Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2

It's really hard to believe that there could possibly be a game filled with more win than Geometry Wars Retro Evolved. But there is, and it's called Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2.

Developer Bizarre Creations puts the "2" in superscript as if it's an exponential, which would normally be hugely pretentious but in this case is totally justified. This game is to its predecessor as some kind of robot ninja would be to neanderthal man.

For those not familiar with previous iterations of Geometry Wars, these are games where you fly around a constrained two-dimensional playing field blasting the holy heck out of everything that moves. You move with the left analog stick, and shoot by aiming the right stick in the direction of your target. The genius is firstly in the ridiculously immense number of enemies on screen simultaneously, and secondly in the insane particle explosions you generate whenever you're introducing bullets to faces (which is all the time).

The first Geometry Wars for XBox Live Arcade was intensely addictive, but this time around Bizarre have offered no less than six game modes, several flavours of local multiplayer for up to four players, and a better paced and more challenging game experience across the board.

To unlock all the game modes you have to play through each one a few times, which is undemanding but initially off-putting. However, once you've got the drudgery out of the way, which takes all of half an hour, you're set to experience the full worship-inducing madness of Retro Evolved 2.

"Evolved" mode is the classic experience from the original, with a few new enemy types thrown in. "Deadline" is a version of Evolved where you have infinite lives but are struggling to get the highest score possible within three minutes.

"King" places circular "zones" on the playing field that enemies can't enter. You can only fire your weapons while inside a zone, but zones shrink and vanish over time. "Sequence" pits you against 20 pre-set patterns of enemies with no random elements involved and the difficulty turned up all the way to "crippling". "Waves" sees you blasting through screen-spanning walls of enemies which come at you from every direction.

The best of the new modes is "Pacifism", wherein your weapons are entirely disabled. An unceasing cascade of enemies pour after you, and you need to avoid them while crossing gates. Passing through a gate detonates it, which will destroy your closest pursuers.

The excellent leaderboard implementation from the first game is retained and expanded. Also, your highest scoring friend's name will now be displayed in the top right corner during play as the "score to beat", which is great for closely competitive friends but a little intimidating if someone on your friends list is a latter-day gaming wunderkind.

A significant change throughout all game modes is the way your score multiplier is handled. Whereas before it was based on the number of enemies you'd killed, and reset when you died, now it's all about collecting green sparkly things left behind by defeated enemies, and you retain your multiplier through death. The need to collect these things changes the dominant strategy significantly, which is an interesting if not particularly momentous alteration.

If you liked Geometry Wars, or just if you enjoy old-school arcade action done exceptionally well, then Retro Evolved 2 is absolutely worth your time.

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