Review by lufia22

"Much improved over the original XBLA hit"

If you were anything like me, you may have been disappointed with your Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) purchase of the original Geometry Wars (GW). While it was a decent shmup (shoot 'em up), it felt lacking in depth by only offering two modes, which were essentially the same modes, just one had a more "classic" arcade feel/graphics to it. I remember saying after purchasing and playing the original, "I should have just stuck with the demo." While the demo of the original offered timed gameplay and limited access to both gameplay modes, it would have satisfied my needs for a quick, shallow pick-up-and-play shmup that Geometry Wars is.

I just recently went on an XBLA shopping spree after obtaining a 4000 point card for my birthday. I was going through all the XBLA games that I wanted to buy and I saw GW2 was out. Immediately I was skeptical both because of the lack of depth in the original GW and increased price of 800 points. I gave the demo a shot and found out that it had 5 new gameplay modes. After playing the demo, watching the GW2 trailer, and finding out that I could still get all the games I wanted and still purchase GW2, I gave it a shot. I'm very glad I did, as it has quickly become the favorite of the four XBLA games I downloaded.

What is Geometry Wars? Essentially, the gameplay revolves around you, a "U" shaped ship, that flies around a rectangular area, shooting various enemies that spawn on screen. The player controls the ship with the left stick, shoots in any direction with the right stick, and can detonate bombs, destroying all enemies on screen, with the trigger button. While some shmups incorporate levels, bosses, and sometimes even story, GW sticks to the basic arcade feel. The only point to playing GW, besides having fun, is to rack up your high score. That's it. Simple and clean.

Visually, Geometry Wars gets the "geometry" portion of its name from the graphics. Everything in the game, including your ship, are small, wire-framed geometric shapes. If you'd like an easy comparison to GW's basic style (and even gameplay), it's like the old Asteroids game but with neon lights instead of white lines. GW2 has a slightly more classic look to it, opting for much more jagged shapes in this installment. The neon glossiness has also been ramped up from the original, giving it an even more stylized feel.

One major change to the graphics is the exclusion of the annoying background in the rectangular playing field. In the original GW, the background was a grid shaped that would sometimes distort, especially with one of the power-ups. This became extremely distracting on the eyes. Luckily, the distorting background is no longer present, although, as with any shmup, your eyes may still get distracted from all the lights, explosions, and enemies flying around the screen, but that's part of the fun.

Rather than having two cloned gameplay modes, GW2 offers 6 unique modes that must be gradually unlocked. It probably wont take most players more than an hour to unlock all the modes. You unlock a mode by starting with the first mode available and playing it until the percentage on the second mode fills to 100%, then you must play the second mode until the 3rd mode fills up, so on and so forth until you've unlocked all six.

The first of the 6 modes is called Deadline. This is basically timed classic GW. Instead of playing unlimited, trying to not to lose all your lives, lives don't matter in Deadline. Of course, they give you an incentive to not dying because you lose your multiplier of you do, which you must build back up from scratch. You are given 3 minutes to basically rack up as high of a score as you can. This mode isn't my cup of tea, but will be for timed enthusiast.

The second mode is named King. This is one of the more unique modes that was added, and has become one of my favorites. Three large circle are placed on the playing field. The only way to shoot at the enemy is by being inside one of these circle. When you fly over the circle, it turns from blue to green, and enemies cannot hit you while you are in the green circle, nor can they enter it. After a few seconds, the circle turns red and starts to get smaller and smaller, in which you must fly to another circle in order to keep shooting. Again, the point is to rack up your score, but the game ends if you die.

The third mode is called Evolved. This is your basic mode from the original GW. It's basically like Deadline but without the time limit. Instead of time, you are given lives in which to limit yourself. Lives and bombs are obtained at various point intervals, the first coming at 100,000 points. The game ends once you are out of lives.

Pacifism is the fourth mode. This mode is similar to King in that you cannot shoot except under special conditions. In Pacifism, you actually cannot shoot at all. The only way to kill enemies and rack up your score is to fly through a new "enemy" called the Gate. These enemies look like a long line with two yellow triangles at each end. In the other modes, you can ricochet your shots off of the line portion of these Gates, and obtain a higher point value if you kill anything by doing so. In this mode, you must fly through the line portion of the Gate, causing it to explode and destroy anything around it. Running into an enemy or into the yellow triangles at either end of the Gate will kill you and immediately end the game. This is also one of the more unique modes and one of the most difficult.

The 5th mode is called Waves. This mode revolves around one of the new enemies, which looks likes an orange, triangular rocket ship. These enemies fly in a straight line until they hit a wall, then they fly in the opposite direction until they hit a wall, so on and so forth. In this mode, large waves of these enemies appear, along with other enemies. If you die once, it's game over.

