At a glance, you’d assume Geometry Wars had been around for decades, originating in the arcades alongside classics such as Space Invaders and Pac-Man. It had that classic formula, looking and feeling like a retro staple of the gaming world.
However, its origin story is as far from this as you could imagine. Now defunct developer, Bizarre Creations, created Geometry Wars as a minigame in the second entry of their flagship racing series, Project Gotham Racing 2. The game was accessed through an arcade cabinet in your garage, and instantly struck that perfect retro shooter balance which quickly became a hit with players.
The timing for Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved was perfect. The game launched a couple of years later in 2005, pretty much in line with the Xbox 360 and its “Arcade” service, which focused on smaller games and those from indie developers. This, at the time, gave a new opportunity for smaller games to get the exposure of their larger cousins. It went on to quickly top the arcade’s download list, and this success saw sequels and spin-off games made across numerous platforms.
One that I personally ploughed hours and hours into was Geometry Wars: Galaxies for the Wii. This built on the Retro Evolved formula, going further by introducing a single player campaign, complete with online leaderboards. I spent many a night whilst at uni blasting neon spaceships until the small hours of the morning.
In Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved, as with any arcade game, the aim was simple. You controlled your ship with the left thumbstick, and fired in any direction you wished with the right thumbstick. You simply had to survive – against increasingly complex and numerous waves of alien shapes trying to take you down. It only takes one touch too, and that’s a life lost.
Like any arcade game worth its salt, racking up a high score was important for one main reason. You would earn extra lives and bombs as you played, the latter of which would briefly clear out the battlefield, offering a chance for a breather. Keeping momentum going to scoop maximum points was key, thanks to multipliers. Of course, if you lost a life you would have to start again, building your points from scratch.
Constantly staying on the move was the key to success, as before long you were facing all sorts of different enemies, from snake-like creatures that would block off your escape, to those who would create a gravity well to suck you into oblivion. Playing Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved was so enjoyable, I found myself dipping in regularly to beat my high scores and see just how far I could go. For me, that’s the main hallmark of a well-made arcade game.
I suppose the most noticeable difference between this game and the original was the intensity of the visuals. Yes, this time around the enemies were positively psychedelic, popping and dancing around the screen in all their neon glory. The battle grid would also warp and stretch in line with player and enemy behaviour, which added to the colourful carnage. Flicking the lights off for a session was well worth it, if not a bit of a strain for the eyes.
Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved absolutely nailed the arcade shooter, and was always worth more than its original place as a minigame, albeit in an excellent racing series. It’s addictive gameplay and eye popping visuals cemented it as a modern classic of the arcade genre. For the cost of a few quid, you can pick it up from the Xbox Store today, and should you ever tire of it you’ve then get Geometry Wars Evolved 2 and even Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions to then get involved with. What are you waiting for?