Make no mistake, though, it is an adult-themed game, it’s just that Bishoujo Battle Cyber Panic! has a particular costume fantasy that it’s also playing to; military uniforms and girls with guns.
The game plays like a very standard version of Qix, with a couple of different enemy types and the occasional power-up, all of which do make it substantially easier to complete levels, so their presence in the game is meaningful. Each of the enemy types follow prescribed behaviours and are very fair (many Qix games have enemies that move completely randomly, which can be infuriating to deal with). The only issue with the game, mechanically, is the size of the icon of your own character. Because it’s a chibi girl’s head, and quite big, it’s hard to tell when you’ve started drawing a box sometimes. More than a few times I’d accidentally inched forwards without realising it, only to have an enemy crash into me and knock me out. Qix is also a game where you will sometimes need to draw tiny boxes, and that’s difficult when the icon is hiding the lines underneath them.
There’s not a lot of meat to Bishoujo Battle Cyber Panic! The 50 stages that the game has fly by pretty quickly, though the difficulty curve is steady and the more extreme levels will test your classic arcade ability. Thankfully, however, there is a good reason to replay levels, even once you know what the waifu underneath looks like, because there’s an online leaderboard for each individual stage, and getting to the top is a rewarding challenge – you’ll need to complete levels quickly, using big boxes (the larger the box you draw, the more points), and without losing lives. There’s room for some big variations in the score earned there, so people at the top of the leaderboard will rightfully feel like they’ve earned their place there.
– Matt S.
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb