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Space Madness!

December 19th, 2007

My latest acquisition for the Wii is Geometry Wars: Galaxies, a souped-up version of the popular minigame originally included as an Easter egg in an XBox racing title.

I’m coming late to the Geometry Wars, but I can imagine that the design team’s brief was “make the greatest ’80s game that never really existed.” It certainly has the look, aping the simple vector graphics of classics such as “Tempest.” There’s even a high scores screen with simple block letters for your initials. It’s just missing the quarter slot and the lingering funk of overexcited video game jockeys.

I can best describe the experience as playing “Robotron” in a fireworks factory. Odd geometric shapes come at you from all sides of a grid-like enclosure floating in space, multiplying in a constant frenzy until you succumb to their tender embrace. Your laser fire explodes in colorful showers against the walls, and even seems to warp space itself as the grid lines twist beneath it.

It’s pretty intense, but as a child of the “Pong” era, I appreciate the return to the good old days when playing a videogame didn’t involve 70 hours of questing. You play until you die, and you always die.

While the original game had a single grid, Galaxies offers some 60 different playfields, each with their own quirks and challenges. It also gives you a helpful “drone” that can be programmed to behave in various defensive manners. (I have a tendency to be freaked out by my own drone, as it’s yet another geometric shape, and I occasionally mistake it for an enemy in the midst of the insanity.) Adding another bit of complexity to the otherwise simple gameplay is the need to collect the glowing bits that destroyed enemies leave behind, as they build up your score multiplier as well as serving as the game’s currency for unlocking new levels.

It’s all highly addictive, and if it really had been an ’80s arcade game, there would’ve been a line of quarters all the way across the bottom of the screen. (That’s how we saved our place in line back in the day, you whippersnappers.)

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