"This is it. Hordes of enemies are closing in on you from every direction. You canít get out of here alive. Donít look so sad; youíve fought well. Your exploits will be forever immortalized on the Leaderboard. How many times have you cheated death in these past few minutes? How many of the enemy forces have you slaughtered for your nameless cause? The only death toll youíll ever know is the high score ranking at the corner of the screen. Itís not like that matters now, anyway. You canít keep this..."
This is it. Hordes of enemies are closing in on you from every direction. You canít get out of here alive. Donít look so sad; youíve fought well. Your exploits will be forever immortalized on the Leaderboard. How many times have you cheated death in these past few minutes? How many of the enemy forces have you slaughtered for your nameless cause? The only death toll youíll ever know is the high score ranking at the corner of the screen. Itís not like that matters now, anyway. You canít keep this up any longer. Canít you feel the blood trickling down your thumbs? Donít you realize how hopeless this is? Or maybe you think that as long as you can fire your laser cannon, you still have a chance. Hah. Well, if youíre going down, you better do it in a blaze bullet-slinging glory. So go on, partner. Show those bastards what kind of gamer you really areÖ
Or not. Getting killed in Geometry Wars: Galaxies doesnít have to be so dramatic. Sure, you might lose a bit of your sanity (especially if youíre close to attaining a high score medal), but youíll always get another try. And you will need a second try. Despite its simplistic appearances, this game is gruelingly tough and addictive. It starts innocently enough; youíre piloting a small spaceship throughout the cosmos a la Asteroids. Seconds later, you have to blast through wave after wave of geometrical monstrosities. They donít look scary Ė a bunch of neon squares, circles, and pinwheels are a far cry from some of the stuff youíve probably faced Ė but itís just that there are so many of them attacking you. Not little bands of three or four, but dozens. Hundreds. Even if some dodge your cannon fire or wander slowly through the battlefield, their goal is the same: your death.
Itís not a question of if they destroy you, but when. One mistake is all it takes for some square-shaped foe to go into a spiraling kamikaze run and kill you. Your only line of defense is your infinite amount of bullets. The default cannon is little more than energy pellet gun; it can fire off a few meager rounds, but it canít stand up to the sheer amount of enemies zooming toward you. Instead, youíll likely rely more on the spreadshot or the machinegun. Or if you start feeling overwhelmed, a cache of screen-clearing bombs is at your disposal. Since the weapons automatically upgrade throughout the battle, you wonít have to worry about keeping track of your arsenal. Considering the sheer amount of enemies trying to kill you every few seconds, the simplistic weapons system is a blessing in disguise. It may be small, but itís just enough to keep you alive.
Veterans of Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved ought to recognize such a scenario. The gameplay in Galaxies is based on that title, after all. Fans of the previous game need to be wary of the control changes, however. Unlike the dual analog controls from the XBLA game, this version makes use of the WiiMote and Nunchuck attachment. Using the analog stick on the Nunchuck is easy to learn; you use it to steer the ship with remarkable precision. Using the WiiMote to aim, on the other hand, is a different story. You have to point at the screen with the controller and use the on-screen reticule to guide the direction of your bullets. Yeah, thatís as annoying as it sounds. Instead, youíre going to want to invest in a Classic Controller; the dual analogs make for an excellent replacement of the Xbox 360 controller. Assuming that you donít already own a Classic Controller, youíre going to make the choice of between the extra expense and the vastly superior control scheme.
You're probably wondering why a former XBLA title costs so much on the Wii. Forty dollars might seem like a risky venture, considering the cheap price of the original version. But letís be clear about one thing: Geometry Wars: Galaxies is not some mere port of Retro Evolved. Far from it. Retro Evolved is available as its own bonus gameplay mode, but youíll rarely play it. Instead, youíll immerse yourself into the lengthy Campaign Mode. The scope of the Geometry Wars has been greatly expanded; youíll be able to visit dozens of levels as you crusade throughout the cosmos. You wonít be able to visit them all at once, either. Youíll have to collect Geoms, the in-game currency, to gain access to the different worlds. Since your foes drop some cash when they die, youíll amass a fortune of the little trinkets before long. Considering how many of the later levels cost hundreds of thousands of Geoms to unlock, youíre going to have to slay an untold amount of enemies before you find everything.
Thatís a pretty tall order, no matter how skilled you are at Geometry Wars. Luckily, you wonít be flying solo. Youíll end up relying on your faithful Drone to help you get the job done. It comes with a decent array of abilities, like providing additional defense or backup fire, acting like an automated turret or decoy, collecting Geoms, or even sniping unwary foes. Too bad it has to be leveled up a bit before it can be remotely useful. The Droneís default powers are ineffectual at best; it can only fire a few rounds or occasionally go after its targets. Youíll have to let the Drone follow you around for a while; with each battle, itíll gain some experience points and gradually become more powerful. By the time you hit the later stages, your once-pathetic sidekick will be a killing machine. Considering the constant rise in difficulty, however, youíll need any help you can get.
These levels arenít like the old Retro Evolved battles, by the way. You wonít be just fighting in a rectangle-shaped box in the middle of nowhere anymore. Youíll have to strafe along jagged edges, desperately repelling enemy forces as you try not to get cornered. Youíll have to zoom and loop around triangles, diamonds, crosses, and plenty of other places. Some levels force you to contend with obstacles, like fluctuating gravity from a black hole, luring foes over proximity mines, or the randomly shifting dimensions of living walls. Some force you to blaze down narrow passageways, dodging and blasting foes like some psychedelic Pac-Man remake. Regardless of the designs, however, the star-speckled grid backdrops remain a consistent feature. You wonít see much of that, by the way; there will be too many neon-outlined enemies on the screen. If the giant space worms, homing squares, and wandering pinwheels of the previous game werenít enough, Galaxies provides a slew of new foes to slay. Between the black holes, the UFO armadas, the barrages of shooting stars, and plenty of other enemies, the game is just as flashy and intense as the original.
Assuming thatís not enough for you, the game further spoils you with a handful of extra content. If you get some ridiculously high score, try synching your Wii over Wifi. Youíll get to see how your score matches up with the online Leaderboard, which may or may not reveal your gaming prowess. Even if you donít have WiFi, you can still invite a friend over, get another WiiMote, and partake in some awesome co-op action. If you happen to have a DS handy, give the Connectivity options a try. Not only is Retro Evolved available to play as an additional gameplay mode, but you can download it Ė free of charge Ė to your DS. Accordingly, you can unlock additional Campaign levels by linking up to the DS version of Galaxies. It may be a cheap marketing ploy, but itís definitely catered to the fans.
You know what the sad thing is? This game was released a week after Super Mario Galaxy. Had no other big releases come out, Wii owners would be clamoring for Geometry Wars: Galaxies instead. It may not be as realistic or involved as some of the other system-sellers around (this is a game about a little spaceship killing shapes, after all), but the sheer amount of addictive fun cannot go ignored. The game retains all of the fine-tuned gameplay from its predecessor (assuming you have a Classic Controller to play properly), but greatly expands and develops on it. With so many areas to unlock, new enemies and challenges to overcome, Drone skills to acquire, and high score benchmarks to meet, itíll be quite a while before the Campaign Mode can be laid to rest. The DS connectivity, inclusion of Retro Evolved, and all of the other little features make Galaxies one of the great unsung titles for the Wii.
Community review by disco (November 27, 2007)
Disco is a San Francisco Bay Area native, whose gaming repertoire spans nearly three decades and hundreds of titles. He loves fighting games, traveling the world, learning new things, writing, photography, and tea. Not necessarily in that order.
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