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Critical Reception: Sierra's/Kuju's Geometry Wars: Galaxies

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Geometry Wars: Galaxies, a popular minigame and Xbox Live Arcade title turned full Wii retail release, which critics describe as "so unbelievably fun that you can’t put it down."
This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to Geometry Wars: Galaxies, a popular minigame and Xbox Live Arcade title turned full Wii retail release, which critics describe as "so unbelievably fun that you can’t put it down." Born as a minigame included with the 2003 Xbox release of Project Gotham Racing 2, Geometry Wars later found widespread popularity with the launch of the Xbox 360 and the release of its sequel, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved. Retro Evolved quickly established itself as a favorite among fans of classic arcade games, as its easy-to-grasp shoot'em up gameplay and dual-joystick control scheme drew comparisons to retro hits like Robotron 2084 and Smash TV. Geometry Wars: Galaxies for the Nintendo Wii represents the first boxed retail release for Geometry Wars, and many critics wondered if the series' arcade-style gameplay formula could be effectively stretched to the length of a full-priced game. Galaxies' Metacritic score of 82 out of 100 indicates that many feel that the transition was successful. Bart Robson at Thunderbolt Games awards Geometry Wars: Galaxies a score of 8 out of 10. "When I received Geometry Wars: Galaxies [...] I was worried. 40$ USD for a port?" he questions. "To my surprise, some three odd hours later, that price seemed fair. More than fair, actually." Robson describes Galaxies' new campaign mode as effective in providing a lengthy and satisfying single-player experience. "The simple gameplay is still there, but the addition of this absolutely massive amount of different levels is outstanding," he says. "There's even a small RPG element: points earned in levels are converted into EXP, leveling up a small, AI controlled ship called the Drone. The Drone can provide different kinds of help, offensive or defensive, depending on how you level it up." Galaxies also represents significant value for its price, according to Robson. "The original Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved mode is included in this Wii package as well," he writes. "Co-op and Vs. modes are present, too, making this an extremely robust Wii title." "Geometry Wars Galaxies is another strong title for the Nintendo Wii this season," Robson concludes. "The floodgates have finally been opened and we are starting to see what the console is good for." IGN's Mark Bozon also rates Galaxies at 8 out of 10, though he notes that some may be dissatisfied by the amount of content for its price. "There's been a worrying trend gamers have had to face since the start of Wii Sports fever," he begins. "Wii Sports was extremely simple, but it was also a free packing. [...] In the world of Wii, price vs. product is a key issue, as there needs to be a certain level of accountability when delivering simple gaming experiences at a full price." "Now [Geometry Wars] heads to both DS and Wii," Bozon continues, "at the price of $29.99 for the pocket version, and $39.99 for console. The justification? A full-fledged package based on the cult classic download. Whether it is enough to warrant a purchase, however, is going to end up being a case-by-case basis." Bozon explains that a gamer's enjoyment of Galaxies depends on how much more he or she wanted from previous titles like Retro Evolved, since the gameplay between both games is practically identical. "Since the game is entirely based on retro gaming," he says, "it's going to come down to how much you love the core gameplay." Also worth noting is that Galaxies, according to Bozon, is best played with a Classic Controller, as the default control setup may prove to be less than optimal. "IR control does work, with a small (customizable) indicator showing exactly where on the playfield your cursor is," he writes. "If you lack a Classic Controller you'll still be able to play - some may even prefer it - but when things get crazy it'll be a bit difficult to track the action." "Geometry Wars Galaxies is about as hardcore of a game as you can get," Bozon says. "It’s a shame that it hits the Wii at $40, rather than arriving on Wii Ware for a fraction of the cost. If the game were $20 it’d be one of the best values on the system (and in turn, scored much higher)." Andrew Reiner at Game Informer scores Galaxies slightly higher at 9 out of 10, noting that it sports several subtle improvements over its predecessors. "Unlike previous iterations in this series, this entry isn’t limited to just one level," he says. "Rather than just relying on one skill, some of the stages force you to think and act differently. You’ll come across enemies that explode into a handful of smaller ships, hazards like moving barriers and rotating grids, as well as mine fields that can detonate huge swarms of enemies." "All of these stages fit perfectly into the series’ established canon," Reiner continues, "and add countless hours of amazing gameplay to the experience." Unlike others, Reiner finds that Galaxies' default control scheme works well, after some practice. "I didn’t think the game would control well with the remote and nunchuk," he admits, "but after many hours of practice (it’s like learning how to ride a bike), I managed to hold my own, and get some gold medals with it." On the other hand: "It did break my style of play, however. Like many of you, I like to kick back and lounge while I play. With the remote, you don’t get this luxury." In all, though, Reiner feels that Geometry Wars: Galaxies would make an excellent purchase for fans of arcade-style action games. "Multiplayer modes (both competitive and cooperative) abound and are a blast, and Kuju even threw in Retro Evolved (the Xbox Live Arcade game) for good measure," he praises. "Like Tetris, Galaxies’ gameplay is so unbelievably fun that you can’t put it down." Critics feel that Geometry Wars: Galaxies' fast, frantic gameplay makes a purchase worthwhile, despite the high cost of entry in comparison to previous entries in the series. Reports indicate that Geometry Wars' acclaimed core gameplay remains intact in Galaxies, and fans of the series will not likely be disappointed in this update.

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