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My (continuing) war with geometry

Daniel Weissenberger's picture

It came as quite a surprise to discover that Geometry Wars 2 had been released last week. I’m an intense fan of the first game, as evidenced by the fact that my first ever blog post dealt with my twisted obsession with obtaining a high score in the game. Also, it’s the only game that has ever driven me to swear loudly and throw my controller across the room. I’m not usually so emotional about games, but when snakes spawn in a ring while I’m touching a wall it’s an unbelievably cheap instant kill, so can you really blame me? I know the people in the next apartment over do.

So it was with some measure of excitement that I reacted to seeing that Geometry Wars 2 was available for download. I hadn’t even known Bizarre Creations was working on a sequel, and here it was, ready to be purchased for a scant 800 points. I broke my life(of the console)long habit of playing the trial version of the game before purchasing it and just went ahead and bought the game. I wasn’t disappointed, either. It’s an improvement over the original in every way. So much better, in fact, that I’m not going to go into the details here, but rather save them for a more proper review of the title.

The most significant change however, is how much more addictive the game is. While the first GW was extremely addictive, it was hamstrung by the fact that it took so long to get going. For an experienced player, the game was a breeze for the first five minutes, and things don’t start getting intense (and high-score-y) until ten. Not so in GW2, which gives players, depending on the mode, anywhere from fifteen to 60 seconds to find their bearings before things get extremely nasty. This means that the average game of GW2 is only a few minutes long, ensuring that players will keep coming back for more. If I almost set a personal best in GW, but screwed up at the last minute, the daunting idea that I was going to have to play a perfect fifteen minutes before I can get back to the point where I died is so frustrating that I’m more likely to quit than try again. By shortening the average game length, GW2 manages to pull me back in over and over again, challenging me to score just a little higher than I did the previous time. And if I screw up, then I’ve only lost a couple of minutes, and what does that matter in the scheme of things? Of course, it’s this kind of thinking that leads to playing for hours at a time without interruption. Never before has ‘just one more game’ been so tempting.

Why have I become so fixated on GW2? It’s simple: I got to Geometry Wars far too late. By the time I started playing it all the high scores were in the hundreds of millions, representing single play sessions lasting hours on end. For someone who’s incredibly lucky to last more than fifteen minutes, this is a terrifying idea. I doubt my heart could take that amount of sustained reflexive paranoia. I was just going to have to be happy with making it into the top 1% of players.

GW2 was another matter entirely. I started playing it just hours after it was released! The really good players would still be asleep! Why, it seemed all too possible that I would be able to swoop in and grab a number one score in at least one of the game’s modes. Sure, twenty thousand people had already played the game before me, but how good could all of them be? I’d take them over the half million who got to GW before I did.

So I scanned the various game modes for one that appealed to me. And I found it in one called ‘Pacigism’. It was an expansion of an Achievement from the first , in which the player was asked to survive for 60 seconds without shooting. Now the player has no weapons, and has to flee for their lives indefinitely, with the only method of killing opponents being slipping through explosive gates. This one was right up my alley, and not just because I grow less and less enthralled with shooting games with every passing day. No, by an amazing coincidence, dodging enemies without shooting was what I did the first GW for fun. Remember when I mentioned above how it takes five minutes before GW starts getting intense? Well, I used to see how far I could get into those five minutes without shooting. Usually it wasn’t that far, but my weird habit ended up being the perfect practice for this particular GW2 game mode.

After playing a few times to get the flow of the game down, I started running at the score, and before long I found myself getting close to a hundred million. By the end of the hour, I’d scored 212M and felt like it was finally time to check the leaderboard. I was happy to learn that I’d made it into the top 5 players. I was less than happy to see that a power player had already scored a startling 1.4 billion points. Still, getting that high in the leaderboard felt pretty good, and I went to sleep that night knowing that I had accomplished something. Well, not accomplished, per se, but certainly performed a task.

When I checked on the score the next day, I’d already been pushed down into the 50s, and felt the old competitive drive returning. Each day I’d drop down a little farther, then score a little higher and jump back up. I’m wondering just how long this pattern will continue. Will the high scores continue to climb until I just give up? Will I realize how futile the whole endeavor is and move on? Or will I be stuck here, playing a few rounds of Pacifism every week for the next year, just to stay in the game?

Just before posting this I finally broke the billion point mark, and landed back in the top 5 players list. By the time I wake up tomorrow, I’ll probably be knocked out of the top ten. I wonder what I’ll do then?

Category Tags
Series: Geometry Wars  

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