The final mode is named Sequence. If any mode gets close to a level based shmup, it's this one. There are 20 levels in total. You are given 30 seconds to complete each level by destroying all the enemies. Dying will cause the game to automatically move on to the next level, meaning you get more points by not dying. You also have a certain amount of lives and the game ends when you complete all 20 levels or lose all your lives. This mode plays much like Deadline or Evolved modes, but each level is, in general, a bit harder, although much more predictable than a typical outing in Deadline/Evolved mode. While it may feel harder, the patterns on each level remain the same, meaning you can learn them, unlike the randomness of the other modes.

Other than the new game modes, GW2 makes some other major changes.

For one, the point system has been scaled up. While I only dreamed of hitting 1 million in the original GW (I know, I suck), I quite easily reached 2.8 million in one of my first sitting of an Evolved game in GW2. Part of the scaling up of points is due to Geoms, which are tiny green diamond shapes that enemies drop when they are killed. You must collect them by flying near them and they increase your multiplier as you collect more and more. It seems like it has been made a lot easier to increase your multiplier through these Geoms, thus scaling up the point system.

The scaling up of the point system may leave some idiots with the misconception that GW2 is easier. While this assessment based on the point system is incorrect, I do feel GW2 has become a bit easier in some ways and harder in others. The original GW was very hectic. After a few minutes of playing, you were quickly being bombarded with enemies all over the screen, coming at you from all directions. GW2 is much more slower paced. While they fixed the issue in the original GW of the first minute or so being extremely boring because it was so slow paced (one enemy would pop out every now and then, and you'd literally wait a few seconds for more to kill), the overall game, from my experience so far, has not reached the large and high paced gameplay of the original. While the number of enemies and rate at which they spawn still increases over time, it doesn't seem to reach the amount of speed and confusion as the original.

Enemies seem to spawn at a slower pace and, even when a wave spawns, the amount of enemies isn't as great. Rather than continuously spawning enemies every few seconds or so like the original, GW2 seems to spawn a bunch of enemies at once, give you a few seconds to kill them all, and then spawn another group, with a few waves of enemies thrown in every now and then. Of course, the rate at which this happens increases, getting fast enough to where you cannot kill all the enemies before it spawns more.

Conversely, GW2 has two main areas that I see are more difficult than the original. The variety of enemies at any one time appears to be greater to me, and their movements, especially with the inclusion of the orange enemy as described in the Wave game mode, are harder to keep up with due to there being more enemy types on screen at one time. Some enemies also seem much more aggressive, such as the green square piece, which follows you and tries to run into you, and will dodge around the shots fired at it. They seem much faster and aggressive in GW2. Many people claimed they were their most hated in the original, while I always scoffed and found them easy to deal with (my most hated being the pink squares). The green squares have quickly become my most hated and feared, and are quite often the cause of my demise due to them being so hard to kill now. I'll put too much focus on trying to get rid of them, and end up running into another enemy. Lastly, GW2 also seems to have done away with weapon power ups, leaving you with your straight forward, shooting only in a small line weapon. I could be incorrect, but in my play time with GW2, I have yet to receive a power up. Only in multiplayer have I receive a power up (including weapon power ups), which comes in the form of a star, but are only temporary.

And did I forget? GW2 now has multiplayer for up to four players, extending your potential enjoyment of GW2 even further. Each mode is available in multiplayer. With it's multiplayer, comes some additional features. First of all is the ability to have a free for all, basically competing to get the highest score, or you can form teams if you are in a 4 player match. You can also play co-op, which adds up the score total of everyone into one large score. You can also have the option of a "Copilot" mode, in which one player controls the ship while the other controls the weapon firing. Unfortunately, GW2 does not offer any online gameplay, which may be a downer for many multiplayer enthusiast, especially in this day and age of online gaming. Of course, some will argue that GW2 is just too hectic of a game, meaning even the smallest of lag brought on by online gaming could ruin you.

As you can see, GW2 is a much more developed game. It gives its player options this go around and even expands on its replay by adding the option of 4 player multiplayer. While the original GW may have left a bitter taste in those who were expecting a fuller game for 400 points, GW2 expands the original by over 6 times, making its doubled point cost of 800 points worth it, especially to the GW enthusiast. If you are debating on buying GW2 or the original due to the price differences, I definitely recommend purchasing this one even though it costs more. It has a larger game to cost ratio, meaning it will last you longer and give you more enjoyment than the original GW will. The slight changes in the basic gameplay may turn away some hardcore GW fans, but I think most players will enjoy GW2 much, much more.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 08/04/08

Game Release: Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 (US, 07/30/08)

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