Geometry Wars Review
Is it weird that I've spent more time playing Geometry Wars, an Xbox Live! Arcade game on the Xbox 360, than I have spent on some of the retail games for the 360 I've bought? Nah. This game is hugely addictive and the 360 delivers these smaller titles in such a cool way. While I won't come out and say that Geometry Wars is the best Live! Arcade game currently available for the 360, it's certainly in the top 3 - especially because of its price (roughly US $5).
Geometry Wars pits your tiny little primitive space ship against, well, even more primitive shapes which will come at you in huge waves. It's a top-down game with 2D action in the classic style of games like Robotron 2084 or Smash T.V. (the latter of which is available over Live! Arcade as well, but I much prefer Geometry Wars). You control the movement of your ship with the left stick, and you can fire in any direction with the right stick. Simple, right?
Not really. There are quite a few types of enemies that will come at you: purple spinners move slowly but erratically around the playfield, blue diamonds will slowly fly towards you; green squares will try and ram into you but will also dodge your fire to their best ability; purple squares break into smaller, faster squares when shot (and these little ones are just as deadly to you as anything else). Then there are the space-warping black holes which will pop up, the "snakes" that can only be taken out by shooting the head, and other enemy "ships" which will come at you.
You've also got three bombs at the start of the game - a flick of either trigger on the 360 controller will set one off, completely clearing the screen of enemies. You won't actually get any points, but you do get a fresh start. Finally, as you gain points you'll also get one of two weapon upgrades which will alternate as you go. One fires bullets quickly in a random scattershot pattern, while the other fires slower shots in a larger, more consistent arc.
And the point of this whole game? Get ready folks: high score. There's no story here, just massively infectious gameplay with very frantic action. You've got the classic three lives (with a free life coming every 75,000 points) and you can pick up an extra bomb every 100,000 points. What's the motivation to actually get a high score, though? Well, other than bragging rights to your buddies, there's the Xbox Live! leaderboards which tracks the best scores. Sadly, I can't seem to be able to get my ranking down under 1,000, but it's still a hugely addictive game that I keep playing anyway.
Geometry Wars started out as a bonus mini-game inside Bizarre Creations' last flagship title Project Gotham Racing 2 - and while this new version has much improved graphics, you can still play the classic version as well. The graphics aren't nearly as impressive, and there aren't thousands of polygons flying around at once, but it's still just as addictive as the newer version and actually is much harder overall. The game will track your score on the Leaderboards for both the new and old versions separately, so if you can't get as high as you want in one you can always try your hand at the other.
The only thing I'd really say is missing in this game is possibly a two-player cooperative mode. It'd be a total blast and there might have even been options to have a shared pool of lives, or separate lives for each player. So those that want their two-player action in a game like this, your only choice left is go to with Smash T.V. - and that's by no means a bad choice at all.
If you're reading this, then I'd say there's a pretty good chance that you don't own an Xbox 360. I say this because those who do own one can quickly download a trial version of Geometry Wars, which takes a matter of about a minute on a fast broadband connection - those players probably don't really need to read a review. But if you actually do own a 360 and haven't tried any of the Live! Arcade, then by all means give the Arcade a shot - and definitely check out Geometry Wars, as it's by far my favorite so far. Don't skip these games just because they don't cost $50 or $60!
Upgrading to the full version of the game is ridiculously easy if you've bought some of these newfangled Live! Marketplace points, and if not, you can set up a credit card and buy points for a price that's comparable with what you'd get at the store anyway. It costs 400 points, which is roughly five bucks in US dollars, and it's probably the best five bucks I've spent in the last six months. So go check out Geometry Wars, or at least put it on your list of games to play once you get an Xbox 360. With the free trial you can download straight through Live!, you've got nothing to lose anyway.