Games for Lunch: Geometry Wars: Galaxies
0:00 The original Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved was the reason I bought an Xbox 360. Well, not the sole reason, but it probably put me over the top. Anyway, here's hoping the experience transfers well to the small screens.
0:01 Some nice techno music plays over a title screen with a picture of a spiral galaxy (appropriately enough). Retro Evolved is an option, so I try that out in order to get a feel for the controls with a game type I know.
0:02 Immediately, I notice things are slower-paced than the Xbox 360 version. I mean a lot slower. Not just the frame rate, but the enemies that used to quickly attack are now lackadaisically lurching towards me. Not a good sign.
0:05 150K points before my first death. Not only are the enemies slower, but they seem less prevalent than the original. Hypothesis: The DS is not powerful enough to handle too many enemies at once.
0:06 I shouldn't be so negative -- I do like the touch-screen aiming controls. The on-screen display makes it really intuitive to change where you're shooting, and the d-pad movement is exact enough. Pretty intuitive.
0:07 The only enemies that even come close to touching me are the red kamikaze ships that deflect my shots. Y'know why? Because they're actually fast, unlike all the other enemies!
0:10 Those red things are annoying. Not just because they're fast, but because I can't see them coming on the small screen of the DS. I lose my last life ... time to move on to the part of the game that was actually designed for this system.
0:11 I get to choose my "drone behavior" from a grand total of one options. All the rest are locked.
0:12 Already this is pretty weird. There are enemies outside that playfield that I can see but not shoot. Killed enemies drop little yellow power-ups (which I initially think are enemies), and I'm already up to an 18x multiplier -- much higher than the original game's 10x limit. What's the point of a multiplier if it gets so high so quickly? I do like the remixed music, though.
0:14 Multiplier watch: 104x.
0:15 I can't tell what this drone is doing, if anything. Am I supposed to activate it or something? Multiplier: 150x -- this seems to be the limit, but I'm still picking up power-ups, even though I don't know what they do. I really don't like having to collect these things. In the original, I could shoot anything that moves. Now I have to shoot some things that move and collect others. Throws off my rhythm.
0:16 My first death. I've already gotten enough points to earn a gold medal on the level so ... I guess I can quit? Or do I have to keep facing this slow-moving barrage until I lose all my lives?
0:18 Despite the game throwing enemies at me nonstop, I really don't feel that threatened. The enemies are slow and easy to take out. Hopefully this will pick up as the game goes on.
0:20 I do find myself missing the Xbox 360's analog movement control. It's hard to make fine maneuvers round the black-hole enemies.
0:22 I lose my last life with two smart bombs left -- always frustrating. Those little yellow things were apparently called "geoms," which can be used to unlock more drones, levels, etc. I got 18,000 from the enemies but 90,000 more for getting a gold medal.
0:30 It takes me eight minutes to register my first death on level 2. I know it's still a "novice" level, but I just haven't replicated the edge-of-my-seat thrill from the original yet.
0:31 Of course, right after I write that, I die three times in quick succession. Maybe my mind was wandering, or maybe I was just lucky before. Either way I still get another gold medal and a lot more geoms. My drone levels up. Maybe now it will be less useless?
0:34 Y'know what I really wouldn't mind? A "zoom out" option too see more of the level at once. Seeing only about an eighth of these big levels makes it hard to plan out routes in advance.
0:37 I'm noticing the already-sluggish gameplay slowing down a little more when there are a lot of enemies on screen. For a game like this, in this day and age, this is simply unacceptable.
0:40 The slowdown is getting ever-present and very annoying.
0:44 Ten minutes and 20,000,000 points later, I'm considering quitting this level out of boredom. The slowdown removes whatever hint of challenge there once was.
0:50 After 25 minutes, 25 million points and I finally lose my last life on level 3. Hooray for slowdown!
0:53 I buy the most expensive level I can afford. This one is actually interesting... I only have one life, and face only blue diamond enemies on an odd layout full of corners. It actually shows some promise.
0:58 I purchase another interesting level with some moving, invincible obstacles. This is even more promising. Maybe I was too quick to judge based on the first few novice levels.
Would I play this game for more than an hour? Possibly.
Why? It's not as thrilling as the original, and it has some technical problems, but there's something interesting starting to show up in the level design.
This column was based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
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