GWRE2 picks up the torch that the original failed to grasp tightly enough, providing absolute instant satisfaction. There’s no foreplay here, as right from the off you’re rewarded for risk taking perfectionism. Using the mechanic employed in ‘GW: Galaxies’, score multipliers are no longer earned by killing set amounts of enemies, now being boosted incrementally by collecting ‘geoms’ – tiny green fragments dropped by downed enemies. This change mixes up the way you play the game entirely, as GWRE2 regularly rewarding you for flying back into the eye of the storm rather than fleeing from the waves of evil shapes as any sensible chap would. It also changes the pace of the game entirely; many of the game-modes in the game don’t rely so much on long-term survival as they do on effective geom hoarding, often the multiplier rewards you gain from risks taken within the first minute of gameplay will be the foundation of the high scores you’ll soon be racking up. It’s hard to really see the significance of this until you try and go back to playing the original game, only to find that the first 3 minutes of each round are pure filler; super easy sections with little to no scope for improvement.
Retro Evolved 2 doesn’t tease: You’re straight into the action, and within 3 minutes you’ll either be dead or about to set a rather delicious score. Because of this, there’s very little about the game that frustrates; you never have to do ‘that bit’ again to get back to the same state, as 99% of traditional gaming trawl has been entirely thrown out of the window – what you’re left with is a selection of variations on the classic Geometry Wars formula that throw themselves lovingly into the arms of instant gratification. Start-die-start-die-start-die-start-die-start-die-success! Start. Death can never feel like anything more than a slight disappointment when playing GWRE2, as you’re never more than a split second away from retry-redemption. Oh, and retry you most certainly will, as the game rather wonderfully insists on integrating the leaderboard from your friends’ list into the game itself as a constant reminder of the fact that you’ve got work to be doing.
The new game modes are all great, and some of them are fantastic. Particular personal favourites include King and Pacifism. Pacifism is clearly the largest step away from the classic formula, taking away your ability to shoot entirely. Essentially in this game mode you’re constantly escaping from massive numbers of blue diamonds by flying though explosive gates, blowing chunks in the swarms in order to make a path through the mayhem to the next gate. King however relies on your ability to plan ahead, only letting you shoot whilst in the safety of a ‘bubble’ – small circular areas of sanctuary which quickly shrink away leaving you exposed once more. Both of these modes seem particularly boosted by the inclusion of geoms into the game, as you’ll often find yourself flying around on crazy gathering missions, sweeping up a massive multiplier as you daringly dodge overwhelming numbers of enemies, unable to defend yourself. The only complaint I have about the new modes is the inclusion of ‘waves’, which always strikes me as being a rather unfair addition to the roster. In theory breaking through wave after wave of horizontal and vertical ships sounds like a blast, but in practice your view of the playing field often feels a little too tight, with incoming waves not being spotted until far too late. It’s not a major criticism as the other modes included are mostly brilliant, but increasingly I found that when dying on this mode didn’t feel like it was my fault.
Along with these new twists, you’ll also be pleased to hear that the classic Retro Evolved formula is part of the mix, but this time around you’ll not lose your multiplier when you die, effectively making each life feel a little more important than they did in the original (in which 90% of the achievements could only be gained using your first life, basically). Oh, and to boot the game includes local multiplayer in both versus and co-op variety, both of which are considerably more fun than you might expect. It’s a shame to see no online multiplayer integrated, but overall GWRE2 is a fantastic little package that’s absolutely worthy of 800 of your precious Microsoft points.
It’s in no way as groundbreaking as recent additions such as Braid, but GWRE2 remains a shining example of what the Arcade in Xbox Live Arcade should signify; a cheap but meaty experience that provides quick pick up and play thrills time and time again. And as with many great games that promise to provide short and sweet bursts of gaming, 3 minutes can easily turn into 3 hours.
At the end of the day there’s little I can tell you that you won’t happily be able to discern for yourself having played the demo, but I’m happily able to dispel that big nagging thought at the back of your mind: Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 is a hell of a lot more fun than the original. Regardless of how similar it might look, GWRE2 is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor, and is without a doubt worth a substantial dollop of your time and money.