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Old 09-30-2010, 02:15 PM   #1
Robin Ashe
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Please rate this review: Geometry Wars Retro Evolved

"OMG! You're shooting shapes with other shapes!"

High: Getting my first two achievements.

Low: Realising they were my last.

WTF: Two plus two equals negative four?

Geometry Wars Retro Evolved suggests two things in its title; that it is simultaneously old school and modern. While this suggestion is true, it disappoints in the worst possible way as it manages to take what's good about old school arcade games and what's good about modern console games and combine them to make something that's bad. I realise those are harsh words for the genre codifier of dual analog shooters, but after being sucked in with its addictive gameplay, which is counterintuitively not fun and rarely awarding, it is what I have to say.

Geometry Wars is a top down shooter in which you control a ship that looks like it comes from an early arcade game (this impression is amplified in the retro mode) with one analog stick, and the direction of fire is controlled independently with the other analog stick. Unfortunately, it suffers on the 360 as a result of the staggered analog sticks, which doesn't offer as good control as with the symmetrical layout on the DualShock or Wii Classic Controller. At this point the juxtaposition of old school and modern gameplay works well, as everything centres around a single mechanic (shooting things while not being hit), but the use of both analog sticks gives you the very important ability to move away from what you're shooting at.

The enemies are very simple, and again this is a good thing; they're easy to identify and behave in their own unique ways. For example, green diamonds pursue you while avoiding your fire, making them quite difficult to finish off, while blue squares will pursue you without any concern for self preservation, making them quite dangerous. Even groups of the same shape can be handled quite easily using the right tactics, but it becomes quite difficult when you are dealing with multiple types on the screen at once. The game has no levels, just more enemies that will spawn until you eventually die, and since the playing field is a rectangle, there's nowhere to run. The gameplay feels very retro, with the point being to get a high score, with a punishing difficulty curve that feels authentic.

The modern touch comes in evolved mode with the techno music and graphics reminiscent of a laser show of a rave, combined with the Xbox 360's achievements. At first glance achievements would seem to mesh perfectly with a high score focused game, and in principle they do. Certainly after getting my first two achievements I felt a great deal of satisfaction, but eventually I realised that the second one would quite likely be my last, and if I were lucky I might land 3 or 4. Thanks to the difficulty, Geometry Wars is one of those games where getting 200 gamerscore from the game is something to brag about, although I have yet to meet or even hear of anyone who could do so, while plenty admit defeat at its hands.

The problem is a combination of the nature of the achievements and how the score is calculated. As you shoot enemies, you get points. The longer you've gone without dying, the higher your multiplier for each point, and the only way to get any sort of impressive score is to get a high multiplier. The difficulty is instead associated not with your multiplier, which would be reasonable, but with how long you've been playing, and the achievements are all (save 1) about score. Certainly some of them are accumulate 9 lives or 9 bombs (the bombs are essentially the same as lives, except your multiplier doesn't get reset back to one when used), but it quickly becomes evident that dying a single time makes it impossible to achieve any of the high scores. Once I nailed the first two achievements (100,000 points and 100,000 points before dying), it became obvious to me that if I died at any point before 150,000 points there was no way I was making the next milestone of 250,000 points, let alone the 250,000 points without dying one. That's also the problem, the lives and bombs achievements are dependent on getting a high score and the high multiplier achievement is what gets you a high score. There is no achievement for surviving, 1, 2 or 5 minutes before using your last bomb and life.

What ended up happening with the combination of a retro gameplay style that's all about high score and achievements that are nigh-unattainable and are all about high score is I can't be blissfully ignorant of the possible scores that are out there and be satisfied with 200,000. I know that scores much higher are possible, and the 10/200 gamerscore is sitting there taunting me. There's nothing else left to the game, no additional gameplay modes, no change of strategy by having multiple weapon types, no change of pace by fighting a boss at various intervals.

With a game as addictive as Geometry Wars, the addiction comes from the difficulty and needing to make repeated attempts at achieving the high score and the reward comes in the satisfaction of progressively beating your previous high score, even if by a very small margin. The reward comes regularly and in small increments as you gradually get better. The achievements, which give a quick hit of satisfaction, take any incremental reward away by making it based on major milestones. The fun lasted about 2 hours; after that I was just in a daily grind of spending around 10 minutes playing the game to see if I had any success and then cutting myself off before I break the TV as a result of flinging the controller in a fit of rage. Given it's the addition of achievements and the late game that takes the fun away I just can't recommend buying Geometry Wars - the trial gives you the first part of the game - the fun bit - and achievements aren't available in it so you can actually have the reward be an incremental increase in score over a few hours before you move on to something else - still feeling good.

4.0 out of 10 - Not Recommended.

Disclaimer: I purchased the Xbox Live Arcade Unplugged Vol 1, which contains Geometry Wars Retro Evolved (among other games), used from Gamestop for $3, and spent 11 hours playing it.

Parents: There isn't any objectionable content, but the addictive quality and tendency of the game to cause ragequitting is cause for concern.

Deaf and hard of hearing: You'll be missing out on the music, which is one of the best parts of the game.
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Old 10-01-2010, 04:52 AM   #2
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Re: Please rate this review: Geometry Wars Retro Evolved

Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Ashe View Post
There's nothing else left to the game, no additional gameplay modes, no change of strategy by having multiple weapon types, no change of pace by fighting a boss at various intervals.
very valid point. The successor shows how it can be migrated with some various modes into a brilliant game. But i like also this basic form of the game.

But the rest of the text just says it is too hard for YOU. You relied too much on you as the standard and so you come to the not recommendation. For other gamers this is a difficulty they want.
I only got 5 of the Achievements by now and i was only once close to get the one for 500k, but it's definitely possible to get 200GS with some, or a lot of, practice. Played only 2 hours so far.


