Trying to adapt the writing style I use on Film and TV reviews for games reviews isn’t that easy, so I must admit that I’ve shied away from it in recent weeks. But the reason I started the blog was for me to able to look back on the stuff I’ve played and watched and remember it in the years to come.
So I’ve got a bit of a backlog of games to get through and I’ll start with Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2
Genre: Top Down Shooter
Players: 1 (4 player Offline Co-Op/Versus Modes Available)
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
Cost: £8 (though it cost me £4 as it was Deal of the Week on XBLA)
Synopsis (Description courtesy of Wikipedia)
The player controls a small, highly manoeuvrable ship that can move and fire independently in any direction. The objective of the game is to score points by destroying a variety of shapes and surviving by not touching them. If this happens, the player’s ship is destroyed and a life is lost. Depending on the game mode, lives and bombs can be collected upon achieving a certain number of points. Bombs clear the game space of enemy shapes instantly, although no points are awarded for their destruction.
Crucial to effective play is the score multiplier, which increases as the player collects “geoms” — small diamond-shaped green objects dropped by enemies upon destruction. The number of points scored by destroying an enemy depends on the multiplier, which can reach into the thousands.
There are six different game modes available:
- Deadline: The player is challenged to score as many points as possible with three minutes and infinite lives. During the course of the three-minute countdown, it is possible for a player to earn additional bombs.
- King: The player has only one life and no bombs. Circular safety zones appear randomly in the playing field. Enemies and geoms cannot enter these zones, and the player can only fire while inside one. The zone shrinks and disappears a short time after it is entered, causing a new one to appear elsewhere in the playing field. Thus, the player is forced to keep moving from zone to zone to survive.
- Evolved: The player is challenged to score as many points as possible with no time limit. The player starts with 4 lives and 3 bombs, and earns extra lives and bombs at set point intervals. (100,000; 1,000,000; 10,000,000)
- Pacifism: The player has only one life and cannot shoot. The player must fly through gates to destroy nearby enemies while avoiding the dangerous edges of the gates. Bonus points are earned by flying through gates in rapid succession. This mode was inspired by an achievement in the first game called “Pacifist” where the objective was to survive for 60 seconds without firing.
- Waves: The player has one life and must avoid and destroy inline waves of rockets that fly horizontally and vertically from the edges of the game space.
- Sequence: This mode consists of twenty levels, each with a consistent, predetermined pattern of enemies. The player has thirty seconds to destroy all of the enemies in each level. If the player loses a life, they are taken directly to the next level, but the game ends if the player loses all their lives. Additional lives and bombs are earned at set point intervals.
Addictive; that is the word I would use to describe Geo Wars. I took a punt on this game on a whim while it was Deal of the Week on XBLA and it’s probably the best £4 I’ve spent in years.
Getting the High Score is a very old gaming concept. When you played a game like Space Invaders, Pac Man or Galaga in an Arcade you’d look to be the at the top of the Leaderboard. That didn’t really carry over that well to home gaming in the pre-internet age though – after all, you’d be competing with yourself for a High Score, and really, where’s the fun in that? It’s all about the competition is it not?
With Xbox Live you compete for scores with your mates and with the rest of the world. It gives you something to work with!
When I got the game, the first thing I wanted to do was beat the score of my friend (and perennial gaming rival) Kevin. That was the motivation for me – the benchmark.
And I did it.
And I felt a sense of smug achievement.
And I texted him to let him know it.
And he came back with some excuse, but I knew he was crushed (and he reads this blog so I await his response…)
Once he was done, the benchmark was raised by the high score of another one of my Xbox Live ‘friends’, Rossmosis. Now, I don’t personally know Rossmosis – he’s a friend of Kevin’s who was added when my brother and Kevin were playing online Left 4 Dead – but I saw his score and wanted to beat it. So that was the motivation to play on, and eventually I did. Ultimately these things don’t matter but at the time when I beat his score in Evolved mode, I was delighted. But then I’m often accused of being too competitive.
Anyway, the point is that the High Score system brings a sense of competition to the game, and that is something I find lacking with games these days. Most games involve Campaign modes which go from A to B to C… and once you have completed it you have no great urge to return to it. Geometry Wars has replayability – a definite rarity in a game in 2011.
As for the mechanics of the game – it’s simple and challenging. You move with the Left Stick and shoot with the Right Stick. The longer you last, the harder it gets. Some of the enemies are total bastards though. When you see the enemies with the fire tails coming at you, it’s time to use a bomb.
In terms of the graphics, the game looks good. Not ‘wow’ good but nice. If the game has any problem though I would say the screen can get a bit too ‘busy’ and it becomes difficult to keep track of where you are on the screen in relation to your enemies. Maybe that’s the point, but I’d hope the difficulty level was based upon your ability to shoot enemies rather than your eyesight.
The different modes offer plenty of variety as well, which is good. Pacifism seems to be a favourite among other reviewers and players on forums, but I personally prefer Evolved mode, followed closely by Waves.
But is it Fun?
Is it fun? That’s the question you have to ask when it comes to games. Why else would be play games other than for fun? Well it seems an easy question to ask, but I bet you’ve slogged through some games and thought ‘Christ, this is dull” – I know I have.
The answer to this question is “Yes”. The game has ‘Pick-Up-And-Play’ written all over it. You’ve only got 10 minutes to spare? You can easily have a quick go of this in that time.
Unlike a lot of games you won’t forget the controls; you won’t lose the thread of the storyline and what you did when you last played it two months ago. It’s quick, it’s easy to play (though difficult to master) and yes, it is fun!
Should You Buy Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2?
It costs £8 as standard, but £8 is still worth it. Put it this way, you would happily part with £40 for a game like Medal of Honor, which has a 6 hour, dull as dishwater campaign, so paying £8 for a game which you could still feasibly be playing years from now is a no-brainer.
There is a chance that it won’t have the same appeal if you don’t have people to compete for scores with, but there is still the overall leaderboard to work against.
And of course, you can download the demo on XBLA to give it a try anyway so there’s nothing to be lost by at least trying it!