Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved is one of those games you cannot stop playing. Offering a true arcade experience with cool graphics and Live support this is one game any Xbox 360 owner shouldn’t miss.
I like my Xbox 360. Since I got a nice (but actually not that expensive) 32” LCD HDTV with 720p support I can play all the games in shiny High-Ref. But even with all the new and cool games, the game that I play the most and which I return to over and over again is a cheap little Live Arcade game. This game does actually use lots of the power of the Xbox 360 and brings back the joy from the old days when you played games in the arcade and the only goal was to rack up as much points as possible.
The game I’m talking about is Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved, one of the many reasons to buy a Xbox 360.
If you are a Xbox-owner that has played Project Gotham Racing 2 you probably recognise the name. In PGR2 you could walk up to an arcade cabinet in the garage and play Geometry Wars. The game was really fun so when the Xbox 360 was being developed it seemed natural for the guys at Bizzare Creations to not only include an updated version in PGR3 but also create a stand-alone version for Xbox Live arcade.
The trial version for the ‘evolved’ version is included with the Xbox 360 and allows you to try the game but I suggest getting the full version right away since you’ll undoubtedly will want it.
The game play in GW:RE is actually pretty simple. You steer a small spacecraft in a grid-environment and have to survive waves of strange geometric shapes flying around on the grid.
You control the craft by moving it with the left analogue stick and firing with the right analogue stick. To fire off a smart bomb, killing everything on the screen, you just squeeze the right shoulder button. The control takes a minute or so to figure out but longer to master. In the beginning it’s easy to only fire in the path you are flying but soon you will master the art of flying one direction and firing in a completely different direction.
The geometric shapes don’t shot back but instead have different behaviours. You got slow ones that slowly chase you and speed up the longer you leave them alone. You got purple cubes, which chase you and then break up in smaller cubes when you hit them. You also got the cowardly green cubes that only chase you when you are moving away from them. There’s glowing wormlike thingys that spiral around the screen. And then the swarm of crosses, which just swarm the screen forcing you to cut your way through them.
The black holes at the basic level just sits there doing nothing but shot them once and they start spiralling sucking everything into them. You can use them to your own advantage but leave them to long and they explode into tiny blobs, which flies towards your ship.
You start the game with tree lives and three smart bombs. You get a new life every 75000 points and a new smartbomb every 100000.
So what’s so fun about flying around a space craft blasting geometric shapes? It is hard to explain really. The game just is so addictive. I think the simple game play itself makes it easy to pick up but still hard to master.
Every game is different since the waves are random and yet there is a pattern that you pick up. You quickly learn to keep away from the corners. You start to learn how to tackle each opponent and how to best use the black holes. And you learn not to use the smart bombs to often since you don’t get any points for blowing everything up.
The way you score points is very well put together. The longer you stay alive the bigger score-multiplier you get. Die and the multiplier is set back to 1x. Thus the game promotes you to be careful and try to stay alive as long as possible. It also makes it possible to quickly rack up points as the multiplier increases.
The funny thing with this game is that you constantly keep ‘evolving’ yourself. At the beginning I had a problem racking up more than 20000-30000 points. I used the smartbomb way too much and thus didn’t get any high multipliers before each time I died. Then one day I suddenly blew through 100 000. And suddenly I had no problem getting 100 000 anymore. I learnt the flow of the game. And so it has continued.
The game has that great arcade feeling where you know that high scores are reachable if you just keep on playing.
The game is a visual feast. The grid warps when you shoot and the explosions are colourful and spectacular. The best way I can show you is through this little video I made at home. Note that I recorded it with a normal DV-camera (no HD) and then reduced the resolution and size to make the video a bit smaller. Any framerate problem in the video is purely from the recording/conversion and not present when you actually play. The game also is much more colorfull. See the video here (14.6 MB, WMV).
The audio isn’t bad either, especially the soundeffects and as expected on Live you can use your own soundtrack.
COMPETITION IS GOOD
So you’ve got a great score and want to show it to the world? Well, it’s simple. The game supports Leaderboards over Live and you can both compare to the rest of the Live population or just with your friends on your friendslist.
The game also has a ton of Achievements that show up in your Gamercard. There are the normal ones like reaching a certain point but also odder (and funnier) ones like the “Pacifism” where you have to survive without shooting a bullet for 1 minute. It’s much harder than it sounds.
This is what gaming is about. I can’t stop playing it. I need to get in one or two games before I sleep each night just to relax. And I need to start getting more points. I’ve started to figure out how to use the black holes better. And my flying and avoiding techniques is getting better to. Hmm, I’ll better finish this review so I can have a go again. So my conclusion is: Just buy it will you? It’s just 400 points on Xbox Live Arcade and it’s pure joy.
+ Easy to pick up, hard to master
+ Visually great
Sidenote: If you want a similar game on PC check out Grid Wars. It’s also great, especially with a gamepad.