Review: Geometry Wars: Galaxies

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Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved, developed by Bizarre Creations, was released on Xbox Live Arcade during the launch of Xbox 360 in November 2005. Although the retail-based games were decent, they were not all considered timeless classics. However, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved stood out and is still remembered today.
Even now, the twin-stick shooter on XBLA remains one of Microsoft’s most valuable digital offerings. With its straightforward yet captivating gameplay, Geometry Wars provided a much-needed source of entertainment for early Xbox 360 owners during the console’s initial period of sparse game releases.
The popular title has received an upgrade, but it’s not accessible on the system that made it famous. Kuju Entertainment and Bizarre Creations have released a comprehensive version of the game, named Geometry Wars: Galaxies, for the Wii (and Nintendo DS). However, is this an instance of adding unnecessary features and complexities to an already excellent game to make a profit? Or should Xbox 360 users be envious?

Geometry Wars: Galaxies (Wii)
Developed by Kuju Entertainment
Published by Sierra
Released on November 23, 2007

Geometry Wars: Galaxies retains the core gameplay mechanics of its predecessor, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved, developed by Bizarre Creations. In Retro Evolved, players controlled a claw-shaped ship that maneuvered through enemy fire, destroying them with bombs or gunfire. Galaxies follows a similar format, but with the added feature of multiple areas to explore instead of being confined to one. Players must still face endless waves of enemies, making the gameplay just as intense and thrilling as before.
Galaxies lives up to its name by offering ten galaxies to conquer, comprising of more than 60 distinct planets. What sets this game apart from its predecessors is its ability to keep players hooked while providing a sense of advancement. Each planet comes with score goals that correspond to medals (bronze, silver, gold), giving players a clear objective to strive for in every area. Unlike Retro Evolved, which had a plain rectangular playing field, Galaxies features diverse and distinctive planets, some of which are reminiscent of classic arcade games like Asteroids or Galaxian.
The game remains fresh and exciting as players progress from the basic trainer planet, Traeis in the Alpha galaxy, to the more advanced planets in the Kappa galaxy, where players can even start a Geometry Wars fraternity. Each new planet introduces new enemies and area-types, providing a unique challenge for players. For example, some planets have walls that move, requiring players to adjust their maneuvering strategy. Other planets have a gravity pool in the center that pulls players, their fire, and enemies in all directions, similar to a washing machine. As players unlock more galaxies, they encounter new enemies, such as the Asteroids, which break apart into smaller versions when destroyed. Some enemies can even be helpful, like the Mine Layer, which drops mines that players can use to create chain reactions and destroy enemies. With such a diverse range of level designs, there is no shortage of variety in Geometry Wars Galaxies.

A recent inclusion in the game is the drone, a self-governing and smaller version of your spacecraft that mimics your movements and aids you in attacking or defending against adversaries. There are various types of drones available, such as attack, defend, collect, snipe, sweep, ram, turret, and bait. You can purchase and enhance drones using “Geoms,” the universal currency used in Galaxies, which you acquire by defeating enemies during gameplay. Before entering a planet, you must select the appropriate drone, as it is essential to achieving a gold medal or surpassing high scores.
If you found it challenging to surpass the million-point threshold in Retro Evolved, brace yourself for a surprise. In Galaxies, accumulating score-boosting multipliers is a breeze, and with the right strategy, it’s not uncommon to reach a 100+ multiplier in no time. However, this doesn’t affect the game’s equilibrium since the target scores are adjusted accordingly. Nevertheless, it may come as a shock to those who previously struggled to achieve a mere 10 times multiplier in Retro Evolved.
The new level designs and enemies in Geometry Wars are a great addition to the game. Despite the risk of overcomplicating the original’s simple yet beautiful design, the changes feel like a natural progression for the series. Kuju’s creation of new areas and enemies that fit seamlessly into the Geometry Wars universe is impressive, with nothing feeling out of place or unnecessary. However, for those who prefer the original game, Retro Evolved is still available as a separate mode, complete with the same enemies and scoring system.
Galaxies has wisely incorporated both cooperative and competitive multiplayer modes, which are highly sought after by players. In cooperative mode, you and a friend can navigate together while battling hordes of enemies. In competitive mode, each player has their own set of lives and bombs, and the objective is to eliminate more geometric shapes than your opponent to earn a higher score. While playing cooperatively, you will share bombs, lives, and your score. However, if you are an experienced player, playing with a novice can be frustrating as they may use up all your resources within the first few minutes of gameplay.

Geometry Wars can be overwhelming with its fast-paced gameplay, and having two ships firing on the screen can be a challenge for some players. While each ship has a unique shape and color, it may not be enough to differentiate them from one another amidst the chaos on-screen. Taking your eyes off the screen or your ship for even a moment can lead to frustration and the loss of a life. Although the cooperative modes are enjoyable, it’s disappointing that they can only be played locally. While the game does support leaderboards through the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection, there are no online multiplayer options available.
Geometry Wars: Galaxies is an exceptional game that offers an impressive range of single-player and multiplayer options, making it the ultimate version of the game. Nevertheless, there is one drawback that prevents it from achieving perfection – it is exclusively available on the Wii. While I understand that this statement may be controversial, let me elaborate on my reasoning.
Geometry Wars is a twin-stick shooter game that has been successfully adapted to the Wii’s controls by Kuju. However, there are some challenges with the firing mechanism. While moving the ship with the nunchuck’s analog stick feels familiar and natural, firing with the Wii remote can be inaccurate, especially when dealing with fast-moving enemies approaching from all sides. Even a slight movement of the wrist can result in the ship firing in the wrong direction. Although there is an on-screen reticule to help with aiming, it can be overwhelming to keep track of in a game that already requires a lot of attention. With practice, firing becomes smoother, but achieving the necessary accuracy in challenging situations remains a significant challenge.
Fortunately, the game also accommodates the Wii’s Classic Controller, complete with dual analog sticks, allowing players to experience the game as it was intended, much like Robotron. However, even with the Classic Controller, there are some issues. Firstly, if you don’t already own one, you’ll need to shell out an additional $19.99 to play the game “properly.” Moreover, the analog sticks on the Classic Controller don’t translate well to twin-stick shooters. Moving and firing in all directions requires quick and fluid movements, but the eight directional notches surrounding the analog stick make this challenging. When rolling the analog stick in a circle, players will frequently encounter these notches, leading to accuracy and speed issues. While it’s possible to play the game with the Classic Controller, it’s not nearly as comfortable as using an Xbox 360 controller. Nonetheless, it’s still a better option than using the Wii remote.

Despite some minor control challenges (and my personal desire to play it on Xbox 360), Geometry Wars: Galaxies is a remarkable upgrade to an already impressive arcade game. While the $39.99 price tag may deter some, especially when compared to the $5 Retro Evolved version on Xbox Live Arcade, the truth is that Galaxies is just as captivating as ever and definitely worth the extra investment for fans of arcade-style shooters who enjoy spending hours trying to beat high scores.