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Topics - Schadenfreude

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Nintendo Gaming / Bubble Bobble Plus (Wiiware)
« on: February 02, 2009, 02:32:12 PM »
I didn't see this posted anywhere, but it's coming to the west.

Reader Reviews / Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2
« on: August 03, 2008, 11:09:20 PM »
        Even if arcades have lost their prominence in the gaming industry, the type of games that helped make them so popular are not fading out. They are finding new homes on handhelds (Space Invaders Extreme) and frequently as downloadable games on consoles. Companies are not only porting their arcade titles, but creating new iterations as well. Two excellent examples are the highly acclaimed Pac-Man Championship Edition and the upcoming Galaga Legions, both for the Xbox Live Marketplace. While Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved was not a sequel to an iconic arcade classic, it shared many elements that made those games so addictive decades ago (and now): simplicity, quick rewarding game sessions and the desire to improve one's high score. While the first two are important, it's the later that really drives individuals to continuing playing; not just to improve their high score either, but to surpass the high scores of others. Game developers decades ago realized for their games that were limited by technology to have more replay value, they needed to have an incentive for players to revisit it; scoring the player based on performance was that incentive. As someone who's too young to have experienced the heyday of arcades, the competitive nature of high scores has been a fun new challenge in the now heavily emphasized online console era.

   The game play in Retro Evolved was fairly simple: the left analog stick moved the ship, the right stick directed the path of the bullets (or lasers) and the triggers deployed bombs that destroyed everything on screen. The objective was to continue shooting enemies without getting hit. What makes Geometry Wars stand out amongst the other dual stick shooters is the pure chaos that goes on screen. There is very little time to think and plan as enemies continue to flood the screen, many of them charging right at the ship. I've experienced many many moments where it appeared to be hopeless to survive only to miraculously pull through, sometimes with a new high score.

   The core gameplay hasn't changed since Retro Evolved, but there have been altercations that have impacted the gameplay. Geometry Wars: Galaxies for Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS brought in a new feature that continues in this game: geoms. Geoms are small yellow objects that appear after destroying an enemy. In Galaxies, the player collected the geoms to increase their multiplier, unlike Retro Evolved where the multiplier would increase slowly as the killing streak continued. The geoms were also used to unlock new worlds and maps to play on, as well as to increase the power of the drone ships, each having its own function. Geoms are used exclusively to increase the multiplier in Retro Evolved 2 and unlike Galaxies, there is no cap to how large the multiplier can be. Another change is the ship's weapon no longer upgrades as the score increases (except in multiplayer) which could be seen as compensation for the lack of a multiplier cap. These modifications have made Retro Evolved 2 more difficult then it's predecessor and Galaxies, but amends it by inflating the score.

   The only mode initially available is Deadline, which is essentially a time attack Retro Evolved where there is no game over from lives lost. The other modes are unlocked by playing the last mode mode unlocked until the combined scores of every session reaches a certain number; a progress percentage bar is shown on the next mode to unlock. I have mixed feelings about this decision. My hypothesis is because Deadline does not penalize the player, the mode is more approachable for new players while still giving hardcore Geometry Wars players something to accomplish. If that is the case, I can't understand why they chose King to be the next available mode. In King, the ship can only shoot inside blue circles that shrink a few seconds after entering and enemies are able to accelerate the process by pushing against the edges. It's one of the hardest modes in the game, closely tied with Waves. The mode afterwards, Evolved, is just Retro Evolved with the gameplay changes mentioned earlier, plus new enemies. Evolved may have been a better choice for the next attainable mode, but my guess is they wanted to show the more unfamiliar King first. While it's clear this was implemented to force players to try all (except Sequence) the modes, I would have preferred having them entirely unlocked from the start. Nevertheless, it takes very little time to unlock everything.

