Review: Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2
Genre: Arcade Shooter
Developers: Bizarre Creations
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: 07/30/08

When I first picked up an Xbox 360 and hooked all of the cables up one of the first things I did was download the demo for the Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved after hearing so much about the game. The game did not disappoint. I think I played that demo more than I’ve played some full games. I eventually broke down and bought the whole game and have never regretted it since. Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved is perhaps the definition of the perfect time waster.

Geometry Wars 2 has a lot to live up to since the original title remains one of the best titles available on Xbox Live Arcade. Does it live up to expectations or does Retro Evolved remain king of Xbox Live Arcade?

One of the main differences between the two titles is the amount of modes available in Geometry Wars 2. Instead of having just a single way to play, like the original, the game has been separated into six different modes. But before going into the modes, there’s a bunch of new content that effects the gameplay that’s worth talking about first.

One of the major differences between Retro Evolved and this sequel is that now when you kill enemies they leave behind little green orbs referred to in the game as Geoms. These Geoms increase your score multiplier, but to get them you must fly directly into the area where your enemy once was. This addition may not sounds like a big deal in print, but in action it is a HUGE change. In Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved, avoiding enemies was as important as destroying them. Now with the Geoms, it is almost essential to fly towards where an enemy once was instead of constantly moving away. If you are looking to obtain a high score, that is. Geometry Wars 2 requires adapting to a new way of approaching the game, and this addition also makes an already tense shooter even more so, as every moment you will have to weigh the risks of trying to obtain Geoms against the horde of enemies that are flooding the screen.

There are also the addition of new enemy types, as well as some gameplay tweaks. The new enemies fit in well with the game design and the some of the tweaked enemy types were well thought out. For example, one of my most hated enemy types from Retro Evolved, the pink box, is less annoying. Now there are floating gates that you can fly through for bonuses that will take out enemies close to them, but if you hit one of the edges you die. Other changes include how multipliers are gained in the game and the fact that there is only one standard gun type. I’m sort of disappointed with this last change merely because I liked the different weapon types. It might be that the different weapons might have been harder to balance within the new additions to the gameplay.

There are six different modes that all take advantage of these gameplay changes in one way or another:

Deadline: This mode takes a page from Pacman Championship Edition. You get five minutes and unlimited lives in order to rack up as much of a score as possible. The only penalty for dying is the fact that it takes a few seconds before you can get back into the action. This mode is a great way for those who might not be good at the game to still enjoy it. For veterans of the series, it’s a fun way to try and see how much of a high score you can rack up in a limited time. While there are infinite lives in this mode, it doesn’t make the mode any less intense. When you see that you have 60 seconds remaining and you are trying to beat a high score, the pressure is on!

King: King is awesome. In this mode there are circles on the screen, and you cannot fire your weapons unless you are in these circles, which also protect you from the enemies. The catch is that these circles shrink and disappear pretty rapidly, which means you are always trying to race to the next circle. Of course when you kill the enemies outside of the circles, the Geoms they leave behind also remain outside of the circles. If you want to collect them, you’ll need to risk dodging out of the safety zone. This mode will have you on the edge of your seat trying to blast a path between one safety circle to the next, hoping desperately that you will make it there.

Evolved: This mode is pretty much the same mode that was in Geometry Wars Retro Evolved, only with the new gameplay tweaks and enemy types. You start with three lives and three bombs and you try to last for as long as you can. This mode is still as fun and addicting as it was in the previous game, but the new modes do overshadow it.

Pacifism: My favorite mode of the whole game. This mode flips the whole way you think about Geometry Wars on its head. In Pacifism you do not fire a single shot. Instead it’s all about running away from enemies and using the previously mentioned gates. Once you have enemies right on your tail chasing you, you can pass through one of the gates that keep popping up and you’ll take out a large chunk of them. The only thing is you have to be really careful about passing through the gates since you die if you hit one of the edges. About 90% of my deaths in the game were from a desperate attempt to go through the closest gate, only to hit an edge because I was paying more attention to the fleet of enemies following me.

Waves: This is probably the weakest of all the game types. In Waves, enemies will spawn in a row that moves either vertically or horizontally across the screen. Just when you start being able to handle the waves, other enemies will pop up. Waves is a decent mode, but not as enjoyable as the other modes available in the game.

Sequence: This mode is meant for more experienced Geometry Wars players. Sequence is a series of timed challenges where the enemies will spawn in a certain pattern that you must defeat within 30 seconds. There are twenty of these challenges, and if you die the game moves you onto the next challenge without giving you credit for the previous event. Even though these patterns remain the same every time you play, there aren’t any easy ones here. Surviving through the entire mode is something for diehard fans with quick thumbs.

Since the original Geometry Wars had only one mode, this is a pretty large upgrade for a sequel.

Graphically Geometry Wars 2 doesn’t fail to impress. While everything is done using simple geometric shapes, there are a lot of visual effects happening on the screen almost all the time. In fact it seems they’ve increased some of the graphical effects from the previous game. The effects are like a constantly shifting fireworks display, and at times there’s almost too much happening on screen. It can become confusing every now and then to try to figure out where your ship even is under the pyrotechnic display of color. One nice thing is that there is never any slowdown, even when the entire screen is full of enemies and different effects.

Background music comes in the form of a serviceable techno beat that works with the game, but it’s not something you’re going to want the soundtrack of. The sound effects are great and there are no sounds that are either annoying or out of place.

If I may go on a rant here, and since this is my review I’m going to whether you like it or not, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 is a perfect example of the type of game that Microsoft should’ve focused on at E3. Instead of trying to confront Nintendo by creating games that are short and too simple in order to attract the casual gaming market, they should have been focusing on games that are simple and easy to play, but have depth and can also bring in the “hardcore” crowd. GW2 is such a game. The game is simple to control with its two joystick control scheme, and the new game modes offer a variety of challenges whether or not you are new to the series or are someone who plays this type of game non-stop.

The only thing really holding Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 back is the lack of online play. I will forgive the developers as people seem to fail to understand the basic reasoning behind why this type of game would be awful with online play. While even a quarter of a second lag time in a fighting game is considered too much for purists, a fraction of that time would equal death in Geometry Wars 2. The game moves too fast and if you hesitate for even a microsecond when the enemies start to fill the screen, you would die. Lag in such an atmosphere would not only work against the game – it would also be extremely frustrating to the player. There is a local co-op mode, but honestly the best multiplayer feature in the entire game is just the high score list. No matter how many co-op modes they add in, beating another player’s high score fuels the addiction for playing this title.

This is the type of game that exemplifies what Xbox Live Arcade should stand for.

Final Scores:

Story/Modes: Mediocre
Graphics: Very Good
Sound: Good
Control and Gameplay: Amazing
Replayability: Classic
Balance: Unparalleled
Originality: Good
Addictiveness: Unparalleled
Appeal Factor: Classic
Miscellaneous: Classic

Short Attention Span Summary

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 is a game that has a little something for everyone. I truly believe that the game is one of the best titles on the Xbox Live Arcade service, and is certainly worth every penny I spent on it. Almost every single new mode is fantastic, and the developers have only improved on the twitch based gameplay. If you purchase one Xbox Live Arcade game this summer, there’s almost no better game for your money than Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2.



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