Geometry Wars tells an interesting tale of two consoles. On the Xbox 360, the game built a cult following and foreshadowed the skyrocketing of Microsoft’s popular Xbox Live Arcade service. On the Nintendo Wii, however, Geometry Wars illustrates what can happen when a company tries too hard to milk a franchise, as well as how a developers’ attempts to pander to a console’s strengths can both break a formerly simple gameplay model and make a publisher appear to be milking a franchise just a bit too long.
Geometry Wars Galaxies is essentially two games in one. The “first” game is a Wii-specific version of Geometry Wars Evolved, which somehow looks almost identical to the high-definition Xbox 360 version. The “second” game is a more level-based affair in which gamers blast their way through multiple galaxies (which are further divided into worlds) and accumulate points. These points come in two forms: literal points that let players buy access to new worlds, and experience points that upgrade your ship’s satellite-like drone.
The drone in Geometry Wars Galaxies is a throwback to a bygone era populated by games such as Graduis and R-Type, as it continually circles your ship doing one of eight tasks that you can purchase between levels, one of which you choose to activate before each stage. These tasks range from firing at foes to acting as a decoy to gathering the little “geoms” that enemies leave behind once they’re blasted. Because each task has different value to your gameplay strategy, each one is logically assigned a different worth. Once purchased, you’re welcome to use that task in any subsequent level, and the more you use it, the more the drone’s proficiency at that task will increase (similar to the leveling-up mechanic in Fable or Oblivion).
Geoms serve a dual purpose, however, because each geom collected adds to a continually growing point multiplier (up to 150x) in each level. The more geoms you gather, the more points you score, and everyone likes points. With these dual functions in mind, of course, you’ll want to collect as many geoms as possible. And that’s really where Geometry Wars Galaxies starts to fall apart.
Because geoms disappear after just a few seconds, it’s important to either kill an enemy when it’s nearby or dart around quickly to gather the geomes before they disappear. Considering the number of enemies on screen at any one time, killing foes when they’re close by is the better option, but the horrible aiming system renders this tactic basically suicide. Geometry Wars Galaxies uses the thumbstick on the Nunchuk to maneuver your ship, while the motion-sensitive Wii remote is used for aiming. Move the Wiimote to the top right or bottom left, and your aiming cursor will follow accordingly. Or not.
In all honesty, never have we played a Wii game with such inaccurate signal pickup, let alone such delayed response times from the infrared control. Aim down, and the cursor goes left. Aim to the “southeast,” and it just moves “east.” Aim up, and, well, sometimes the cursor doesn’t even move. And to make matters worse, the targeting reticule and “laser sight” get completely lost amid all the other special effects and explosions, making both features pointless in the later stages.
The solution to this is to purchase and use a Classic Controller, which lets players use two analog sticks as was intended with the original Geometry Wars. But after dropping $40 on a game that includes only a few new multiplayer features compared to its $5 Xbox 360 counterpart, is there anyone out there who really wants to pony up an additional $10 for a different controller? And, not to get righteous, but isn’t it a bit arrogant to presume consumers will just go ahead and buy that new controller because the developers’ control scheme is so non-responsive and inaccurate to begin with?
It may not have been arrogance, per se, because the developers did include both cooperative and competitive same-screen multiplayer options. Those inclusions surely took a bit of time to implement, as did online leaderboards and rankings via Nintendo WiFi Connection. But again, if there’s too much action on screen to effectively follow one player’s targeting reticule and laser sight, how are gamers expected to follow two players’ reticules and sights, much less keep track of all the destruction that two people can cause?
All this culminates in that second aspect illustrated by Geometry Wars Galaxies: somewhere in the halls of Sierra, an executive decided to milk the franchise. But rather than stop at fleecing consumers for more money than even the original game cost, they also decided to add elements that drain the fun from the very experience that made Geometry Wars popular in the first place. Just because a game can use motion controls doesn’t mean it should. Just because a publisher can create another chapter doesn’t mean it should. And just because a package can have box art like a once-great franchise doesn’t mean it’s the real deal. Geometry Wars and Geometry Wars Evolved built a cult following for a reason: they were fun. Geometry Wars Galaxies is not.
- Score: 6
- Wii owners may want to play the once only-on-Xbox-360 franchise, but a combination of horrible controls and hard-to-follow multiplayer options manages to kill any fun that might otherwise be had.
— Jonas Allen