Way back when the XBox 360 first launched, I remember my inaugural dip into the XBox Live Arcade including the download of the Geometry Wars demo. GW was a psychadelic flurry of crazy, reflex-demanding action, and I played the heck out of that demo. I never got around to actually buying the game, but I definitely logged some time on that demo. Now Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2 is out, and I did drop my hard earned Microsoft points for this one. Is it worth the 800 points, or should I have just stuck with my demo-playing practices of old? Read on for my review after the jump.
In case you haven’t played any incarnation of Geometry Wars before, here’s what you do: You are a little white icon thingy flying around the screen. You control your movement with the left thumbstick, and you fire your infinitely ammo’d guns with the right thumbstick, meaning that you can fly in one direction while shooting in a completely different one. While you’re doing this flying and shooting you’re assailed by scads of bobbing, weaving, looping, and zooming multicolored icons, all hellbent on slamming into you and ending your short but eventful life. You occasionally also will have a bomb that can be launched by hitting the triggers. The bombs will obliterate all the enemies on the screen, so they’re very useful for times when you find yourself surrounded and in a pinch. They’re very limited, though, so you have to choose your moments wisely.
Geometry Wars 2 most definitely is worth the price of admission. At 800 Microsoft points (around $10 US), you’re actually getting six color crazed games in one. The original gameplay style is included, but there also are five other modes that will have your thumbs twitching far into the night. I’ll tackle the modes one at a time, as each is unique enough to warrant a mention.
Deadline is the mode showcased in Geometry Wars 2’s demo. It gives you an unlimited number of lives and a few bombs, and you have three minutes to rack up as big a score as you can. Every 100,000 points you earn will net you an extra bomb. When you die, the board blanks, and you have to lose a few seconds waiting for your enemies to respawn. As you kill the enemy shapes, they will drop little green dots (“Geoms”) you can pick up that act as score multipliers.
The King mode unlocks after you’ve played a decent amount of Deadline. King provides an interesting game variant based around circles of different colors. You cannot fire your weapons unless you are inside a circle. When you enter a circle, it turns green, and your enemies can’t reach you inside it, but you can shoot at them outside it. As you stay in the green circle, it eventually will turn red and collapse in on you, killing you, so you need to do your business and get out as soon as you can. Once you leave the circle, you’ll again be vulnerable and unable to attack the bad guys until you enter a blue circle, which then becomes the green one when you enter. As you can imagine, this results in some frantic run-and-wait-and-shoot gameplay. All the while, you’ll be collecting Geoms littered between the circles to boost your score. You only have one life here, so if you get hit, the game ends.
Once you’ve played King for a while, you’ll unlock Evolved, which is the familiar Geometry Wars game from the previous release. You’ll begin with four lives and three bombs, and you have to stay alive as long as you can as swarms of enemies attack you. Every 100,000 points, you’ll earn an additional life and an additional bomb. This is familiar gameplay with a few new bad guys thrown in for good measure. After you’ve played Evolved for a while, you’ll unlock…
In the first Geometry Wars game on the 360, there was an achievement called Pacifism. Now it’s its own game mode, which places you in the midst of a bunch of bad guys without any weapons of your own. Laser gates will appear throughout the screen, made up of two solid pieces connected by a breakable line. If you fly through the line, the outer pieces will detonate, destroying any enemies in your vicinity. It is in this way that you have to kill the bad guys here.
Playing through some Pacifism will lead to Waves, which is exactly what it sounds like. You are assaulted by wave after wave of enemies, all flying in tight formations. You have to quickly blast your way through them and obliterate as many as you can before the next wave arrives. Killing the waves as they appear is key, as any you don’t get the first time will hang around and harass you while you’re facing the later waves.
The final unlockable mode is Sequence, which throws level after level at you. You have a limited number of lives, and if you die, you proceed to the next level, until you run out of lives. So the goal is to clear all the enemies out of each level and proceed through all the stages without losing all your lives along the way.
There’s a lot of gameplay packed into this download, and it’s an instant classic and immensely addictive. The graphics are hectic and colorful, making for some dazzling visuals while you play. My only complaint about the graphics is that all the menu and text screens are presented in a hazy neon look that makes everything look vaguely blurred. It messed with my vision a bit, but it’s forgivable, given the awesome gameplay you’ll find here.
GW2 throws some multiplayer action into the mix as well. I haven’t had time to jump in on any of that, as I’ve been too addicted to the single player action. All accounts I’ve heard are that the multiplayer modes are every bit as much fun as single player.
Download the demo and give it a play. If you find yourself immediately sucked in, as I was, go ahead and drop the 800 points. This is one of the rare games that’s actually worth it.