Discussion Review: Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2

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Matt: Even as an Xbox Live Arcade game, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved was widely considered one of the best launch titles for the Xbox 360. Given the 360’s sluggish start, it attained that status by default almost, but nevertheless, it was a gem of a game that showed from the outset that the XBLA was a force to be reckoned with.

Three years and numerous offshoots on other platforms later, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2, the true sequel to the original XBLA smash-hit, has finally landed, and what can I say, it’s one brilliant game.

Geometry Wars 2 is an upgrade over the first game across the board. It has more modes, snazzier, trippier graphics, a fun new set of achievements, and gameplay that is even more challenging and addictive. Frankly, the only thing it’s missing is online play, which is a glaring omission but thankfully not a fatal one.

Zach: I remember when I first found an Xbox 360 back in December of 2005 and Geometry Wars was the only title I kept coming back to over that long drought between the first and second wave of 360 titles. I remember competing each night for high scores with my friends on Live.

While I didn’t get a chance to play any of the other Geometry Wars offshoots, this sequel is a great successor to the original. I love the five new modes of play as they offer a break to the original “Evolved” mode. It’s amazing that I was able to play the original so long now that I’ve had exposure to these new modes of play.

While online co-op doesn’t exist, local player Vs. and co-op do, and they’re great. Up to four people can play, either each piloting their own ship, or one person navigating and another shooting. This adds another dimension to an already fantastic game as it’s now a great title for a party. It’s simple to learn, but tough to master.

Another addition I love is seeing the ranks of your top five friends in each of the game’s six modes of play. This makes it easy to see if anyone has beaten your highest score and gives you something to immediately work towards where you might have missed it before.

While the price has shot up from 400 to 800 points when compared to the original, with all of the new play options available the price increase is well worth it.

Matt: The new modes are great indeed. Now there’s more than just moving and shooting. You’ve got modes like Pacifism where you don’t fire at all but pass through slalom gates floating around the arena in order to destroy chasing enemies, and King in which you move between little safety bubbles that offer protection from incoming enemies and unlock your weapon system so you can clear a path to the next bubble before the current bubble you’re hiding in decays. And Sequence mode, a treacherous series of 20 stages that you have to successfully complete all in a row. Each stage lasts only 30 seconds and repeats the exact same enemy spawn pattern every time, but damn is it brutal. I sure as hell haven’t been able to beat it yet. Closest I’ve come is the 18th stage, and I’ve tried it at least 50 times now. Now that’s tough!

Another thing I really like is the tweaked score multiplier system. Rather than simply building your multiplier by killing off enemies in succession, enemies now drop little green pellets called Geoms when they are destroyed that you have to collect to build up your multiplier. I think it’s a nifty little tweak. It adds an extra dimension of risk-and-reward strategy that you wouldn’t normally expect to find in an arcade shooter like this. While playing you are constantly confronted with the decision of “should I risk flying through that swarm of enemies to collect more pellets or play it safe and wait for a clearer moment to snatch ’em up?” You have to make that decision at a split second’s notice, too, because the game is so blazingly fast paced.

My lone beef with Geometry Wars 2 is the lack of online play. The local multiplayer is good, as you mentioned, but none of my gamer friends are really nearby any more so local multiplayer just isn’t something I’m able to get into that much, if at all. Not having the ability to play on Live is a big hit to the replay value for me. I’ve got the Sequence mode to continue plugging away at, but other than that I’ve played the game to its limits in a pretty short period of time. It literally took me only like an hour to unlock all the modes leading up to the Sequence and gain a majority of the achievements.

Lack of Live play aside, this truly is among the top handful of XBLA games to date. It’s both ultra addictive and punishingly difficult, and that’s a winning combination for a dual-stick shooter.

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Zach: I can definitely see where you’re coming from, Matt. The only person I really have to play the local multiplayer with is my wife, who likes to watch the game more than play it. On the other hand, I’m not sure how well multiplayer over Xbox Live would have worked. This game requires split second timing, some might argue even more than fighting games. If you introduce just the smallest bit of lag, the game would almost be unplayable.

As for my thoughts on the game in whole, if you liked the original Geometry Wars, you’ll love this sequel. It simply takes the original and makes nothing but improvements upon it. Sure, there’s no multiplayer mode over Xbox Live, but there wasn’t in the original and if we’re comparing apples to apples, the inclusion of some local multiplayer is better than none at all. For $10 this makes a great addition to the Xbox Live Arcade family and a must have for anyone hankering to destroy brightly colored shapes.

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Pros:
+ Six modes of play keep you coming back to raise your score
+ New Geom multiplier system introduces an added layer of strategy to wracking up high scores
+ Local multiplayer gets everyone involved in grabbing the highest score
+ Everything that made the original Geometry Wars great has been amped up another notch

Cons:
– Lack of online multiplayer can be disheartening for those of us without nearby gaming friends
– Looking at the overall leaderboard makes us feel like a Geometry Wars noobs

Game Info:
Platform: Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Bizarre Creations
Release Date: 7/30/08
Genre: Arcade Shooter
Players: 1-4 (local only, no online)

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!