Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wii Hidden Gems #5 - Geometry Wars: Galaxies

In the very early days of the Xbox 360, there was one game that kept gamers coming back for more thanks to its simple yet highly addictive gameplay.  Sure, Project Gotham Racing 3 was a fine launch title, but eventually you would come to the end of it.  Not so with Geometry Wars, however, as you could always go back and try and beat your high score.  It was essentially an update to the classic twin stick shooters of old such as Robotron 2084, spruced up with some funky graphical tricks yet still traceable in its lineage to classic vector games.  Imagine if MB were still making new Vectrex consoles today, just perhaps this is what they would look like.

I remember reading at the time that the fancy warping of the background grid and the particle effects flying everywhere were only possible thanks to the power of the Xbox 360 and the game couldn’t be replicated elsewhere.  Yet along came British development studio Kuju and proved everyone wrong with today’s Hidden Gem Geometry Wars: Galaxies.  Not only does the Wii version do everything that the downloadable 360 title did, it also does a whole lot more besides.  They even released a version for the DS, though that one is a tad compromised due to some unfortunate slowdown.   What exactly makes this spin off game better than  the original though? Let’s take a look…

Graphics: 9 out of 10
As I alluded to in my intro, the visuals in Geometry Wars: Galaxies are very true to the original version, yet Kuju have expanded on the original premise with new enemy types, and many different level layouts instead of just the simple oblong arena of the first game.  The game may look simple in screen shots, yet it can be quite spectacular at times when seen in action, due to the crazy amounts of enemies, bullets, and “Geoms” flying around the screen.  Throw a few black holes into the mix, and things really start to get crazy.  These troublesome enemies suck everything towards them as you might expect, and once they’ve reached critical mass, they explode in a deadly hail of play seeking bullets.  Expert players will actually allow this to occur though, as these bullets can be shot down for a lot of points.  Then there are the snakes – I really hate these bastards.  They typically turn up at the worst possible moment in a large swarm and kill me.  Argh!

Sound and Music: 8 out of 10
The music in the Geometry Wars series consists of some nice techno beats, which get the blood pumping nicely.  It’s not spectacularly good stuff, but not particularly offensive on the ears.  The sound design is where things get rather clever though.  Each enemy has its own unique sound, so expert players could probably shut their eyes and be able to tell what’s just appeared on screen.  This can be helpful in some of the new, larger stages that have to be scrolled.  It’s not just the enemies that have smart sound design though, this extends to the whole game, so you will know when you’ve earned an extra life, or achieved a medal for example, without having to glance up at the top of the screen to verify.  Very handy.  Too many games overlook things like this, so Geometry Wars: Galaxies is to be commended.

A typically explosion filled scene from Geometry Wars: Galaxies.
Game Mechanics: 9 out of 10
The game design of Geometry Wars was pretty much perfect back when it was based on one single, simple level.  Kuju have essentially just expanded upon this winning formula and added a few new wrinkles to spice thing up a bit, and keep you coming back for the long haul.  Firstly, there’s the multiplier.  Now, as you collect the little while diamonds dropped by slain enemies called Geoms, you will gradually increase you multiplier all the way up to X150.  Should you die, it’s reset all the way back to X1.  Seeing as some of the gold levels can be ridiculously high on the tougher planets, getting your multiplier up to the max and then staying there for as long as possible is vital to your success.

Connected to this are the new Drones, little friendly AI controlled doobries that fly around your ship and perform various tasks, such as enhancing your own firepower, actively trying to protect your ship from harm , or my favourite – zipping around and picking up loose Geoms for you.  As you collect more and more Geoms while playing the game, your active Drone will become more effective and level up.  You will also unlock more Drone types in this manner.  There’s quite a range of different types, which gives players a variety of different tactics to try while going for that all important high score and the ever elusive gold medals.

Geoms are also used as currency, to unlock more advanced galaxies.   You start off with a basic tutorial galaxy unlocked, and another slightly more difficult one, but there are many more after this, made up of multiple planets.  Each planet offers up its own unique spin on the Geometry Wars formula, be it a constricted arena in which to fight off the hordes of killer shapes, or indestructible objects in the middle of the play space.  Each level has multiple medals for you to earn, with the early levels having tricky yet achievable targets, and the more advanced planets having mind bogglingly high medal thresholds. I’ve played both the DS version and the Wii version quite a bit, and where a lot of the medals were just a question of being patient in the DS version because there are less enemies on screen and the slowdown actually makes things easier, this is not the case on the Wii.

Innovation and Cleverness: 6 out of 10
I can’t be too generous here because this is essentially a sequel to an already established formula, though the new aspects of the gameplay do add a lot of depth.  There’s not really a whole lot more to say here!

Value and Replayability: 9 out of 10
The original Geometry Wars was already endlessly replayable in theory as it was an old school arcade style high score chasing game.  The vast range of new levels and deeper gameplay ensure that you won’t get bored with Galaxies for a long time.  While I might not spend hour upon hour at a time playing the game, it’s one that I’m constantly coming back to for a quick fix.

Overall: 9 out of 10
Geometry Wars: Galaxies is one of my favourite titles for the Wii, and a must for those looking for a simple yet addictive blast of retro style gameplay.  All the new additions go a long way to enhancing the overall appeal of the game and give you ample reasons to keep coming back.  It will take you a long, long time to earn all of those medals.  Here’s a tip though: make sure you have a classic controller, you’ll need one!

No comments: