Friday 19 October 2012

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved (XBLA)

It starts with a vector and a grid. No back story, no explanation of why, it just does. Shapes start to appear on the screen, but only a couple at first. You blast them to shards. Easy. More enemies appear, you take them out. Then more. Many more. Glowing wormholes suck in your foes and explode, firing small blue circles, purple cubes split in two as they’re hit, sending smaller purple cubes toward you. Glowing snakes wind their way around the screen at you. Everything is out to get you. All you can do is take them out. There are no levels and – seemingly – no end to the game. Just more and more to destroy.

Geometry Wars is one of the most primal gaming experiences currently available on XBLA’s service. Even its spiritual grandfather, Robotron, has levels and a story. What Bizarre has created is a proper, old-school, show-us-how-good-you-are arcade title. You shoot things, you survive, and your score increases. That really is all there is to it; but it is just so well executed.

The neon lines which form everything in the game have a satisfying eighties look to them. Simplistic yet beautiful, basic shapes swarm over the screen, sparks fly, and wormholes pulse, leaving you mesmerised in the same way most stoners are when they listen to Pink Floyd. Geometry Wars owes a debt to Jeff Minter in terms of design. It could almost be a companion piece to the great llama’s Tempest 2000. It really is a beautiful game, but – as we quickly found out – you won’t have much time to admire it.

Blasting at everything and evading collision with the colourful shapes is the order of the day here. A few minutes in and you won’t have much space on the grid to yourself. You are aided by a decent multiplier system which increases with every 25 enemies killed, an extra life every 75,000 points and an extra smart bomb every 100,000 points. Your fire-power is increased for short periods at certain times. Not only does this help you rain hot laser death on your enemies, it also causes the grid backdrop to ripple in a very pretty fashion. Nowhere to hide, no OTT power ups, no gimmicks, that’s it. The player must rely on nothing more than pure skill, much like the retro titles the game pays homage to.

Geometry Wars is one of the few games on 360 where the two words “Achievement Unlocked” really matter. A solid test of the player’s reflexes mixed with eye-melting visuals make this a title worth more than its weight in Marketplace points. If you complete all the achievements and make the top 100 on the leader board, we will buy you a drink. What are you still doing here? Go earn some points.


Written by Dan Gill

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