To be honest, I don’t feel good about recommending this. If you already play Geometry Wars then you’ve probably already got this sequel, in which case it’s already too late for you and your loved ones. If you haven’t and you buy it on my say so, then I’m a bit like the guy who buys a tea-total mate just one beer, then sees him on a park bench clutching a can of Special Brew six months later. If you don’t have Geometry Wars in your life, then you’re probably better off without it. I know – you think you can handle it. Well, trust me. You can’t.
To my mind, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved is probably the best and most addictive shoot-em-up of the last five years, if not the decade. Retro Evolved 2 is the better, more addictive version. Making it so can’t have been easy. Bizarre pretty much perfected the core gameplay and the aesthetic with the Xbox 360 debut, and Retro Evolved 2 hasn’t messed with it. You’re still a lone ship adrift on a grid, manoeuvring with the left analogue stick and blasting with the right analogue stick against a constant, implacable tide of hostile neon shapes. Dead shapes leave little multiplier tokens behind, and the more of these you collect, the more points you get for each shape killed.
As for the aesthetic, well Jeff Minter created this over-bright, neon-blurred polgyonal style of visual with Tempest 2000, but Bizarre has again taken it to a whole new level, creating an overwhelming flood of light and colour that – as the game heats up – challenges your eyes and brain to take it in. The mesh with the electronic soundtrack and the old-school arcade sound effects is seamless. For all its frantic intensity, there’s something beautiful and strangely balletic about Retro Evolved 2. Get in the zone, and you’re practically dancing through the kamikaze hordes, spraying bullets in graceful arcs as you twist and pirouette through the explosions.
Few of GW’s imitators have managed to copy another of Bizarre’s achievements: to create abstract enemy characters that somehow have their own personality. I thought I hated the blue rhombus, clumps of which constantly work their way towards you, but that hate was nothing compared to the enmity with which I’ve come to regard the green gits who try to sneak up on you unless you can drive them away with your gunfire. And as for the blue and orange snakes. Grrr – they’re the polygonal spawn of Satan. Retro Evolved 2 adds a handful of newbies to the mix, and while most are a variation on existing themes, I’m sure that with time I’ll come to loathe them every bit as much.
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