Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 (Video Game Review)

Video Game Review
Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2
Microsoft Xbox 360 (Xbox Live)
2008
Developer: Bizarre Creations
Publisher: Activision

It’s hard to imagine what Bizarre Creations and Activision could do to the Geometry Wars formula to make a sequel worth buying but Retro Evolved 2 is probably as interesting an evolution to the formula as we’re going to get short of the fantastic Geometry Wars: Galaxies. The game that basically defined the twin-stick shooter genre is at its downloadable best here although it does suffer from a few shortcomings.

For the most part, all game modes control the same; the left stick moves the ship and the right stick fires in the direction the player is pointing the stick at. The only other button used is the trigger buttons for when the need arises to unleash a screen-clearing bomb. There are some modifications to the controls depending on the game category (such as the Pacifist mode which does not allow the player to shoot). The controls are incredibly simple which is good considering the game is deceptively hard.

The game has six modes: Deadline (score as many points as possible within three minutes), King (with only one life, the player can only shoot their weapons while within disappearing safe zones), Evolved (score as many points as possible without a time limit), Pacifism (the player, without the ability to fire, must fly through gates and survive as long as possible while avoiding enemies), Waves (the player must destroy increasing waves of enemies that either move across the screen horizontally or vertically), and Sequence (which is essentially 20 levels that the player must clear; although players can be defeated in a level and still move on as long as they still have any of their three lives left that they were given at the start of the mode). While there are a few stand-out modes like Deadline, Evolved, and Sequence, none of the modes feel weak. Sure, Pacifism may not be as fun as Evolved but playing through the mode doesn’t feel like a drag.

Vector graphics were once thought to go the way of the dodo bird but Retro Evolved 2 (like all the other Geometry Wars games) employ a modified look borrowed from the vector graphics of yesteryear. There are plenty of colours on screen despite the large black void of a background. Once the action heats up, there can be over 100 independently moving enemy sprites on the screen without the slightest hiccup or drop in frame rate. While the graphics look simple in nature, between the number of independently moving characters on screen at the same time, all the visual effects, and the variety of colours, this is a game that could not be reproduced on more primitive hardware.

One of the shortcomings of the game is its sound. It’s not that it’s bad but it sounds pretty uninspired. The soundtrack essentially remains unchanged which wouldn’t be a problem if it was any good to begin with. It sounds mildly better than a half-assed midi music sequence, but not much more. However, the major issue is that it doesn’t add anything to the intensity of the situation. The sound effects are acceptable but they too don’t help build up an epic atmosphere. Essentially they feel like glorified bleeps and bloops.

Despite the limited gameplay modes, the game is surprisingly addictive. It’s difficulty curve is so perfect that, even though it gets pretty insane fairly quickly, you still feel like you can perform even better the next time you play it. Perhaps breaking onto some of the online leaderboards may seem impossible but the in-game achievements don’t feel like they’re hard to get with a little practice. However, like many arcade games, there will get to be a point where you will eventually hit a wall and get bored with the title. The replayability is very limited once you realize you’re as good as your possibly going to get with this game. Even though the multiplayer is fun, it doesn’t feel as strong as the single player modes. The multiplayer might add a few more hours of gameplay but its not the selling point of the game.

All in all, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 is one of the best downloadable titles out there. Had it been made for the arcade during their height of popularity, this game would have caused a quarter shortage. It’s fun, easy to get into, and highly addictive. There are a few problems that could have easily been fixed had Bizarre Creations or Activision put more thought into it but for the cheap price its easy to overlook them. Even if the game cost more, it would still be well worth it as this title can keep you occupied for many hours.

☆☆☆☆

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