   The other modes in the game include Pacifism, which when I first heard about I was worried it would be more or less like the achievement in Retro Evolved; I was glad to see it wasn't that simple. In Pacifism shooting is disabled and in order to destroy enemies, the ship has to pass through white gates. The tricky part of this mode is that the gates move around haphazardly and the two ends of it destroy the ship on impact. The creators showed mercy by having the only enemy be the white triangles that follow the ship. In the mode Waves, lines of enemy ships appear that stretch across half or the entire map and move either horizontally or vertically. While there are other enemies as well, the lines of ships are the big concern, as more and more are added on. I find Waves to be the most disorienting of the modes. While the idea of Waves was first introduced in Project Gotham Racing 4, since it is not a part of the main Geometry Wars franchise, I feel it is an acceptable overlap. The last mode, Sequence, is divided up into levels where the player has a limited amount of time to destroy all the enemies. The enemies at each level are always the same and if the player dies, they are moved onto the next one. Sequence reminds me of the arena levels in the Ratchet & Clank games, but much more intense.

   I consider Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2's biggest strength to be the variation of the modes. Each one keeps intact the core gameplay of Geometry Wars while varying the strategy needed in order to succeed. King and Pacifism do this by removing or limiting a mechanic of Geometry Wars: moving and shooting plus the absence of bombs and the reduction of lives. Deadline's time limit promotes speed over strategy; Waves forces the player's to dart their eyes across the screen as they try to avoiding being hit by the lines of enemies; and Sequence challenges them to figure out the most effective and efficient method of clearing a level, including when to use their bombs (unlike Retro Evolved where they were used to get out of a tight situation). Because geoms motivate the player not to restart, this even differentiates Evolved enough from Retro Evolved. It could have easily not been included in the game, but for this reason I'm glad they did. I can't say for certain which mode is my favorite, but I hold Waves and Sequence above the rest.

   The graphics are a noticeable improvement over Retro Evolved, which was already a pretty game. The enemies are brighter, more detailed and the particle effects are flashier then before. The only downside is that like with Retro Evolved, it can sometimes be difficult to locate the ship on screen among all the madness. From what I've played of Galaxies the problem had been lessened but it is only worse in Retro Evolved 2 because of how much color there is on screen. However, I found that after a few hours of play time my eyes had adjusted and I had relearned how to located my ship on screen. The music has also been upgraded, sounding much more like techno music then video game music. Although it was a minor edition, I also like how the music alters when the ship is destroyed.

   One thing that surprises me about the game are the achievements. Retro Evolved's achievements consisted for the greater part of getting a certain score or getting that score without dying. Retro Evolved 2's achievements add tests to an already challenging game. Most of the tests are not very difficult; I have twice as many points as I did in Retro Evolved. Don't believe the game is an easy 200 achievement points as there are still very troublesome ones such as Wax Off. To unlocked the Wax off achievement, in Pacifism the ship has to touch the entire edges of the map twice. They were kind enough again to indicate the progress on screen for the achievements. For a game thats draw is to improve high score, achievements based on score are not need, especially since the top right hand corner of the screen shows the next highest score above the player's on their friend list. Competing with friends is not needed in order to enjoy this game, but it is an option.

   When I first heard the game did not have online multiplayer I was disappointed. Seeing as I don't have friends over very often to play video games, it was an addition I was very much looking for. I've come to realize as I've played more and more online games that if the game doesn't play almost perfectly online, it's better to drop the feature altogether. Of course you can still have fun with a game that's online performance is mediocre, but with how helter-skelter Geometry Wars games are, nothing less then perfect would have satisfied me. I have not played local multiplayer so I am unable to comment on it, but from I've heard from others, it is quite enjoyable.

   Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 is another worthy sequel in franchise and is what Pac-Man Championship Edition was to Pac-Man. The game appeals to fans of Geometry Wars, arcade shooters and maybe even more with the additions. While Galaxies main focus was changing where you play, Retro Evolved 2 is about how you play. Both games are different interpretations of Geometry Wars and both appeased my appetite for more. There isn't much overlap between the two games and for this I am delighted. I have yet to even see an enemy introduced in Galaxies return in Retro Evolved 2. At first I missed not having the drone ship, but the feature may have been included to make the game easier for the Wii audience or to help with the control issues of the Wii remote. I see Retro Evolved 2 as the evolutionary step for the series and I would be quite pleased with a Galaxies 2 that included all the new modes plus multiple maps for each one.

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