IGN Review of Geometry Wars: Galaxies
After getting its start on Xbox as a mini-game in Project Gotham Racing 2, Geometry Wars has led a pretty interesting life. This "not so retro" retro game became in instant cult classic, moving from the dusty player garage over to the arcade prime time as a launch game for the Xbox Live Arcade download service. It then proceeded to sell 4.87 billion copies; just a guess on our part, but one we're sure is still low-balling the game's sales. Now the franchise takes a gulp of fresh air and plunges into unknown territory, as Geometry Wars Galaxies brings more depth, more options, more enemies, and a huge amount of modes to both Nintendo DS and Wii.
Galaxies is an interesting product. We've already spoke our mind during the Wii review of the game a few days back, but what it all boils down to is that Geometry Wars was created originally for dual analog control, and every move you make away from that mechanic is a step into the unknown; certainly uncharted territory, and definitely outside the game's comfort zone. The concept of Geometry Wars is simple: Shoot, avoid death, raise your multiplier, and score big. In Galaxies, players have not only a main rectangular arena to play in, but an actual galaxy of levels to select from, each with their own level design and enemy variations included to mix up the action.
Rather than always basing gameplay around the same handful of enemies and patterns, Galaxies opens the design up, emulating classic titles like Galaga and Asteriods to put a unique spin on each event. Throw in touch control for aiming, an upgradable drone that gains experience with every kill and acts as a customizable sidekick, and Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection support for online leaderboards and you've got a package that's packed to the brim with "retro" goodness. As long as you dig the core mechanic, there's no reason not to pick up Galaxies; it's Geometry Wars, now with much more of the same.
There are two main concerns that factor into whether you should run out and pick up Galxies though, and they're the same issues that we tackled during the Wii review. Most importantly, the controls are certainly different from what Xbox owners know and love. Wii moved from dual analog to having only one analog stick and IR control in its default controls (something that worked, but was far from desirable), and on DS that morphing of control goes even farther, now dropping the other analog stick and expecting players to perform at their prime with a d-pad and either four-button firing, or touch control.
After going the distance with all versions (Xbox included, just to brush up) and all control setups, we'd put the original Retro Evolved experience hand-in-hand with the Wii Classic Controller as the best. Once you move away from the classic dual analog, however, DS is actually the best offering, as the touch control is more tactile and dependable than the Wii IR; a small victory for the DS version. It's far from perfect though, and the lack of the far more comfortable analog setup is certainly missed. We still had moments of serious hand cramping (Metroid Hunters players know these pains well) from holding the system with one hand and constantly mashing down on the d-pad to allow true twitch gaming which simultaneously tracing on the screen to shoot.
In fact, at one point we even switched from the spongy DS Lite d-pad over to our classic DS unit, sacrificing the brighter screen for a control pad that was thinner, quicker overall, and a bit more comfortable for this type of game. Is it the most comfortable experience on the handheld? No, but Galaxies makes the most out of what it has, since – some of you may have noticed – DS doesn't have analog to work with. It isn't preferred by any means, but it does work, and it's the best alternative outside of dual analog.
The other issue that still looms over Galaxies (something that, again, the Wii version had to deal with) was the price point. On Wii the $40 price point was a bit steep for what ends up being a deepened – but nearly identical – experience to the Xbox version. On DS, we've seen very simple concepts win players over, and as long as you don't mind dropping $30 on something that harks back to a $8.00 Live Arcade game, you'll get your money's worth with Galaxies due to the huge list of content. There are over 60 galaxies, each with their own medal system, leaderboards for each level (as well as multiplayer and the included original Retro Evolved game), and the added campaign progression which has you earning geoms – the cash of the Geometry Wars world – that can unlock new planets and missions.
In fact, since the game's content is nearly identical to the Wii version, we'd say the DS product is technically a better deal. You won't get friend-specific leaderboards though, and DS download play takes place of the Wii/DS game sharing (basically the same thing overall though), though you can still piggyback the download play into letting you go co-op and vs. within the original Retro Evolved after you've sent it to a friend.
As far as the overall audio/visual presentation goes, you're getting generally the same game, though obviously toned down from the Wii version. Geometry Wars began simple, then blew players away with stunning HD on 360, was scaled down to Wii, but now is nearly back where it started with a more simple visual design overall. The colors are still bright, however, and these remain to be some of the best particle effects we've seen on Nintendo's handheld, so while DS is the smallest piece of technology Geometry Wars has ever existed on, it still hold on to the spirit of the game very well. You'll notice some slowdown issues when things get hectic, and the techno audio and sound effects often fight, having audio levels not always equalized as we'd like them (coupled with some weird cut-off and audio pops from time to time), but in general it's a decent effort as far as A/V goes. It's simple, but surprisingly fast and true-to-form for a portable system.
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