In a lot of ways Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved was the perfect game to launch the Xbox Live Arcade download service. It was an addictive little game with simple (yet effective) graphics, tons of replay and online leader boards ... all for a mere five dollars. It demonstrated just about every key feature Microsoft wanted to introduce at the launch of the system. Unfortunately the Xbox Live Arcade landscape has changed in the last three years. These days we have dozens of dual-stick shooters to choose from and a whole mess of other genres at our fingertips. Thankfully Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 is still an amazing action game worth checking out ... even if it doesn't feel as fresh and original as the 2005 release.
Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 picks up right where the last game left off. In fact, in some ways it's hard to tell the difference between the two. You still play the game using the two analog sticks and the trigger buttons. In case you haven't had a chance to experience Geometry Wars first hand, it's basically a game where you control a small spaceship with your left analog stick and shoot in any direction using the other. In other words, it plays exactly like Robotron 2084, Smash TV, Total Carnage and about a dozen other recently released Xbox Live Arcade titles. The gimmick here is that you only have a small area to navigate in and there are hundreds (if not thousands) of though characters rushing you at all times.
Retro Evolved 2 offers a lot of the same spastic gameplay you enjoyed in the first game, only this time around there are six different game modes, multiplayer support (albeit offline only) and an improved leader board set-up. It's still not perfect and I wish Bizarre Creations would have taken this game to the next level, but it's definitely fun and you could certainly do worse than Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2.
When you first turn on Retro Evolved 2 you are only given one single-player choice, a mode called "Deadline." This mode gives you a three minute countdown and unlimited lives. The object of this game is to shoot the enemies, pick up the items they leave behind and earn a high score. While all that sounds suspiciously like the last Geometry Wars game, it's the addition of those items you pick up that actually make this game feel different. Each character you shoot down will drop these multiplier pellets, which continue to add up regardless of whether you live or die. Although each character is only worth 20 or 30 points, if you pick up enough of these multiplier pellets you'll discover that the characters are worth thousands of points each. By the end of the three minutes you'll be earning 10,000 or more points per character, which goes a long way to increasing your overall score.
What's interesting about this game is that you actually have to unlock the other five gameplay modes by scoring big points in the Deadline mode. Thankfully this isn't as difficult as it sounds, because the game tracks how many points you get and adds it all together. Even the worst Geometry Wars player will no doubt have access to the next mode after only five or six tries at Deadline.
The next new mode is perhaps my favorite, a little game Bizarre is calling "King." This mode is something of a variation on the standard 'King of the Hill' game type we see on standard first-person shooters, only this is a single-player mode and the rules are completely different. The gimmick here is that you can only shoot when you're in one of the small circles barriers that populate the Geometry Wars grid. That means that you'll have to zip around the level dodging enemies until you can get to one of those barriers. The nice thing about these sections is that they are completely safe. Not only can you fire from them, but you can also sit in there safely because no enemies can break through that round barrier. Unfortunately the barrier only lasts for a few seconds, so you'll be forced to constantly rush from one to another. This is a stressful exercise that ends up being one of the best variations on the Geometry Wars themes, not to mention the mode I play the most.
After you've played that a few times you will be given access to the standard "Evolved" mode, which is exactly like what it sounds like. The Evolved mode is basically the classic game type from the original Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved game. In other words, it gives you three lives, three bombs and as much time as you need (or can survive) all in the hopes that you will earn a new high score. Fans of the original will feel right at home with this mode, plus they will enjoy the brand new enemies and the addition of those multiplier pellets.
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