Review: Geometry Wars Galaxies (DS)

A near-perfect translation of the console classic

Bizarre Creation's Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved is something of a modern classic. The wireframe graphics and gameplay consisting of firing at enemies in every direction on a closed 2D playfield are like a marriage of arcade classics Tempest and Robotron, making for some addictive gameplay. Sierra Entertainment (now part of Activision-Blizzard and no longer operating as an internal division) negotiated the rights and got Kuju Entertainment to handle the development side of things to publish Geometry Wars Galaxies for Wii and DS as an enhanced version of what was originally a downloadable game on the XBox 360.

The DS version of Galaxies is very close to the Wii version, and will be immediately familiar to anyone who has played it's big brother. Game levels are grouped into systems with a Greek letter designation from Alpha to Kappa and the original Retro Evolved is available as an extra which can be transferred to a friend's DS via the Download Play utility.

If you've not played Geometry Wars Galaxies, it's a fairly simple arcade game with great visuals and a nice electronic soundtrack loop. Players move a claw-shaped "ship" around a closed grid and must shoot various enemies composed of geometric shapes which spawn from all directions. There are bonus items called "geoms" to collect which increase your score multiplier and also act as a currency between plays, unlocking new systems for play and buying new drone types -- a sort of option or helper that peforms various actions depending on which type is equipped before starting play.

The retro-flavoured visuals look terrific on the DS -- despite lacking some of the special particle effects of the Wii version. The audio is quite good and again sounds very much like the Wii version of the game. The major difference between the two versions is the controls owing to the DS's unique interface. The default scheme uses the stylus for firing with the d-pad controlling movement. The action will display in the top screen by default, though you can choose to display it on the bottom touch screen if you desire. A graphic of your ship appears in the bottom screen which you trace around with the stylus to change the direction of your fire whilst moving the ship with the d-pad.

It's quite natural and intuitive, though long play sessions can lead to hand-cramping from holding your DS in one hand and using the d-pad; even moreso if you're using the larger DSi LL/XL. If this proves too awkward for you there's an option to use the stylus/d-pad for movement assigning the face buttons shooting duty, though this does limit the arc of fire somewhat. Whichever control option you choose the shoulder buttons will trigger the smart bomb for clearing the screen a limited number of times. Lefties can take heart that there's an option to swap movement/firing duties between d-pad and buttons as well.

Multi-player options include those of the Wii, namely simultaneous sharing a common pool of lives, bombs and score or simultaneous but with separate assets and competing scores. There's a 3rd DS-only play mode where one player controls the sending of enemies against the other and happily only one cart is required to enjoy any of these play modes with a friend. Whilst the manual does make reference to Wi-Fi connectivity for internet play, in fact the only thing Wi-Fi is used for is uploading your scores to a global ranking board, just like the Wii version.

Since this is a game developed for the DS, DSi owners need to be aware that it has the associated limitations: Wi-Fi settings need to be entered in an in-game setup menu and there's no support for any encryption beyond WEP, so you'll need to be willing to effectively do without any wireless security in order to use this feature. Our attempts to connect using open Wi-Fi access points failed, though whether this is because the online ranking boards are no longer available is unclear. Needless to say having three possible profiles and local leaderboards should provide ample incentive for replays, even without global bragging rights.

Conclusion

Geometry Wars Galaxies is a great adaptation of an excellent console game made even better by including Bizarre Creations original hit as an extra. The DS controls nicely mirror the Wii's Nunchuk+ Remote controls, providing a responsive 360-degree firing arc in a frantic shooting match against increasing numbers of enemies. Owners of the Wii version will find the ability to unlock a tenth system of levels for play on Wii and DS (Lambda) should provide additional purchasing incentive – as if having a portable version of one of the best arcade-style games availble to play on the go wasn't already enough!

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