Follow the leader

Geometry Wars 2 shoots and scores
By MITCH KRPATA  |  August 12, 2008
3.5 3.5 Stars

FOLLOW THE LEADERS In the Geometry Wars sequel, the scores take center stage.

What makes a man lust for the high score? What primal urges drive him to submit to one punishing gameplay session after another, in a vain and almost certainly futile attempt to surmount the highest peak of video-gaming glory? It’s a question scientists may never answer. For now, we can only observe the effects of this phenomenon — and never more clearly than on the roiling leaderboards of Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2.

The first Geometry Wars Retro Evolved had high scores too, and a worldwide leaderboard you could access through Xbox Live, but the whole thing seemed perfunctory. In the sequel, the scores take center stage. The moment you begin a new game, you’re greeted with your ranking for each of six different gameplay modes, all on the same screen for easy reference. You may notice that, since your last log-in, one of your friends has buried your scores, shoveling millions upon millions of points over you like dirt on your grave. Your only option is to respond in kind.

Geometry Wars 2 retains the spicy retro flavor of its predecessor while bringing several new entrees to the party. In each gameplay mode, the fundamentals are the same: you control a little C-shaped ship with the left analog stick while firing unlimited shots in any direction with the right stick. You’re confined to a small, rectangular area that quickly fills up with enemies to be blasted. (Each enemy is a basic geometric shape, hence the name.) Within that framework, however, developer Bizarre Creations has found plenty of room to experiment.

“Evolved” mode is the one that will be familiar to those who played the first Geometry Wars, and it follows the most traditional rules. You start with three lives and a handful of screen-clearing bombs, earning more of each as you reach certain score markers. Ever more challenging waves of enemies spawn at intervals, until the screen is saturated and your ship is a microsecond from destruction at all times.

By itself, “Evolved” is enough for an entire game, and indeed that was the case with the original. A few tweaks make it seem new. Previously, you earned score multipliers only by blasting prescribed quantities of enemies. This time, shattered foes drop “geoms,” little jewels that increase your multiplier by one. Not only does this change result in stratospherically higher scores, it also creates an incentive to keep moving instead of trying to cover your flank in the map’s corners.

And the new modes aren’t exactly filler. Some even top the original. “King” mode peppers the screen with small, circular safe zones that your enemies cannot penetrate. Each zone closes just seconds after you enter it, however, and out in free space you can’t shoot. It’s a frenzied dash from one zone to another, followed by brief interludes of blasting everything in sight.

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