It would be fair to assume that even Bizarre Creations themselves didn’t think ‘Geometry Wars’ would become the significant piece of software that it is today, given its humble, unassuming beginnings tucked away inside ‘Project Gotham Racing 2’. Both flag-bearer for console-based downloadable games (arguably the defining innovation for this hardware generation) and a delirious, compulsive throwback to purer-than-pure 80s arcade mechanics, the first standalone Xbox 360 title is still amongst the platform’s greatest games. ‘Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2’ is the first true sequel since the 2005 original (the superb Nintendo versions excepted).
Whereas lesser developers would be tempted to distort the basic formula with a ‘bigger! better!’ approach, Bizarre Creations have taken the opposite route. Though the previous iterations of the game – ‘Waves’ and ‘Evolved’ - are present and correct, it’s the new modes that underline a certain genius. They simultaneously deconstruct the rules of the game whilst retaining the essence of what makes ‘Geometry Wars’ so addictive, tasking the player with challenges that focus on one of the game’s core aspects. So during ‘Pacifism’ enemy ships can only be killed by flying through special gates, while ‘King’ only allows the player to shoot within special circled zones which start to disappear as soon as they are entered.
On a more subtle level the friends lists are now better integrated. Each mode has its own real-time leaderboard, and so the sense of competition is now more pronounced than ever; the habit of checking the game daily to see if anyone has beaten your score not only hints at a certain level of obsession, but just underlines the extent to which the game can get under your skin.
Perhaps the innocence of old is in danger of being lost under constant repetition (certainly at time of writing developer Craig Howard has confirmed that the company has ideas for at least ten more ‘Geometry Wars’ games), but when the results are this well balanced and considered you’d be hard pressed to find many gamers complaining. ‘Retro Evolved 2’ is an expanded, more complete experience; expect to see these geometric shapes in your dreams.