Geometry Wars: Galaxies Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Geometry Wars: Galaxies Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

An Eruption of Pixels

For a whole generation of gamers who cut their teeth on high octane coin-op arcade classics like Asteroids, Galaga, Centipede, and Robotron, there’s still an immense level of satisfaction to be gained from frantically jamming on the joystick and hammering at the fire button until your wrists are about to fall off as you blast away endless waves of pixelated foes.

Geometry Wars: Galaxies screenshot

In the earlier days of gaming it was hard to imagine the amazing possibilities several decades of technological advances would eventually bring to the industry, yet here we are. With a glut of games featuring stunning graphics, state-of-the-art gameplay, and all manner of previously inconceivable complexities, our hearts still occasionally yearn for the times of old – primal and ugly as they may be. It is for this reason a simple game like Geometry Wars: Galaxies can elicit such a powerful hold over a wide swath of the gaming population.

The original Geometry Wars got its humble start as a Bizarre Creations generated mini-game playable via the in-game garage in Project Gotham Racing 2 on the Xbox. The game was later updated and subsequently released as Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved on Xbox Live Arcade for the Xbox 360 where it enjoyed a good deal of popularity as the number one downloaded game for a time. As of this fall, Retro Evolved was still high on the list among the top 10 games downloaded through XBLA. With the recent release of Geometry Wars: Galaxies for the Wii and DS, Nintendo owners now have the opportunity to see what they were missing out on since the game includes a copy of Retro Evolved in addition to the greatly expanded single-player campaign mode. The Wii version has its charm, but for DS owners the capability of taking this insane shooter with them to play on-the-go for the first time is priceless (at a price tag of $30).

You can’t get much more old-school than the gameplay found in Geometry Wars. Players must pilot a small claw-like ship in a small closed off arena as various configurations of geometrically configured neon foes fly at them from all sides. No attempt is made to provide a plot or give a greater context for the mission at hand other than the fact swarms of geometric shapes seek to obliterate you from the cosmos. Your ship can simultaneously move and fire in any direction independently, and a limited supply of bombs lets you clear the screen when you’re about to become over-run. Your sole task is merely to survive against wave after wave of enemies while accruing bonus multipliers and racking up a whopping high score. The game starts out slow, but soon enough as more and more enemies erupt on-screen it quickly evolves into a tensely hypnotic, zen-like experience. It’s the kind of game where looking up from the screen for even a split second means instant death.

Geometry Wars: Galaxies screenshot

Galaxies builds greatly on the basic foundation laid down in Retro Evolved primarily through the addition of tons of new content. No longer will you be confined to the same old box-like playing field since the game now holds over 60 un-lockable planets each with their own unique assortment of enemies, interesting play physics, and strange geometric shapes. You’ll run across a variety of maze-like levels, large open fields, a circular arena which churns about like a washing machine, and areas which feature split-second meteor showers in alternating directions among other oddities. Some planets will throw you for a loop by starting you out with a single life and no bombs. Others contain moving blocks, special large enemies which erupt into smaller clusters of foes when destroyed, and more. The range of colorful angular foes is also greatly increased. In addition to the original enemies, there’s new baddies such as impervious mine-laying beasts, red darts which weave around randomly, wormholes which suck players in, orange cell masses which cluster together, blue squiggly mutators which spit out small biohazard-looking creatures, and many more.

This time you’ll fight the good fight with the help of a faithful little robot drone which closely follows your ship’s movements and reacts to enemies in a way that corresponds with its current behavior setting. Initially, your drone will be equipped to simply attack, but you will be able to unlock additional behaviors for the robot as you progress through the single-player campaign. These include the ability to defend, collect, snipe, sweep, ram, turret, and bait. Using any particular behavior frequently will earn experience and eventually upgrade the effectiveness of that behavior. Frankly, the drone is an awesome addition.

Geometry Wars: Galaxies screenshot

Instead of merely increasing your score, destroying enemies will cause them to drop precious Geoms which are mainly used to purchase new drone behaviors and unlock new galaxies and planets. Zipping around through throngs of enemies to collect Geoms adds some extra challenge to the game. It’s also quite rewarding to mow down a field full of foes and snatch up the spoils of war. Geoms also slowly boost your score multiplier up to a max of 150 which makes it possible for some potentially huge high scores. They’re necessary for meeting the high score benchmarks to earn bronze, silver, and gold medals for every planet.

New players will find the DS control scheme to be incredibly intuitive and easy to jump into. The d-pad is used to move your ship in any of eight directions on the top screen. At the same time you’ll used the stylus on a circular grid on the lower screen to aim and fire your cannons. The guns will blaze in any direction where you press and hold the stylus. A thin red line will help your track where you’re aiming so you can keep your eyes peeled on the action without affording dangerous glances at the touch screen.

Geometry Wars: Galaxies screenshot

Aside from occasional hand cramps during extended intense sessions, this control scheme works amazingly well, and it allows for some extremely accurate movement and shooting. If you’ve played the original game on either Microsoft console then you’re probably used to the dual analog stick controls which will be your preferred method of play. Rest assured the DS controls are a close second.

Part of the obvious appeal of the DS version is its portability. If you’re willing to sacrifice some of the larger-screen graphical touches of its Wii counterpart, then the handheld version of Galaxies is the way to go. Overall the visuals on the DS are fairly close when it comes to your ship, enemies, and the near constant spray of bullets flying in all directions. You’ll miss a few special effects found in the Wii version, yet it won’t make much of a difference once you start blasting away.

Galaxies’ robust single-player campaign mode is the main attraction in this package, but several multi-player options will let you wage geometric combat with friends. Co-op mode is self-explanatory, and players will have the option to have combined or separate scores, lives, and bombs. Simultaneous mode offers a fun twist by letting players send waves of enemies they destroy at their human opponents to clog up their screen. Versus mode has one player piloting the ship and blasting enemies while the other player is solely in charge of launching wave after wave of foes their way. The game supports online WI-FI play and multi-card local matches, but you can also wirelessly download the original Retro Evolved to a friend’s DS in addition to all of the multi-player modes if they don’t have a copy. Additionally, getting your hands on a copy of both versions of the game will allow you to wireless connect the DS to the Wii and unlock a bonus galaxy for each system.

The addictive retro gameplay and many extras in Galaxies greatly extend the playability of the original design. It’s a game that’s truly hard to put down for any length of time once you get sucked in. With so many planets to explore, medals to earn, and drones to upgrade, there are plenty of reasons to keep on coming back for more. Galaxies my not be as flashy or elaborate of some of the shooter titles on the DS, but it sure packs a mean wallop. It also has personality, and that goes a long way.


  • Set a course to 60 planets with new and classic gameplay modes to master.
  • All new multiplayer modes deliver all new levels of chaos.
  • Challenge a friend wirelessly on a single game card.
  • Link the DS and Wii versions to unlock bonus content.

    The visuals are simple and chaotic. Nothing overly scintillating here, but the nostalgia factor is huge. 3.8 Control
    Like many fast-paced DS titles the controls may give you a hand cramp from time to time, yet they are the next best thing to classic analog controls. 3.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
    Old school bleeps and catchy techno music makes up the bulk of the audio. 4.0

    Play Value
    There’s enough new added content to make fans rejoice, and the single player campaign is solid enough to hold its own. Good multi-player features are just icing on the cake.

    3.9 Overall Rating – Good
    Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

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