PLATFORM: Xbox Live Arcade
MARKETPLACE COST: 800 Points ($10)
DEVELOPER: Bizarre Creations
My palms are sweaty, I’m on my last set of rechargeable batteries, it’s almost 4 in the morning, but I can’t stop playing. This next game, this is when I’ll do it- I’ll beat that score of his. It’s only a few thousand above my high score. My ship zooms between a cluster of enemies, the screen getting more and more covered in colors and shapes and lights as the timer ticks down towards zero. I’m almost there… almost there. FUCK. There’s an explosion as my ship gets hit, and it’s
soon apparent that there will be no high score this game. The timer counts down and the buzzer sounds, and my game is done.
I hit the A button twice so fast that you don’t even see the game restart, and I’m back in it again with a shower of sparks, oblivious to anything else but the screen and pulsing music.
Geometry Wars 2 has me.
Geometry Wars was a special game. The first killer app for Xbox Live’s fledging Arcade service, it showed what it could offer in the future- cheap, simple games that might not be graphics powerhouses, but had gameplay to spare. Most everyone who owns a 360 has devoted hours upon hours to playing the simple yet addictive game. Now the sequel’s out with a higher price tag (Thanks, increased Microsoft royalty rates! We’ll never see a 5 buck game again!) and a slew of new modes to show people how shooters are done.
A lot of those of you who bought the original might be questioning whether you should spend your cash on what’s basically the same game, and to you I say- YES! God, fucking yes. Buy this game. There’s so much here to love.
The game controls exactly the same, which is good, since it was perfect in the first place. There’s a reason why every shooter since has stolen their control style. The left stick moves your ship, the right stick shoots your guns in that direction, and the triggers set off a screen-clearing bomb. That’s all you want, and all you need.
But there’s a big gameplay change in place for the score multiplier. In the first Geometry Wars you’d get a new multiplier (2X, 3X, etc.) after killing a certain amount of enemies. Here, you pick up tiny pieces called “geoms” from downed enemies to add to the total multiplier. You don’t lose the multiplier when you die, unlike in the original where every death meant you had to start over from a 1X score. This means that you’re going to see absolutely ridiculous scores here, and it makes for much more exciting gameplay as you’re constantly trying to dodge and weave in between enemies to pick up all the pieces they leave behind before they disappear. No more just staying away and shooting at your foes, you have to get in close on the fight now if you want to get the best score.
There are also 6 different modes to choose from. You’ll have to play each one to unlock the next, but it’ll hardly take any playtime at all before you have them all. Here’s a quick rundown of each in order.
Deadline – You’ve got 3 minutes to get the highest score you can. Unlimited lives. Somewhat reminiscent of the Pac-Man Championship Edition with how frantic everything gets as the time dwindles. Straightforward and fun.
King - One life and no bombs. Circles will appear on the screen which are safe zones… you can only shoot at enemies when you’re in one of them, and they can’t enter. As soon as you enter a safe zone a countdown starts, and in a few seconds it shrinks and disappears…. leaving you dashing for the next one.
Evolved - This is the game people who’ve played the original will most be familiar with. You play till you run out of lives, and you can earn more lives and bombs at set scores. All about the high score.
Pacifism – By far the coolest new mode in the game, although it’ll seem ridiculous to you at first. You’ve only got one life, and you can’t shoot your enemies. The only way to take them out is to fly through gates that randomly appear on
the stage (twisting and turning to make things harder). When you fly through one of those it blows apart and takes out any nearby enemies, and you can link them together to get bonus points and bigger explosions. Probably the most addictive mode in the game, and it’s the one where you can’t shoot. Go figure.
Waves – This is the game that was included in PGR4. You’ve got one live and have to watch out for enemies that come in waves horizontally and vertically. Doesn’t allow for a very long playtime as things get crazy pretty fast.
Sequence – This is somewhat the campaign mode of the game. Here are 20 levels that are always identical. You have to get through each level in 30 seconds. Each time you get killed you’ll skip to the next stage (and miss out on points),
but if you run out of lives you lose. Incredibly challenging.
It’s sad to see that the different stages of Geometry Wars- Galaxies didn’t make it in here (every level is just a rectangle) but there’s enough variety to keep you going. All of this, plus the game has some of the most entertaining
achievements in any 360 game, ever.. My personal favorite are the Wax On/Wax Off achievements, which you attain by rubbing your ship alongside all 4 walls in the Pacifist mode.
As great as the graphics of the original were, everything’s been upped even more. There’s even more particle effects and chaos going on here, and the brilliant colors and sparks will surely sear your retinas during your play session. Sure, it doesn’t look like much of a change, but go back to the first game and you’ll see how much prettier and smoother everything looks. These screenshots don’t do it justice- you have to see this thing in action.
The music has also been overhauled. Now it pulses in time to your actions, stopping on a beat when you get blown up or becoming muted when traveling between safe zones in the King mode. The one problem with the first game was the repetitive track that never changed, and here you’ve at least got different tracks for each game mode…. including a new remix of the classic song for the Evolved mode.
Hope you’ve got a good speaker setup, because you’ll want to pump this one.
Infinite replay value. The absolute best feature of this game is the way the Top Score is implemented. Most people remember Geometry Wars as having a completely busted Top Score on the top-right of the screen. Every time you booted up the game it would just give you the top score for that session, rather than for all time. Not only has that been
fixed, but at the default setting you can immediately see your friends’ top score. The person on your friends list with the score immediately above yours will be displayed there, and if you can beat that one, it’ll display the next-highest score, and so and and so forth till you’re at the top of the heap. For someone who grew up fighting for top scores on
arcade cabinets, this is a godsend. Now you can judge how good you are amongst your friends, and can see right away who you should be gunning for, what score to beat. It’s incredible and adds a whole bunch of competition to the game. Never mind the fact that you’ll be competing for scores in 6 different modes!
This addition is great, and just what the game needs, because the one thing it’s sorely lacking is online multiplayer. Sure, this game would fall apart if there was lag, but most games nowadays have shown that it’s not a problem, and it’s not like they’d be pumping a lot of data over the internets. Shame, and hopefully one they address in the future.
The offline multiplayer is no slouch, though. It supports 4 players at one time, either co-op, versus, or in teams. You can play any of the 6 modes from single player and even try a weird co-op control system where one person moves the ship and the other one fires the guns. Haven’t had a chance to try out the full 4 players yet but 2 is a blast.
Bottom line though, you’ll never get sick of this game, as long as your friends keep trying to one-up each other.
An absolute must-buy for any Xbox 360 owner. Anyone who’s played the original and loved it, pick this up. Anyone who’s never played it before, this is the one to get. This kickstarts Microsoft’s ‘Summer of Arcade‘, and if this is an indication of the quality of the rest of the games coming, you should be stocking up on Microsoft points right now.
9.5 out of 10