Try Bejeweled 2 on the disc... that's even harder imo.
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Old 10-01-2010, 01:49 PM   #3
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Re: Please rate this review: Geometry Wars Retro Evolved

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Originally Posted by crackajack View Post
But the rest of the text just says it is too hard for YOU.
Incorrect.

Read the last sentence of the last paragraph.

Quote:
Given it's the addition of achievements and the late game that takes the fun away I just can't recommend buying Geometry Wars - the trial gives you the first part of the game - the fun bit - and achievements aren't available in it so you can actually have the reward be an incremental increase in score over a few hours before you move on to something else - still feeling good.
I'm saying there's no point in paying for it, not that it's too hard for me. I enjoy difficult games just fine, but having to play a game for ages without any reward takes the fun out. In Super Mario Bros The Lost Levels even if there's a level I'm taking ages to get past, there's still the satisfaction of beating a particularly hard jump that has been causing problems. There are different measures you can set for yourself - completion, points, speedruns - there's variety in how you play it. There's no variety in Geometry Wars. If you're trying to survive for as long as possible you play exactly the same as if you're going for points. A high score tells you you lasted longer as well. There's only one thing to the game.

There's also the point that if you take even a quick look at Geometry Wars 2 every one of the complaints has been fixed. The multiplier is now based on collecting geoms and won't reset if you die. Many modes only give you a single life, so there's not the extra ones that end up being useless. Achievements are based on more than just getting a high score and modes like pacifism and king are more about moving from point to point than about shooting. You've got wax on & wax off achievements, slalom, richochet, smile, paranoia - they all change the way you play significantly, so there's actually a point, and if you're going for surviving for as long as possible you'll play more conservatively whereas if you're going for a high score you'll play more riskily. Bizarre Creations did a fairly comprehensive overhaul with GW2, and it addresses every one of my complaints about GW1. That strongly suggests that it's not just me, and a lot of people felt the same way.
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Old 10-02-2010, 05:59 AM   #4
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Re: Please rate this review: Geometry Wars Retro Evolved

Quote:
the trial gives you the first part of the game - the fun bit
or the easier bit
You can try out the part were surviving is still easy but at the end of the given minutes you see what comes next: insane enemy spawning
You wanna tackle that: buy it!
You don't enjoy and can't see were the fun should be in the last seconds of the demo: pass it

We start at easy and go to veteran very early. It's like Cod offers after half an hour only Veteran, Killzone only Elite or Uncharted only Crushing as the alone option.

Quote:
I'm saying there's no point in paying for it, not that it's too hard for me. I enjoy difficult games just fine
You enjoy other types of difficulty and obviously not this variant of difficulty, which is also fun, for some.
The game is very soon at those moments in shooters were 3 grenades are thrown at you at once and you have to knife your way through the enemies because reloading would take too long.
You always have to speedrun for this tricky jump you want to do in Lost Levels. No time to concentrate on that particular obstacle, only one direction possible: continuously forward with a loud battle cry, kamikaze style.

Of course a review should be a personal impression but this reads too much as it's the only opinion possible. That's my problem with it, because there is a point for paying: Someone wants to reach 1mio without dying e.g.
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Old 10-04-2010, 12:38 AM   #5
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Re: Please rate this review: Geometry Wars Retro Evolved

Because of how scoring works, any sort of high score, and as a result, getting lots of lives and bombs, is dependant on how long you last before dying the first time. If you can survive for 4 minutes, every single time, without using a single life or bomb, then back when Geometry Wars was released it might have been a worthwhile purchase. Now, Geometry Wars 2 has Evolved as one of the 8 game modes, why on earth would you buy GW 1? It's not just that though, there are a ton of other games out there, that don't suffer from GW1's drawbacks, some are quite a bit cheaper, and they have more features. Bang for the buck just isn't there anymore, even at $5. JoyJoy is $1 and Geometry Wars offers nothing that JoyJoy doesn't, save for the specific aesthetic. Geometry Wars has one single thing to it - the only thing that changes is it gets harder, so any other dual analog shooter that gets progressively harder offers what Geometry Wars does. You can work for a high score in any other game.

People read reviews to see if they buy something instead of something else. Obviously I'm not going to review 3 other games in a review of Geometry Wars, but the knowledge that there are other, much better games out there, that have been released since, influences the recommendation. If you bought Geometry Wars ages ago and enjoyed it, or got it along with your system, and enjoyed it, fine. It has some major drawbacks that are quite evident and even admitted by Bizarre Creations in how they designed Geometry Wars 2, and there are other games that are more worth spending your money on and that you'll enjoy more.
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Old 10-05-2010, 03:33 AM   #6
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Re: Please rate this review: Geometry Wars Retro Evolved

OK, now i can see your point. You don't say it's impossible hard, you don't say it's unfun in the end game, you just say it offers nothing others would not cheaper.
Why didn't you write that in the first place?

I bought GW (and also GW Galaxies wii) last week (!) and i'd say GW1 offers just one mode but this is an other than those offered by GW2 (played some months ago). Also worth the time, if you're a fan of this particular game design.
The second thing that changes is the weapon. Fire rate, number of projectiles and also it gets an angle. So not only difficulty.
It's untrue that you can't high score after dying early, as you say. That's the exact point of the game, surviving beyond 100k. If you can that, it doesn't matter if you already died early. The e.g. 5x multiplier comes very fast again, if you survive then.

Watched some videos of JoyJoy, Echoes+, Stardust HD, Everyday Shooter... they seem all to be fun but all quite different. Enemy design and behaviour, style and sound. I'd guess i'd like all of them but none as much as GW.
And beside that, XBox Live Indie games are NOT available in Austria. So my only option is GW and those PSN-shooters. MS Austria... congrats...
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