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Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 Review

5
  • XBGS

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 adds new modes and elements that make it significantly better than both its predecessor and the scads of dual-joystick shooters that were released in its wake.

If you're not paying close attention, you might get lost in this mess.
It's really interesting to see Geometry Wars return to the stomping grounds that it helped make famous. As the first big Xbox Live Arcade release when the Xbox 360 launched in 2005, Bizarre Creations' vector-style shooter provided a very compelling reason to pay attention to "small" digitally distributed games. It also repopularized the dual-joystick shooter, blowing the concept pioneered by games like Robotron: 2084 into a full-fledged cottage industry for pro-grade and indie developers alike, totally over-saturating the market for dual-joystick shooters in the process. So it says a lot about the quality of Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 that it can come back to Xbox Live Arcade, over two years later, and absolutely lay waste to all of the other downloadable shooters that have come before it.

Retro Evolved 2 manages this by making interesting tweaks to the core gameplay, updating the graphics, and putting additional modes in to ensure that players of all skill levels have something to do. The gameplay changes are mostly focused on scoring. When you shoot an enemy, it drops little dots called geoms, which increase your multiplier when collected. That multiplier stays with you for the entire game, unlike the previous Retro Evolved, which put more importance on staying alive to keep your multiplier up. Also, outside of multiplayer mode power-ups, your weapon doesn't upgrade. You always know exactly how you're going to be shooting. The game also introduces new enemies and obstacles, including a bubbly cloud that's only vulnerable when you carve a path to its creamy center, dart-shaped ships that quickly travel along a set line, and so on.

The different modes take these basic ideas and flip them in interesting ways. The modes are locked at first, but as you score points in the first available mode, you earn your way to the next mode. Even players with low skill could probably unlock all six modes within the first couple hours of play.

The first mode is called deadline, and it gives you infinite lives. The catch is that it only goes for three minutes, which places more emphasis on quickly dispatching enemies and collecting geoms for a high score, rather than simply testing your survival skills.

King mode unlocks next, and this version gives you one life and no bombs. Circles act as safe havens on the screen--enemies can't get into the circle, but once you enter, it quickly shrinks and disappears. Also, you can't fire when you're outside a circle, so finding the right time to dart from a collapsing circle to a fresh one is the key skill.

The text at the bottom indicates your achievement progress.
Evolved is the third mode, and this is effectively the same as the main mode in the previous game, where you earn additional lives and bombs by scoring points. Unlike the original Retro Evolved, this mode gets tough quickly, so you don't have to mosey around for five minutes or so, waiting for the game to get challenging.

Playing Evolved unlocks Pacifism, which gives you one life. You can't shoot at all in this mode, but you'll still have to deal with a never-ending stream of enemies by dodging them and flying through gates, which explode and eliminate nearby foes when you activate them.

Waves mode is another one-life mode that sends enemies at you in, you know, waves. This mode focuses heavily on the dart-shaped ships, which come at you from all sides.

The final mode is Sequence, which is a level-based progression through the game that gives you 20 levels to play through. You have 30 seconds to clear each stage, and if you die, the game moves on to the next stage, which keeps things moving, but you also sacrifice potential points in the process.

The game's achievements give you more to do in each mode, such as "wax on" and "wax off" achievements for scraping the walls of the arena in Pacifism. One full lap gives you wax on, but getting two full laps for wax off is much tougher. The game acknowledges when you are attempting achievements like this, by popping up a counter that shows how close you are to getting it done. Overall, the achievements in this game feel a lot easier than the previous game's were, but that comes down to your own personal skill at Geometry Wars.

Each of the game's modes can be played in multiplayer mode with up to four players. You can play co-op, break the players up into teams, or just compete for score against the other three players. The catch is that all of this must be done locally. While there's probably a pretty good technical reason for why such a fast-moving, split-second game might not work so well online, it still stands out as the one thing this game is missing. As such, the main competition comes out of the single-player leaderboards, which are always staring you in the face from the mode select screen, informing you that there's probably someone on your friends list who is better than you are. It's enough to make you crazy. It's enough to keep you up at night.

I continue to hate the snakes most of all.
Visually, the game retains the same vector-graphics style that it's had all along, but it also looks much nicer. There are more little details now, like the way parts of the display have a curve to them, like you're viewing the menus through a HUD on Samus Aran's visor or something. The game has more colorful effects this time around, and the enemy shapes animate a bit more, flipping around on all axes to give more depth to the game's look. The vectors also have a brighter glow to them. In short, it looks great and new while still maintaining a deceptively simple style.

The music and sound are also fantastic. A big part of what set Geometry Wars apart from other games of its type is the way it used sound. Every enemy has a unique sound that plays when it appears on the grid. This is still true in Retro Evolved 2, and it continues to be a very handy feature. Each mode has its own music, including an updated version of the original theme, which appears in Evolved mode. There are some great minor touches with the music, too, like the way it muffles in King mode whenever you're outside of a ring, or the way it halts when you die in Evolved mode, like someone slammed the cutoff knob all the way down while slapping a hand on a record to stop it all at once, only to quickly ramp back up when you respawn.

Even if you've grown tired of the seemingly endless cavalcade of dual-joystick shooters that Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved's success spawned on Xbox Live Arcade, the sequel is well-worth its $10 price tag.
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
130 Comments
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Posted by spoa

"Awesome" is nowhere near good enough to describe Retro Evolved 2.

