The original Geometry Wars was fantastic back in 2005, ushering in a new age of the twin-stick shooter and really selling pretty much everyone who played it on the potential of Xbox Live Arcade, but it was easy to feel that the genre had already moved far beyond that initial blueprint. Super Stardust HD brought depth and next-gen graphics, and while I didn’t like it, Everyday Shooter proved popular as a bedroom-coded take on the concept.
I must admit that I was wrong about it, though. I downloaded Geometry Wars 2 last week, and while the basics and visual style are the same, this is still the king.
Taking notes from the little jaunt to the DS and Wii as a ‘proper’ standalone game, Geometry Wars 2 brings pretty much everything from the first game, adds five new modes, throws in some achievements that make ‘Pacifism’ – arguably the first creative ‘must-get’ achievement and, incidentally, expanded to a full mode in this game – look derivative, and then makes your eyes melt from the amazing.
It’s been a while since I last played the original, but this game really feels to me like one of those evergreen concepts that is always enjoyable, like Tetris or Shenmue. It all came flooding back as soon as I started playing, reliant only on muscle memory to get my skills back to their firmly under-developed state where they were before. Turn up the music – which is excellent and crying out for an official soundtrack release – crank the bass, and just enjoy the same visuals with maybe a slight injection of colour and an increased amount of stuff on screen. Even at 1080p on a 42″ screen, it got difficult to work out what was going on in a heated multiplayer game. In a good way, that is.
Something that’s worthy of mention is that Geometry Wars 2 has been expanded to six different modes, which can often overcomplicate and ruin a well-balanced puzzle game: how many of the countless Tetris variants do you remember? Here, though, I don’t think there’s a stinker among them. All play sufficiently differently to have favourites, for sure, but none really break anything, and I think the ideas of giving each mode its own little achievement and making you play the modes to unlock them all are very clever.
Playing through gives a nice taster of all of them before you crack on with the serious business of beating your friends’ high scores, which are now shown in the top corner as you play and on the mode select menu. Now that’s another clever piece of design, realising that it was surely the online leaderboards that fuelled addictions to the first game and adding even more of a competitive edge. If a friend forgets his rightful position below you, it’ll be right there, taunting you, as soon as you load up the game.
It’s been ages since I’ve found a download-only game that warrants an unequivocal recommendation, but Geometry Wars 2 is the best 800 points you’ll spend since… well, Geometry Wars.