|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Bizarre Creations Ltd.||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Activision||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: July 30, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jason Lauritzen
Sometimes origins are different than one would imagine. Case in point: Geometry Wars was never intended to be a game in its own right. It started out as a mini-game that players could access through the in-game garage in Project Gotham Racing 2 on the Xbox.
A console jump later, it was released as one of the first titles on Xbox LIVE Arcade and went on to become one of the most well-reviewed downloadable games. Nearly three years later and we finally have a properly numbered sequel in our hands. Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 is a follow-up done right - its unique visual style and distinct gameplay modes add up to a downloadable title that few should miss.
Being a dual-stick shooter, Retro Evolved 2 sticks to a simple control set. The left stick moves your wire frame ship, the right stick fires, and the triggers are tied to screen-clearing bombs. Unlike a game like Super Stardust HD - where you can pilot your ship around a sphere (effectively giving you room to constantly flee) - Retro Evolved keeps the quarters restricted. No matter what mode you're playing, your ship is always stuck in a box; it doesn't end up being claustrophobic, but it's definitely confining. This encourages you to constantly destroy enemies because if you don't, it won't take long for the arena to fill up entirely.
The enemies may be simple in design - such as purple pinwheels, orange fighter planes, blue diamonds, green boxes, and fire-colored snakes - but they are plenty threatening in their own unique way. Purple pinwheels bounce around the screen in random patterns; the orange fighter planes fly across the screen in a direct lines (either horizontally or vertically); blue diamonds inch slowly across the screen; the fire snakes weave around in a menacing manner; and the green boxes may be the worst - they continually race toward the player while swerving to avoid shots from your ship. These color coded enemy designs help you immediately recall enemy A.I. patterns and adjust quickly, which is a good thing since the screen is littered with these geometric baddies.
From a general standpoint, Retro Evolved 2 doesn't mess with dual-stick shooter conventions all that much. Using your space blaster you clear away waves of enemies, all in an effort to survive as long as possible and rack up the highest possible score. To help your score climb quickly, the game relies on a multiplier system combined with items called Geoms. Every enemy killed leaves behind a Geom, which, if you pick it up, increases your multiplier, allowing your score to multiply based on the number of Geoms collected. Geoms disappear, so you have to be fast. Ignoring Geoms makes it harder for your score to climb and you'll miss bonuses (like one ups and extra bombs).
Bizarre Creations plays it nice with the multiplier system. Instead of resetting your multiplier after you die, the count sticks in place. If you die with a high multiplier - say 300x - you'll continue right where you left off. It's weird to say this, but there is a positive side effect to dying: When your ship is destroyed, a bomb is unleashed, clearing out the cluster of enemies that brought about your untimely demise.
Where Retro Evolved 2 does mess with dual-stick conventions is in its six modes. However, all six are not available at the start; you unlock modes in sequential order based on your score and time played. The addition of allowing you to unlock modes via time investment is a nice feature in case you're not a high score player. Players will notice, before selecting any mode, their friends' high scores for that mode are displayed in a mini leaderboard under the mode's heading. It's a nice little touch that helps you keep track of your friends without making you go out of your way.