Friday, January 22, 2010
Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved is a game with humble beginnings. The game began as a mini game found in the game Project Gotham Racing 2. Now, expanded and released on the xbox Live arcade service, it has become its own entity, and while modestly priced at $5, provides an experience quite above its meager means.
This is a 2D top down shooter, that is essentially a modernized version of Asteroids, without the warping and with dual stick controls added in. You move the ship with the left analog stick, and fire in the direction you point the right one in. Instead of flying saucers and asteroids, your ship shoots at enemies that take several different geometric shapes, are colored differently, and behave in different ways. There are simple enemies like the blue diamonds that move towards your position in a non aggressive manner, or the purple pinwheels that spin about randomly, not attacking you but causing your demise if you inadvertently make contact with them. There are green squares that hone in on you, and cowardly move away once you turn to fire in their direction. There are also more complicated enemies, like intensely aggressive seekers, ones that split up into smaller pieces when hit, long snakes that slither about and present a challenge due to their movement patterns and near invulnerability, or tiny blue particles that fill up the screen almost faster than you can shoot them.
There are also black holes (well, red holes with the properties of black holes) that appear on the grid once you start to earn enough points. These suck in the nearby enemies and even the grid that forms the background (for a cool visual effect) before exploding into a swarm of enemy shapes. These are supposed to present a challenge to the player, but can also actually be used to your advantage, as it's possible to lure enemies nearby, and shoot them as they are being sucked into the gravitational vortex.
You start the game with three lives and three bombs, and earn more as your score increases. The longer you go without dying, the bigger your score, as there is a multiplayer in effect, which increases the more you destroy the enemy shapes. The game is over when you run out of lives, and in theory, can run indefinitely. There is no real objective other than survival and setting a high score, which is a great throwback to the golden era of gaming, as it is fondly recalled.
The aforementioned bombs are a staple of the genre, and although not revolutionary, they serve you well, clearing the entire screen of enemies at the press of a button. In addition to the bombs, you have your ships main weapon, which has unlimited ammo, but also grows stronger earn points. Once you hit the 10,000 point mark, you get either a spread gun or a super concentrated but powerful machine gun, and the game randomly alternates between the two every 10,000 points.
There are two modes of play in the game. Evolved mode, which is likely where you will spend most of your time, is a remade version of the Geometry Wars from PGR2, with vastly improved graphics and a pulse pounding soundtrack, complimented by some of the coolest sound effects ever heard. The graphics in this mode are often referred to as 'psychedelic' and that seems to be an apt description. The colors pop off the screen, shapes explode into smaller shapes, the screen fills with enemies as the game progresses, and the very background itself is effected b both the black holes, as previously mentioned, and your machine gun fire.
With lights flashing, sparks flying, enemies exploding, and the music pumping, as the screen gets filled up more and more with enemies, shrinking your travel route inch by inch, you'll find yourself intoxicated by the intensity of the experience. This is definitely a twitch game, heavily relying on reflexes and quick decision making. And it all looks beautiful.
The second mode is the Retro mode, and it's an exact port of the game from PGR2. So, it's the evolved mode minus a chunk of the, excitement, although it's novel in its own right as there are a few small gameplay changes to be found. It's the mode you'll try out a few times before inevitably heading back to the evolved mode where you;'ll get, well, the evolved experience.
The game starts off deceptively easy, but the longer you survive, the harder it gets. Survive long enough and you'll see the screen completely filled with enemies, black holes exploding every few seconds, and you'll wonder if you even blinked anytime in the last few minutes. It's really quite a sight to behold, and, at $5, it's a no brainer for shooter fans.
The only real flaws present are the lack of co-op play, and the lack of any real differing gameplay modes.
Gorgeous to look at, beautiful to hear, and intense, challenging, and thrilling to play, this game is excellent. Another mode or two and some co-op play and this game would be hard to beat.
Overall Score: 9/10