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Geometry Wars Galaxies


Twitch gamers... rejoice!
Geometry Wars Galaxies is a pure arcade shooter. There are no storylines here, and no characters to develop. It’s you against everybody, and the odds quickly can go from manageable to “How the heck did I avoid all that?” There aren’t any “endings”, either; your main objective is to rack up big points and see how your scores compare to other players. High scores generally haven’t been an important part of video game culture since the death of arcades (with exceptions, such as the early Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games), so it may come as a bit of a curveball to newer gamers who are more accustomed to “beating” their games.

Geometry Wars’ appearance on the Wii (also available for the DS, which has its own separate review) marks the first time that the shooter series has appeared on a gaming console other than an Xbox—- and it’s the first time that the game has been released in standalone form. In fact, Bizarre Creations and Kuju Entertainment have transformed Geometry Wars from a minigame to a title worthy of being sold on its own, having added several elements to the original series’ solid gameplay to create an experience that will have twitch gamers playing for hours and coming back for more.

Gameplay

Geometry Wars Galaxies gets its legs from the new Galaxies mode, which contains over 60 different planets to unlock, each with its own scenario. Some scenarios drop the player onto a small playing field with little room to maneuver while the game spawns dozens of enemies all at once, while others give only one life with which to reach a certain score plateau. Scoring is the name of the game here, and achieving certain score parameters earns bronze, silver, and gold medals, respectively. It’s possible to play each stage to infinity, depending on how long you can survive; however, when you do lose all of your lives, there are new challenges that await you instead of just starting over again.

Within each planet-- or stage-- players can pick up Geoms, which are the basic units of currency in Geometry Wars Galaxies. Geoms are left after each enemy is destroyed. As each Geom symbol is collected, two things happen. First, as you collect them and you stay alive, your scoring multiplier increases. It’s possible to raise the multiplier up to 150x, which is critical for achieving the highest scores. Once you lose a life, however, the multiplier resets and you have to start again. Once you’ve lost your lives, these Geoms can then be used to purchase new planets to play in or can be used to alter your drone’s behavior pattern.

The drone is a new addition in Geometry Wars Galaxies. It orbits around your ship and can execute one of several different actions, based on what you’ve unlocked and how you specify the drone to behave before each stage begins. Drones can attack forward, defend the ship’s rear, help to collect Geoms, snipe at more armored enemies, rotate around the ship and act like a shield, ram other ships, act as a gun turret, or even lure enemies away from your ship. There can be an element of strategy in terms of which drone behavior to use for certain galaxies, and each behavior can be leveled up multiple times to increase its proficiency.

Controlling your ship can be done either via a combination of the Wiimote and Nunchuk or via the Classic Controller. The Classic Controller is easily the best control method, as it accurately replicates the dual-stick control method that the Xbox versions of the game used. The analog sticks on the Classic Controller aren’t as precise as the Xbox controllers are, but the difference is very negligible. If you’ve played Robotron 2084 or Smash TV, you’ll feel right at home with these controls. Using the Wiimote and Nunchuk will require some getting used to, however. Movement is all right with the Nunchuk, but firing is done with the Wiimote and where it is pointed. With practice, it can be a useful control scheme, but it doesn’t match the dual stick control that the series has been centered on since its inception.

Geometry Wars Galaxies does have a multiplayer option, with two co-op variations. Players can either share from a pool of reserve ships and bombs and shoot for a combined score, or they can compete against each other with each player having his (or her) own set of ships and bombs to work with. Unfortunately, although the game boasts Wi-Fi functionality, you can’t play online with or against someone else; the online feature is only for leaderboards.

Graphics and Sound

Part of the allure of the Geometry Wars games is the throwback visual style, which has a definite vector graphics influence similar to Tempest or games of its ilk. In the transition from the Xbox and Xbox 360 to the Wii, the graphics have remained largely intact in Geometry Wars Galaxies. The enemy ship designs are simple shapes, but this allows for a ton of them to be on-screen at once, sometimes numbering a hundred or more. There’s no slowdown to speak of, either. The frame rate never drops from 60 frames per second.

The sound is driven by several tracks worth of techno beats, along with sounds of laser fire and explosions. The music is hit or miss, largely based on whether you prefer techno or not. The tracks really aren’t all that memorable and a few don’t even seem to fit the action; however, this is a game that can be played just fine with an MP3 player and headphones as it is with the volume cranked all the way up.

The Final Verdict

Geometry Wars Galaxies pays homage to old-school arcade shooters while adding a few elements to the overall package to draw newer players in. There are times when you’ll definitely feel like you’re “in the zone”, racking up scores in the millions while managing to just avoid collisions with the massive number of enemies on the screen. Twitch gamers will eat this up, and Galaxies is an easy game to go back to every now and then to unlock new planets or try to break those high score records that you set.

At the very least, Geometry Wars Galaxies is worth at least a rental-- if not an outright purchase—provided that you have the Classic Controller at your disposal. You don’t have to have played any of the other games in the series to appreciate what Galaxies has to offer, and there’s plenty of content to unlock and experience. The price point may seem a little high ($30 sounds like more of a sweet spot), but the chances are good that Geometry Wars Galaxies will stay in your library for a long time.