Monday 7 February 2011

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2

I paid 800 points for this, mere hours before a 400 points deal showed up. Thanks for that, Microsoft!

It's 2008's Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2, sequel to... Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved. This was pretty well received a couple of years go, though slightly less of a phenomina since it's been ported in some form to everything under the sun. But is it still good?

Geometry Wars' roots date back to minigames within Bizarre Creation's Project Gotham Racing series, becoming so popular that they've since branched out on their own. The series has seen little else but critical acclaim from the gaming press, and for good reason - it's a great series. It's also a timeless one - the sort of game I could see people still playing in the decades that follow.

And 2008's Retro Evolved 2 currently stands as "the best" Geometry Wars game, with superior graphics, gameplay options and music than its Wii, DS and iOS cousins. This is the only game in the series worth investing in - though others will provide you with an enjoyable experience, this is a complete package while others are just "a bit" of this package.

But is it flawless? No. For 400 Microsoft Points its a bargain, for 800... less so. Though I certainly don't feel ripped off, I did expect the game to be a bit... longer for that price. It's not quite as well polished as say, Pac Man Championship Edition DX, but this is somewhat understandable, what with the two years and three Metacritic points that separate the two. You can do far worse, though I may have been tempted to price it around the 600 points mark. But remember, I'm tight, hence why I haven't the game in some form until now.

The basic idea of Geometry Wars is to shoot things. Similar to Robotron 2084 or Smash TV, you use a two joystick approach to achieving this goal - the left stick controls movement, the right stick controls the direction of fire. The R trigger detonates a bomb, assuming you have one, which destroys everything on screen. The game acts as a logical step between Robotron 2084 and a bullet hell shooter. Though no enemies fire at you, there are often hundreds on screen at once, and you'll always be firing at them.

For the most part, it's great, but the right analogue stick doesn't always work to your advantage. Sure you have 360-degree aiming, but as it's a game that requires quick reaction, aiming with intense precision isn't something you tend to think about. It would, in my opinion, be slightly better if the weapon firing mechanic was digital, because then at least you'd have some assurance that you're firing in the right direction in tricky situations, even if there were fewer directions of fire as a result. Furthermore it would remove those few milliseconds of lag found by moving the stick from one extreme to the other.

But this is isn't a massive issue, and even if my suggestions were taken on board I don't imagine it would make the game that much easier. Retro Evolved 2 is a very challenging game due to the sheer amount of enemies on screen - it requires precise movements and I suspect this presents problems on standard definition television sets. Fans of shoot-'em-ups will love it, but you'll get a nasty shock if you thought this would be one for the casual gamer.

The graphics look spectacular but I'd be lying if I said the explosions didn't distort your vision somewhat. Often I found myself being killed before I noticed I'd hit something. The overall theme of the game seems to be dating back to the old 1980s vector-based arcade shooters, and though this looks great in game, I think it makes the menu text looks a bit tacky. These "retro" concepts could have been evolved a bit more I feel. The music is great, but it isn't very catchy. Nothing in the package screams "bad" though.

Yet the problem I had with the game was length. It doesn't take long to unlock everything, and although the achievements are a challenge, I can't see this taking more than a few games to "complete" at best. That assumes you're playing the game in reasonable doses, however.

But even if you're a little late to the party, I think Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 is a game worth picking up. Ignore the others in the series unless you realise you're a die hard fan, but don't let this one slip you by, especially if it's being sold at half the price.

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