kimfidler's Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 (Xbox 360 Games Store) review

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From Mini-Game to the Best on XBLA - Review by Kim Fidler

It really is amazing how popular the Geometry Wars series has become. From it's modest roots as a mini-game, to an XBLA launch title, to where it's at today with Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2. It's become the most well known title on the Xbox Live Marketplace, and if you know someone with a 360, there's a good chance it has Geometry Wars on it. To match its popularity, it has synonymously become known as the most addictive pick up and play title on any of the systems it has appeared on. If someone is playing any iteration of Geometry Wars, there's a good chance that you're going to hear them utter the words "Just one more game" at some point. As someone who loves the series, It really has been great to watch it's evolution over the past several years as it has become available to a much broader audience.

I am glad to report that fans of the series (or video games in general) will have nothing to be disappointed about with GW2. Bizarre Creations listened to what people wanted, polished it up, and delivered a title that is more than worth it's $10 price tag. Not only have they added 5 more game modes to challenge your dual-analogs, but they've refined the actual game play to the point that changes so much yet keeps it all invariably the same. With the inclusion of updated graphics, music, and leaderboards, Bizarre seems to have hit the mark and created a game that will keep people busy for quite some time.

The first game mode you'll have access to in GW2 is Deadline. Deadline is a race against time to score as many points as possible within 3 minutes. It's probably the best mode to introduce people to the game as you're given an unlimited amount of lives and the only thing you're trying to achieve is a high score. This is where GeoWars veterans will notice the biggest change to the game play standard set in the earlier titles. In GW2 the player will have to collect multipliers from shot down enemies in order to achieve higher scores. This dynamically changes the way the game is played because it introduces a risk/reward system that will reward those that decide it's worth it to collect every Geom (term used for multiplier) they can. What veteran players will enjoy is the fact that Deadline, probably more than any other mode, challenges you to stay alive for as long as possible. While you do have unlimited lives, a death in Deadline means the screen gets cleared of enemies and it can take a good 20 seconds until it gets fully populated again. No new enemies, means nothing to shoot down, which ultimately leads to you not getting any points. It's a great mode for everyone but I feel Deadline is the ultimate mode for people who don't have as much time to game as others. You can boot up Deadline, play 4 or 5 games within 15 minutes, and then turn it off to do whatever it is you have to do.

The second mode you'll unlock is King, probably the most original of all the new modes in GW2. The basic premise of King is to blast enemy ships from the inside of a safe bubble, and move to another bubble when the original dissipates. It sounds easy enough but once things start to really get moving in King, you'll only have a few seconds to take out the ships surrounding your bubble before it becomes completely surrounded. What I really enjoyed about King was the fact that it requires much more forward thinking than any other mode. At any given time, you have to know where all the bubbles are, and you have to ensure you've blown yourself a safe path to get to them before hand. With only 1 life at your disposal, it comes down to thinking ahead and focusing on survival more than anything else. While I haven't gotten really good at King yet, I can totally see the appeal of it with the more hardcore GW players.

Evolved is available after playing King about 5 times, and it's pretty much the same as the original game but evolved. Get it? Bizarre has added the new ships that appear in GeoWars2 into the mix, and while it may sound like more of the same, they can totally change the way the game is played. What has changed significantly is that the transitions between enemy waves are not as predictable as they were in the first XBLA release. In the first game, you could almost predict when a change was going to happen on the field and move to a safe area. In GW2, it doesn't feel as timed and it ends up being much more fun. The inclusion of the new straight shooting Orange ship creates a totally new level of difficulty, but it only adds to the overall fun and never gets frustrating. What I immediately loved about Evolved is how much more fun the Geoms make it. No longer are you simply running for your life, but you're also trying to double back in order to collect multipliers. Evolved stands with Deadline as my favorite mode to just load up and play. It's recognizable and easy enough to get into that it continues to be a great distraction when I only have about 15 minutes to play games.

