Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved Reader Review

Iím getting worse. I went through a little phase of getting better, but now Iím definitely getting worse again. I havenít scored over 200k for a few days, and my average must be under 100k. Very poor. It was a different story last weekend. Last weekend I managed to get the Pacifist achievement, Iíd sussed out some good techniques for surfing the danger round the edges and using black holes to my advantage, and Iíd oh so nearly broken that elusive half a million barrier. Ah last week was good. But now Iím back where I started. Except itís even worse than when I started. At least when I started playing and I was getting shit scores I was having fun. Now if I lose that all important first life before I hit 100k then I must punish myself by shaving a few years of my own life; banging my head against a wall, pressing my thumbs into my eyes, a short, sharp elbow to my own stomachÖ

Geometry Wars is strictly ďold schoolĒ. You control a small, simple craft and you must clear the screen of endless spawning nasties. The left thumbstick controls the movement of the ship, and the right stick controls your direction of fire. Think Smash TV or Robotron. You also get three smart bombs (to start with) that will clear the screen instantly when you press a trigger. Thatís it. Seriously.

Except thatís not it. Thatís it for maybe the first half an hour or so, but after a little while you start to realise that there is actually some fairly clever AI going on, and the different shapes that you have to shoot actually have different behaviour. Thereís the little light blue diamond things that just float slowly and stupidly towards you, the pink boulder things that are a little more aggressive and split into three when you shoot them, and then thereís the green ones. I hate the green ones.

So now an element of tactics is suddenly necessary. You have to discriminate and prioritise. Itís no longer just a Ďbrainless shoot Ďem allí, this is now a Ďtactical shooterí! And it really is quite tactical as well. As you get further along more and more interesting creatures come along; the snakey things, the purple jack type things, the red thingies with the shield on the front. Each new foe has a new, usually more difficult to deal with behaviour, and every time the tactics of clearing has to alter slightly.

And then, just when you think youíve got to grips with the different foes and their behaviour another new element come into play; physics! Yup, Geo Wars has a physics engine, and itís a pretty nifty one too. At about 15k or so the black holes start to appear. These, once activated by shooting them, will suck in everything that surrounds them including you. It sounds dangerous, but in fact itís an incredibly useful and actually essential tool as the game goes on and the screen gets impossibly crowded with nasties. However, the size of the black holes increases as they suck up more things and in turn so does their gravitational pull, until eventually they explode in a shower of nasty little blue thingies that make a beeline straight for you. Luckily the holes can be effectively managed by shooting them, which brings them back down to size, and they can actually be destroyed and the points you get vary depending on how many things they have absorbed. The black holes add another significant tactical element to the game, as they are a constant source of dilemma. Do you leave them to control the amount of foes you have on screen and risk them exploding? Do you try and take them all out? Bear in mind that they not only pull you in, but they divert the direction that you are firing in also!

Geo Wars is one of those deceptively yet beautifully simplistic games, hugely reminiscent of Llamatron and Tempest as well to a certain extent. It may initially look like an updated Smash TV, but an hour or so of play reveals this to be a far more sophisticated game, and sits alongside Ikaruga and Gradius V as a true modern shmup classic. It does have its frustrations. As the game advances and the screen gets more and more busy the emphasis shifts to finding and creating gaps, and then quickly getting into them to create or find another gap, and the tactical elements Iíve described up to this point do seem to become less important. Also, the waves of enemies are random, and although the game could not work any other way, it does inevitably result in the occasional ďunfairĒ death when something spawns in a place that you couldnít possibly escape from. More often than not itís your fault when you die, and I would never go as far as to say it cheats, but there can sometimes be the feeling when you get a particularly high score that it was as much a result of you being lucky with the spawns as it was your general skill. Still, a game like this should be frustrating, itís what drives it in a perverse kind of way, and skill is still the most important factor in deciding your score by a very long way.

And now I get no peace. The words on my screen will slowly start moving towards and attacking my mouse curser if Iím not careful. I canít even shut my eyes as I know the dreaded green blobs are there waiting for me when I do. No game has infected my subconscious to this extent since Tetris. If Iím not playing it, I want to be playing it. Iíve been dreaming it. Iíve been evangelising it. For me itís what gaming used to be about; gratification, skill and reflexes. No unnecessary filler, no cut scenes, no bumf. Itís a very pure game that doesnít so much push your buttons and subtly caress them, perhaps not in a way you notice at first, but you become reliant on it and before long youíre addicted. In short itís simple, but effective.

9 / 10

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