Posted by MissileWarriorz

Yea I love this game its the best arcade 360 game out there

Posted by explosion

That last line is all you really need to know. I was worried when they said this would drop for 10, the original was good but it was also only 5.

Posted by ThomasP

A little Zeppelin lurking in a review is always good. Nice review. Good to knows it's worth the beans.

Posted by duxup

If I didn't suck at the first one so much I'd seriously consider buying this one.

Posted by p4ddym1607

Did jeff get an early copy cos that review was up pretty quick.

Posted by Jesus_Juice

Now I want it, but I just spent my last couple of points on Rock Band tracks.

Posted by KRNG

Sounds fun, I'm going over to my friend's house to play it tonight!

Posted by Vaxadrin

The king has returned, and it's glorious.

Posted by monkeyman864

im gettin it n' such

Posted by CitizenKane

Looks like this is a definite buy for me.

Online
Posted by Sagacious_Tien

You were quick to get this one up. But it's worth it. I love the game and I get taht "one more time" feel when I play it. I love that. :)

Posted by Riddler

best ten bucks spent on live

Posted by Orange

Awesome, might have to check it out!

Posted by YoungBuck

instant buy.

Posted by Aaron_G

I need to get me it.

Posted by John

Yeah, I just played the demo. I mean WOW I must get some points tomorrow!!!

Posted by Vager

Wow, that was a blazing fast review.

Posted by WizzyKid

Oh my lord! I need an Xbox 360 just for this! Screw the PS3 exlusives, I'm with Geometry Wars!

Posted by Caddy

I completely agree. It's a fantastic sequel and definitely worth the extra 400 points.

Posted by RVonE

Great review. I'm absolutely stoked about this game!

Posted by PLWolf

Gonna have to download it when I get home. Looks awesome.

Posted by The_Icon

Looks fantastic, not to mention a real visual kick. Hope it was for PSN...:(

Posted by TewDee

Awesome review. I figured this would be as good as the first.

Posted by diminian

good thing I didnt spend all my MS points on COD and Halo maps. too bad im lying.

Posted by TissueShoe

I'd get it without hesitation... if I had a 360.

Posted by Peacemaker

I bought the game the minutes I woke up.  I love it, and PixelJunk Eden coming out tomorrow, great week for downloadable games.

Posted by Blitzer

Getting it as soon as I get home from work!
Although the lack of online co-op is a big fault.

Posted by Irishjohn

Pacifism mode sounds pretty bloody good.

Posted by Hoffer

I played the game before and after work.  Great game. 

Posted by bman3737

Great review Jeff.  You captured everything I love about this game.  Out of the 14 or so hours I've been up today, I think I've played this for 8 hours.  It's so addicting.  Buy, Buy, Buy!

Posted by Venatio

I just tried the Trial and I loved the game, I will get it soon

Posted by Mourne

Thanks for having me spend $10, Jeff. Off I go.

Posted by JacobBrodersen

I bought it before this review, and i didn't play it more then 50 minutes, and i absolutely agree. I'm going to play is so much more the coming days/weeks :)

Posted by norton123

Amazing game. I've been trying all day to beat all of Jeff's scores.

Posted by Yit

Must get money. I need money!

Posted by OlDrtyBstrd

WOW...Just read the IGN Review, which totally confirms my belief that the IGN staff are idiots. First of all they said Deadline gives you 5 minutes...then they said the this game was worse than Stardust HD...idiots

Posted by kratos

I don't know I have to agree with IGN on this one with SSHD is a bit better but everyone has there opinion.

Posted by ShiftKey

Geometry Wars. Old school, the way games used to be played.

Posted by JosephBarron

Easily the best Live Arcade title yet.

Posted by ArtG

Awesome review Jeff. I played the hell out of this game last night/morning and it's every bit enjoyable, if not more so, than the first.

Posted by albedos_shadow

Cool, now if only I had $10 to use on it...

Posted by Kush

I really couldn't agree more. I am in love with this game and think it's really one of the best arcade titles out there. Even the little changes they did are fantastic. Having a multiplier not reset after each death = Great Idea!!!

Posted by Shocker

Sweet review. I gotta get this game.

Posted by Emiel

No video review?

Posted by WhySoGodly

Pacifism mode sounds pretty bloody good.

^ It's difficult, atleast IMO. I have 8 million and most people think my score is high. Theres a user on this site (GT - Tamss) who has 110 million, insane..

Posted by RomeoInc

Incredibly fun to play with friends. If you have a 360, this is pretty much a must have.

Posted by LooseNukes

Pacifism mode is fantastic, I like the achievements as well.  Wax on and Wax off will help you develop some great maneuvering skills. I feel like the achievements have me testing my guiding skills a lot, and I like it. It gives whole new depth to such a simple Idea. It's really improved my overall skill as well, I find myself able to react to enemies and guide myself through heavy traffic with a lot more success.

Posted by Whisperkill

Awesome game, easily one of the top 3 xbla games ever

Posted by MayorMcCheese

I still need to try the demo, the game looks a lot like  the other one, i might wait for the arcade lineaup for this summer and get a 40$ card instead to get all of them.

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