After Evolved, you'll be able to take on another one of the very addicting new modes - Pacifism. The mode grants you 1 life and challenges you to stay alive without shooting. Sounds hard, but that doesn't mean that you're not given the ability to destroy the blue zombie ships bearing down on you. Pacifism introduces the player to what I like to refer to as the "Wall of Death!" Basically, the wall can work for you or against you, as any GW2 player will find. Flying through the wall creates an explosion that destroys anything in the immediate vicinity, but if you hit the sides of the wall, you die. Sounds easy enough, but then you add in the fact that the walls can spin on top of each other and it becomes much more difficult. Even though it does sound a little on the boring side, Pacifism is quite possibly one of the most addicting modes in GW2. I expect this to be a favorite amongst those who love challenging the leaderboards.

Waves is the fifth mode available, and I will admit it's probably my least favorite. It features waves upon waves of straight moving orange ships overlapping one another - with other random ship types peppered in for variety. It starts out really easy with a few waves to take out, but as it continues you'll be bombarded from all sides with shapes bearing down on you. If you hesitate for one second you're going to die, if you don't pay attention to the other colored ships you're going to die, if you aren't in the exact spot you need to be in at a particular time you're going to die. It really does force you to be as accurate as possible and maybe that's why I can't quite get a good handle on it. I'm sure after a few more hours of practice I'll be able to muster up a decent score, but until then I'll sit at the bottom of my friend leaderboards getting laughed at.

Sequence is the sixth and final mode in GW2. It's a series of stages that pit you against certain ship types in which you have to defeat in under 30 seconds. Every level starts out slow and after about 5 seconds they unleash the actual amount of shapes on you. It's always a mixture of enemies that play off of one another and in order to survive you have to know what places are safe in the stage, how many waves of shapes you're going to face, and what you can use to defeat them all. The more you play Sequence, the better you're going to get at it. It's very similar to a memory game in that the levels never change so if you can master them, you'll be able to fully conquer Sequence. As of writing this I haven't been able to finish Sequence but I think if I sat down and gave it a couple of hours of my time, I'd be able to do it. While it's not the most addicting mode in GW2, people will play it non-stop in order to have it mastered.

Besides the six modes in Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2, there are a ton of aspects that will have people playing it any chance they can get. The leaderboards are by far the best implemented in any XBLA game to date. No matter where you are within the game, the scores of your friends are taunting you to get that much better. On the mode select screen you'll be shown the top performers from your friends list and with a click of a button you'll be able to see where you stand among the denizens of Xbox Live. Let this serve as a warning, even when you think you're doing awesome at GW2, the leaderboards will put you in your place. How do people get their scores that high anyways? Another great thing many people will love about GW2 is how the Achievements are implemented. There are several achievements scattered throughout the several modes that are not only great for gamerscore, but also essential in teaching you numerous advanced tactics. Fans of Achievements will have alot to love about Geometry Wars 2 being that they could potentially add another five to ten hours of game play to it.

Added onto the massive leaderboards and solid achievements is a feature that I sadly did not get to try. 4-player cooperative multiplayer. While I can't comment on how awesome it probably is, I can say that anyone I have talked to that has tried it seems to love it. I would have loved to see an online multiplayer component, but with a game that relies on split second reaction I can see why it wasn't included. I suppose I'll just have to keep my fingers crossed for the inevitable Geometry Wars 3.

As you can probably tell, I really enjoyed the 20 hours I spent with Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2. It's one of those games that no matter how long you play it, you'll always come back and find something new to love about it. From the amazingly addictive game modes to the well constructed leaderboards, GW2 seems to do everything right. Whether you're a hardcore shooter fan that could spend 8 hours straight playing it, or a father of four looking for some quick 5 minute games, GW2 has what you're looking for. With it's $10 price tag, you can't go wrong downloading yourself a copy of Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2.

Kim Fidler
Freelance Writer

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