i picked up the wii version of geometry wars: galaxies kind of on a whim after reading a lot of good things about it being a pure, retro shooter. i hadn’t been familiar at all with the game, which began life as an extra in the xbox game project gotham racing 2 before getting more mainstream attention with updated releases on XBLA and PC. the game has received several sequels since then, although none of them seem to be as full an experience as the wii/DS versions, as far as i can tell (and both of those versions include the original XBLA retro evolved version as well). the basic core design has stayed pretty much true to its pure shooter roots throughout: guide your ship through a finite playing field (spanning a few screens at most) while shooting at the satisfyingly large variety of enemies that come your way. the original game takes a lot of its inspiration from other shooter classics, most notably defender, although the greatest design decision in this game is that the enemies don’t fire bullets. so instead of dodging hard-to-see bullets and getting cornered by waves of them, you’re focused on the enemies and their predictable behaviors, which leads to a very satisfying playing experience involving more strategizing; when you lose you feel it’s more your own fault than any cheapness from the AI.
in general i agree with the review at videogamecritic.net which praises the game for its core gameplay as well as its new features. there are several key differences in the wii/DS versions is terms of features compared to the other releases. the main addition is the campaign mode, which has you tackling planets with different characteristics, such as the kind and frequency of enemies that appear, the shape of the board, and the addition of various obstacles such as mines, corridors, and moving, impenetrable blocks. the second difference is the addition of an upgradable “drone” with various behaviors you can choose from, including the “defend” drone, which shoots behind you; “turret”, which takes a position and then shoots 360 degrees; and “collect” which collects “geoms”, the all-important point multipliers you get for defeating an enemy and can also earn you extra ships and bombs.
for the most part there’s a nice variety in both the planets and the drones, and for each planet there are bronze, silver, and gold medals (i.e. “achievements”) to earn for high scores. although it isn’t hard to get bronze medals on every board, gold medals are much more of a challenge and will require more strategizing, and there are times where you’ll find one drone works better for you on a particular board. fun as they are, though, in general most of the drones don’t feel particularly useful, even at their maximum upgrade, which makes that feature feel a bit superfluous. having to unlock the planets is palatable, but having to upgrade the drones seems a bit of a chore since getting a gold medal with a less-than-maximized drone doesn’t usually seem worth even attempting. also, getting the gold medal on every planet does get repetitive after a while, especially since oftentimes you’ll find you just end up relying on using the most basic drone, “attack”, which basically doubles your firepower. perhaps it would’ve been better to have specific tasks, such as “get a certain score on this planet using this drone at this level”. also, the pacing on a lot of the boards feels tedious, as too many times you have long periods of very slow action that ramp up to levels that are just too overwhelming too suddenly.
anyway, despite all the criticisms this is a highly enjoyable game and i’ll definitely be picking it up again to get more of the gold medals. be advised, though, that i, along with all the other reviews i’ve read, agree that using the wii remote to aim is unnatural and tiring; you’re much better off with the classic controller. at the time of its initial release bozon’s main complaint in his review of the wii version for IGN was that the game was overpriced at $40. it seems a bit unfair to say that since there were so many worthwhile additions, but in any case now that both the wii and DS versions are about $20 each there’s really no reason why fans of old-school shooters should hesitate in picking this one up.
– entry at wikipedia
– the wii version lets you beam a demo of the DS version to your DS. i tried it out, and the stylus control is much less awkward than aiming with the wii remote, although it could get tiring. although the galaxies are the same between both versions, if for some reason you don’t want to get the wii version the DS version should definitely be a viable alternative, and bozon at IGN gave it a similar score to the wii version. i’ll probably be getting the DS version at some point anyway b/c if you have both versions you can unlock some more stages.
– pics of the enemies from the instruction manual
– great drones strategy FAQ at gamefaqs
– FAQ with basic info on the scores for medals at gamefaqs
– 1up and IGN‘s reviews of the latest game in the series, geometry wars: retro evolved 2, for XBLA
– and just for fun, in case you’ve forgotten where it all began, here’s a video on youtube of the game asteroids on atari