Geometry Wars (1)

Genre: Multi-directional Shooter
Year: 2005
Developed by: Bizarre Creations
Published by: Microsoft Game Studios
Platforms: Xbox, Xbox360, Windows
Feeling Like: Going to the arcade

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved’s title could not be more eponymous.  This is a title that would feel right at home in any video arcade, in any decade. It doesn’t deviate from a repeatedly proven formula and feels like a long lost cousin to Space Invaders, Defender and Asteroids. The game’s incredible success is due to two factors; it slapped on a shiny coat of HD paint and had the advantage of being on Xbox Live Arcade.

The distribution method was key. In a sea of online uncertainty, Microsoft could point to something like Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved as a prime example of how easy, cheap and simple a game could be and launch into the stratosphere with the proper tools. Leaderboards meant you weren’t just competing with your friends for high scores, you were up against the entire planet. Every day, you had a new set of targets to hit and rivals to surpass. The ease of jumping in certainly helped Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved become, at one point, the most downloaded title on Xbox Live.

For those too intimidated by global leaders, you could always go for achievements. For many, this was their first foray into the highly specific challenges that were rewarded with a satisfying blip and a certain number of points. These were tied to your Xbox Live Account, adding additional opportunities for bragging rights, or respect shown to those with the highest gamerscores.

Geometry Wars (2)
The colors are dizzying, but murderous

It’s just so damn easy to start another round. I love that. In less than a minute, I booted up my Xbox 360 console, loaded the game and began firing upon various diamonds and circles who threatened my very being. No loading screens, no endless logos of publishers, no FMV sequence. Not needed. This an arcade game, let’s get on it with it.

The twin-stick gameplay is incredibly intuitive and easily taught to those who may not be Xbox literate. One stick moves your ship, one stick fires in the direction you tilt it in. No limited ammunition, some score multipliers and the odd power up here and there. Just like back in day. Beautiful.

There are, aptly, two modes: Evolved and Retro. Evolved will dazzle you with over the top particle effects and animations. Snakes will slither gorgeously across the screen, your firepower will alter the very fabric of the space background and black holes turn into a spinning fireworks display of destruction with alarming frequency. Retro smartly scales down the sizzle and just gives you the steak. It really is a perfect introduction (or re-introduction) for all ages and its success, in hindsight, is completely unsurprising.

I enjoyed the sequel even more thanks to the extra game modes, but for a newcomer to the Xbox Live Arcade, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved is one of the easiest recommendations I can make. From the familiar rising challenge, to going for high scores, to the enemies that develop evasion tactics, to the encouraging power ups. It’s as tough as it is fair and fun.

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