Geometry Wars Galaxies
Grids. Lines. Angles. Arcs. Rays. Points. Verticies. Circles. Squares. Rhombuses. Parallelograms. They’re everywhere. And what’s more, they’re coming to kill you. Sounds a lot like geometry class, doesn’t it? Fear not, because this time you’re armed, and there are no silly formulas to memorize, just good old shootin’.
As the protagonist of Geometry Wars Galaxies, you are a shape. Not just any shape, however, but a non-regular octagon engaged in a fight for your very survival with a multitude of other… well, shapes. This is Geometry Wars, after all. Why do they want to kill you? Is it because you’re a concave shape in a world on convexes? Is it because you don’t fit in neatly with the other shapes? Maybe they just grew bored of simply sitting on the pages of a textbook. Whatever the case, it’s your mission to take out as many of them as you can before you go down under the relentless tide of geometry like a transfer student to an honors class in the second semester.
As far as gameplay goes, little has changed since Geometry Wars on Xbox Live Arcade. You’re still a crescent, you still shoot endless waves of enemies, there’s still no plot, and you still fly around willy-nilly shooting in all directions. The DS does a rather good job of implementing that last bit, though. There are two different control schemes, one where you use the directional pad to move and the touchscreen to control the cannons, and vice versa. I say two, but it’s really more like one, because the directional pad is limited to firing in eight directions, putting the player at a serious disadvantage when surrounded on all sides by menacing diamonds and squares. Likewise, the touchscreen is ill-suited for movement, using a sort of directional dragging system that can be sluggish and unresponsive when you’re in a pinch. Using the stylus to shoot is much more intuitive, and easier to follow in Galaxies than in the previous version as well. Geometry Wars was often so confusing, with so much on the screen at one time, that it was easy to lose track of exactly where you were firing. The game now features an on screen line-of-fire as well as a crosshair detailing where the stylus is in relation to your ship, both of which are optional for those who find them distracting or an annoyance.
Galaxies has a few other tricks up its sleeve as well, in the form of both new play modes and a new gameplay element. Besides Retro Evolved mode, which pits you against wave after endless wave of steadily increasing enemies, there is a new campaign mode spanning multiple planets and systems. There’s no plot of course (who wants that in a straightforward arcade shooter?), but it does provide a means to deliver a multitude of different and often cleverly designed levels, some of which are downright frustrating. One might even go so far as to call them mean spirited and an affront to decency. On the later planets, moving walls that enemies can pass through seem a tad unfair, as do the many levels that start you off by spawning a wall of enemies on every side. The drone, another new feature, serves to balance this out in some small way. With different purchasable behaviors, the drone can be customized to your playing style, and will level up with use, becoming more and more effective. Enemies also have a couple new ways to spawn, from reverse black holes that spew multitudes to giant representations of an enemy type that shatter into swarms. The game also features connection with its Wii counterpart, but all this nets you is an extra system to play through.
A drone is no substitute for a real live human partner though, and Wi-Fi play on the DS is a blast with Galaxies. It features three modes, with two that pit the players against each other, but most will find the cooperative mode to be most enjoyable. As easy as Geometry Wars is to pick up, almost anyone you share the game with will be racking up big points in no time. Actually, at some points the cooperative mode almost seems too easy, with both player blazing away all the time, enemies sometimes barely even have time to spawn.
This being the DS, the graphics were of course toned down a bit to match the hardware’s capabilities. Everyone’s favorite trippy blue grid background is gone, much to the displeasure of those of us who zoomed around just to see it ripple. Even with this reduction, there are moments where the DS labors to keep up with the amazing and at times ridiculous amounts of flashing lights and neon enemies on the screen. Just think of it as unintentional bullet time, since it usually begins when there’s so many enemies onscreen you’re lost and bewildered. Thankfully, the grid is the only major element that has been removed, and the rest of the fireworks remain as bright and seizure-inducing as ever. Galaxies sounds good as well for a DS game, featuring new tracks in the same fast-paced techno style, even going so far as to include a little breakbeat and more advanced mixing.
A solid, proven shooter, Galaxies is an excellent way to kill time, as well as one of the DS’s better shooters, unlike, say, Metroid Prime: Hunters, which tended to feel a bit clunky at times. It’s perfect for any time you’ve got a spare five minutes, and it’s almost a bit too addictive. Those five minutes might turn into twenty or thirty before you’re done with your shooting spree. Nobody ever criticized a game for being addictive, besides your parents. And are you gonna listen to them? Get Geometry Wars Galaxies, and learn you some maths.
Nine out of ten
- Seriously addictive timekiller
- Easy to start up anytime
- The mesmerizing fabric of space-and-time grid is no more