The original Geometry Wars was the Halo of Live Arcade. A must own title that was accessible to everyone, offered at a reasonable price, and addictive as shit. Some people would argue it’s what proved Live Arcade as a viable platform. Whatever the case it’s been more than two years since it’s initial release and twin-stick shooter fans have been itching for a sequel. Sure we’ve had games like Super Stardust HD and Everyday Shooter to tide us over, but what about a follow up to the granddaddy of them all? Well, it’s finally happened — Geometry Wars 2 is finally here.
GW2 takes the gameplay of the original XBLA release, tweaks it slightly, and adds in a mountain of new gameplay modes and options. It should probably be noted right out of the gate that all of this extra content comes at an extra price — GW2 weighs in 800 points compared to GW’s 400. So is it worth double the point? If I could only use two words to answer that question, it would be these: FUCK YES.
The original Geometry Wars, though uber-addictive, did have a few flaws. Limited gameplay modes meant that despite how good the game was, what you did in it never really changed up. Eventually, you’d reach the peak of your abilities and go through the same motions every time to get back to your high score zone. This concern seems to be the one they chose to address in the sequel, offering up six completely different gameplay modes.
Initially, five of these are locked, but playing through each one can unlock the rest in well under an hour. The first of these modes, Deadline, is pretty straightforward. The goal is to get as high a score as possible in three minutes. Gone are concerns about lives or stringing together multipliers — as a matter of fact, Deadline introduces the new multiplier system that both adds a new gameplay twist and removes the frustration of losing that 10x every time you die. Every enemy you kill drops “geoms”. Each geom you collect bumps your multiplier up by one, and when you die you start your next life with the multiplier unchanged. This means things can ramp up pretty quickly — 400x multipliers in the 3 minutes of Timed are not only possible, they’re pretty common.
Being the first gameplay mode available, Deadline also gives us a glimpse at some of the other changes in the Geometry Wars universe. The first thing you’ll notice is the step up in visuals. Yes, everything is still geometric shapes and bright colors — but it all seems just a little more impressive somehow. Even the HUD has had a bit of a makeover, and it’s all for the better. The soundtrack too is stunning. Death causes it to stutter like a record being silenced, and every mode has its own score. The classic level even offers a reworked version of the original game’s score. But the visuals and music aren’t the only things that have kicked it up a notch — new enemies and resources are a great fit and force you to break out some new strategies. Gates, for example, allow you to ricochet your shots off of them and catch enemies with bullets you had already written off. Achievements reflect some of these new introductions as well, rewarding you for killing 75 enemies with gate shots.
Speaking of achievements, GW2 offers 12 attainable, though challenging goals that vary in requirements. Tracking for these is built right into the game — so when you’re trying to get your 75 gate shots a ticker will appear on the screen letting you know of your progress. It’s a small tweak, but definitely, an appreciated one.
The second gameplay mode you’ll encounter is King and is easily my favorite of the bunch right now. A handful of blue circles dot the landscape. The enemies can’t get into these circles, and you can’t shoot outside of them. Once in a circle it disappears pretty quickly, so you’ll want to gather up geoms and bolt to the next circle as quickly you can. It’s kind of like hopscotch if hopscotch had a calculus armada shooting lasers at your ball bag.
Up next is Evolved, which is their polite way of saying “Classic.” Take the original Geometry Wars, add in new visuals, enemies and geoms, and you’ve got Evolved. Still — if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Definitely a welcome inclusion to the party. It’s followed by Pacifism, a mode that renders you weaponless. Passing through gates causes them to explode, so you need to time your runs through just right to blow up the baddies following you. Another mode, Waves, see large groups of spaceships moving from one side of the screen to another while you blast holes in their formation to survive. Finally, we have Sequence, a mode that puts you through more than a dozen 30-second levels wherein you need to clear out all the baddies.
And that’s just the single player…
That’s right — this time Geometry Wars isn’t just about playing with yourself (shut up), it’s about sharing the experience with friends. 4 player local co-op lets you play through all six modes with your pals in either versus or co-op play. A lack of LIVE functionality is sorely missing here. I can’t begin to imagine why they wouldn’t have included it.
With the exception of the aforementioned complaint about LIVE multiplayer, Geometry Wars 2 is everything we could have asked for in a sequel and more. Whether you were a fan of the original or were disappointed by its lack of variety, Geometry Wars 2 is a definite must buy. If you can’t get into twin-stick shooters though? Well, you probably stopped reading this after the title.