Geometry Wars: Galaxies DS Review

It’s a funny old world, gaming.

For instance: titles with massive amounts of money thrown at them have the nasty tendency to flop, with the years of work put in by hard-working artists and programmers wasted. Sometimes, the commercial failure is justified, and other times, the whims of fate are cruel. Countless are the high-profile, high-budget games that have sank like rocks. More interesting, though, are the games that no-one saw coming. The games that take the world by storm, becoming phenomenally successful almost overnight, inspiring hope in bedroom programmers across the world. Geometry Wars is one such game.

It began its humble existence as an unlockable bonus in Project Gotham Racing 2 on the Xbox, a minor feature of an arcade-style driving game. It really exploded into mainstream popularity, however, when a revamped version was released as a downloadable pay-to-play game on the Xbox 360’s online Arcade. For a time, it was the most downloaded game on that platform, and frankly deserved it. The graphics were sumptuous, turning a fairly average arcade-shooter into something more visceral and satisfying. Harnessing the pure power of the 360, Galaxy Wars: Retro Evolved was chaotic, fast-paced fun.

Now, Nintendo want a slice of the pie. Geometry Wars: Galaxies has been released both on the DS, and on the Wii, and intriguingly is one of the first games to involve communication between the two if one is lucky enough to own both versions.

The first question which must be asked is how did they manage to transport the aforementioned enemy-heavy action onto the admittedly light-weight DS hardware. Well, they managed it…sort of. Predictably, some of the nicer graphical treats have been dropped – projectiles no longer distort the background as they sail along and the resolution is no longer gorgeous HD. The game still looks lovely, with an impressive number of foes onscreen at any one time with the frame-rate only dipping once things get obscenely chaotic. The controls haven’t suffered too badly in transition either, with the dual analogue stick control replaced with a combination of the D-pad to move and pointing on the touchscreen to shoot. As with most transitions, adjusting takes time, but this new control scheme feels natural after a few attempts.

But what is Geometry Wars? To ask the question that has plagued pub-goers ever since there were pubs, what’s it all about, once you get down to it? In the end of the day? Mine’s a pint, love. And a packet of crisps.

…wait, sorry, we merged with the Rover’s Return for a moment there.

What’s Geometry Wars? It’s a throwback to the arcade games of yesteryear – there is no plot, just points. Levels are completed with the aim of destroying as many enemies as possible, before you run out of extra lives. Gameplay involves flying your little arrow-shaped ship around a minimal background, shooting at other little arrows, boxes, circles, each with their own behaviours and strategies of attack. It’s compelling and addictive, with the temptation to replay levels to get a higher score stronger than most similar games. Expect that once you put stylus to touchscreen, you won’t look up until the level ends.

To keep things interesting, each of the levels has a slightly different gimmick. Some are different sizes, from the claustrophobic to the vast, different shapes, some have different enemies, while others encourage different play styles, such as building up multipliers before being able to build up big scores. This is the “galaxies” element, which has been added to the game for the DS and Wii versions.

Galaxies are unlocked by reaching score limits and by spending the in-game currency. This currency can also be spent on unlocking extra features, such as drones that follow your ship around and help out in varied ways. For instance, one zooms about picking up currency dropped by destroyed enemies, while another zooms about driving into enemies and blowing them up. Generally, the less subtle drones are the more entertaining to use, but all have their uses. Further, they get more useful with use, thanks to a well-implemented drone levelling system.

The aforementioned cross-over between the Wii and the DS appears to be that making a connection between the two unlocks extra galaxies for you to explore and enjoy. It’s not much, to be frank, but it’s a step in the right direction. The Wii and the DS have been crying out for cross-over games, and hopefully this will encourage more developers to take advantage of the connection in interesting and entertaining ways.

To be honest, the bells and whistles of the Galaxies mode feel better than was expected. Given that the core gameplay hasn’t been changed much, the game still feels as simple and satisfying as the versions that preceded it (the original mode has even been included as an extra). If it’s genuinely engrossing, arcade-style nostalgic portable goodness you’re after, you could certainly do worse than Geometry Wars: Galaxies. The game is fast, furious, occasionally overwhelming and what’s more, you’ll keep coming back for more.

Now, where’s that pint I ordered?