I promise that’s the first and only pun you’ll see in this review - If you’ve played any of the popular Geometry Wars games on Xbox 360, Wii or DS you’ll be perfectly at home when you fire up XG Blast. From its instantly gratifying action and futuristic aesthetic, it borrows from any one of a dozen classic shooters, but does it have enough firepower to blow a hole in the crowded genre?
XG Blast’s greatest strength is its accessibility – all you need to succeed is your thumb and the touch screen. You move your ship using the D-pad (or four face buttons if you’re a lefty) and shoot in the direction indicated by your stylus. The L button fires up a shield and R activates your XG Blast move, a powerful homing laser that eats aliens for breakfast. It’s fluid and totally intuitive, and if you’ve ever played Asteroids you’ll be at home instantly. The only problem is the stylus obstructs the playing field when the action heats up, making it tough to see all the enemies flooding towards you in later levels. It’s not a huge problem, but enough of one to make the game extra difficult later on, which is either a good or a bad thing, depending on your view.
In fact, if anything, the game could do with being more difficult on the whole. Unlike the frantic “one hit and you’re dead” Geometry Wars, XG Blast gives you a limited energy bar that diminishes with each hit. Although this means you last long enough to finish each stage, it means you can often plough through a few enemies to get to safer ground, which feels more like an exploit than a valid tactic.
As you progress through the story mode you unlock new arenas, which only differ in terms of their shape and the enemies present in each; there are no interactive backgrounds or any shenanigans here. The level design varies from standard to quite fun, with some levels featuring bottlenecks through which enemies pour, and it’s very enjoyable to do your best to hold them off. The bosses are well-designed too, spewing bullets like nobody’s business making each one a real challenge to overcome.
By now you’ll probably be getting a feel for XG Blast – it does very little you won’t have seen before, but what it does it does well. There are multiple weapons (all upgradeable, of course), varying types of enemy behaviour from roaming to ramming and a survival mode on each of the game’s stages. There’s also a multiplayer mode I haven’t been able to test, but which takes the form of a square-off in the form of Space Wars or a combative Blasteroids.
If you’re after a decent shooter for DS that doesn’t cost a bomb, XG Blast is well worth a shot. It won’t blow you away, but if this review has you fired up then I’d definitely recommend biting the bullet and making XG Blast your next target.