Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 Review

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Descriptive Text Publisher: Activision
Developer: Bizarre Creations

Platform: Xbox 360
Reviewed on Xbox 360

The original Geometry Wars illustrated the potential of Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) to countless developers. Sometimes credited with giving XBLA legitimacy, the game's simple mechanics and bright, neon-like coloring made it appealing to both the casual and more hardcore gaming crowd. While a few versions of the game have come and gone since the original's release, this first, true sequel stays true to the formula while adding just enough to keep fans sated and observers mesmerized.

Kevin Rice

Now Brighter... Flashier... Noisier...

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2A lot of old-school arcade games used two sticks for control, and the best known example is Robotron 2084. The left stick controls your movement and the right stick is your never-ending coffer of ammunition. Geometry Wars has pilfered that control scheme perfectly, and given the number of enemies on screen at any given moment, you'll be using every last round in your arsenal.

Like the original, Retro Evolved 2 is a tour de force of the lone hero battling against swarms of evildoers. You'll constantly be surrounded, fight yourself out of corners, and even be completely overwhelmed. In this game's second installment, everything is a brighter shade of really bright, with flashy bullets, backgrounds, and explosions. In multiplayer, it can become so busy that it's difficult to catch a glimpse of yourself, if only for a few seconds. Everything you hit (even when you miss you hit the walls) results in a multicolor shower of spark-like particle effects.

New Tricks For Old Dogs

While the mechanics of Geometry Wars have been around for over 25 years, Retro Evolved 2 uses them in new ways. Each mode in Retro Evolved 2 is progressively unlocked (it'll take at most 30-45 minutes to unlock them all), and except for the Evolved mode, which is a clone of the original game, each offers its own spin on a familiar formula.

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2The game opens with Deadline, which is the Evolved mode with a three minute time limit and no life limit. You will die, but the only penalty is the time it takes to respawn. This is followed by King mode, where circular safe zones are the only place you can fire from. Once in a zone, you have around three seconds before it disappears and you're forced to move to a new area. It sounds a little odd, but it works quite well in practice. It's also made more nerve-wracking by the fact that you only get one life.

The third mode is the most familiar – Evolved mode. You start with four ships and three "smart" bombs that clear the screen of all enemies, and you play as long as you can last. Like all the modes, though, this is enhanced by the green multiplier gems that every enemy drops. Pick them up and your score multiplier increases, and thankfully, it doesn't reset itself when you die. Additionally, the double gun you have is the double gun you keep. It doesn't change every 10,000 points anymore, which is good.

Rounding out the new modes is Pacifism (there are no weapons – you destroy enemies by flying through slalom-like contrivances), Waves (lines of enemies appear on the edges of the screen and fly left-to-right or up-and-down, causing you to shoot or be run over), and Sequence (there are a limited number of enemies in patterned waves that must be destroyed). Each new mode will appeal to different players, and Bizarre Creations has addressed many of the requests and complaints that fans of the original had.

What Else is There?

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2There are numerous other little touches that make this $10 "upgrade" worth the cost. At the end of each game, leaderboards are automatically displayed, showing your position in contrast to both your friends and the rest of the world. Recently, an addition was made where you can now use your PC to go online and check the leaderboards in real-time – no need to even fire up the game (although checking the boards may make you want to start a new round).

The music is more varied, but similar to the techno style of the original. When you die, the music's frequency cutoff fades in and out as well, a nice touch that doesn't detract from the game. (If you're not sure what I'm talking about, you'll recognize the effect the instant you hear it.) In fact, both the music and the game meld together so well that you can easily spend what you think is 15 minutes in the game and discover how long it really was an hour or two later.

Are You Experienced?

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2While I'm heaping plenty of praise on Retro Evolved 2, there are a few caveats. First, the game is unforgiving, and it's almost as if the enemies exist only to destroy you (even if they don't shoot). The waves come at you faster than before, and the tempo is quicker all around. Second, while it's pretty easy to unlock every mode, some are bound to be upset that they have to unlock in the first place, especially since the "classic" mode isn't initially unlocked. Finally, your 100 million point score is nothing. Somewhere, there's someone that will beat you down, and you're reminded of it on the leaderboards after every round. It's tough to get a feeling of accomplishment when you're constantly informed that you're in middle of the pack... at best.

These minor quibbles aside, Retro Evolved 2 is worth your $10. Each new mode offers its own unique strategy and each will appeal to a different style of player. Once everything is unlocked, it's easy to spend an hour or more in your mode of choice. As demeaning as they can be (depending on how competitive you are), the leaderboards also provide an incentive to keep playing just one... more... round. Retro Evolved 2 isn't going to convert gamers that didn't like the original, but it's what fans of the original claimed was missing, and then some.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on August 17, 2008 1:08 PM.

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