Ladies and gentlemen, the battle of the century is about to get underway. Wielding triangles, parallelograms, and isosceles trapezoids, the theorems of Euclid and Pythagoras duke it out in Geometry Wars: Galaxies. While it would be more fun to watch the titans of geometric theory grapple in the flesh, shooting up their mathematical creations in this superb arcade-style shooter is entertaining enough.
At its most basic, Geometry Wars: Galaxies has you blasting shapes in space. The D-pad controls movement of a tiny geometric spaceship, whereas drawing the stylus on the touchscreen fires its pulse laser. Pressing L triggers a smart bomb that clears the screen of baddies, although your ship is equipped with a finite number for each stage.
The title perfectly captures the essence of arcade gaming, yet there's a subtle sophistication to its design that makes it more than just a plain Jane shooter. The simplicity of Geometry Wars: Galaxies will draw you in, sure, but its surprising depth keeps you playing. Highly intuitive controls and straightforward gameplay make it easy for anyone to pick up – if you can hold a stylus then you're able to play. Over 60 stages and special battle drones to unlock using geoms (the in-game currency) provide an incentive for extended play.
We ain't experts in mathematics, but we certainly no [sic] grammar – Geometry Wars: Galaxies should drop the plural since the entirety of the single-player game takes place within a single galaxy. Comprising the massive cluster of stars are smaller systems containing anywhere from three to nine planets, which are in fact the game's stages. Each stage awards bronze, silver, and gold medals upon reaching set score targets.
Earning medals does more for your pride than to serve a functional purpose, since opening up new stages requires spending geoms to unlock them. Geoms aren't automatically awarded following an enemy's demise; as such, you have to hurriedly collect them before they disappear from the screen. This compounds the difficulty of the game by forcing you to not just shoot at enemies, but also attempt to navigate through them to collect their remains. Fail to do so and you won't accumulate enough geoms to progress further in the campaign.
Stages aren't the only thing to spend cash money on, either. Geoms can be used on new behaviour protocols for your battle drone. Attack is its default action, which sees your mechanical sidekick shooting at all enemies. Other behaviours such as Defend, Collect, and Turret, respectively see your drone shooting the nearest enemies to you, actively picking up geoms from fallen foes and remaining stationary to provide a safe zone. The more you use a particular behavior, the more powerful it becomes. It's a small element that adds dimension to Geometry Wars: Galaxies, even if it doesn't dramatically impact play.
Repetition is the only thing that holds Geometry Wars: Galaxies back from perfection. While the increasing difficulty of the single-player campaign ensures a good challenge, the same geometric enemies are recycled amongst stages. Throwing more enemies into the mix makes the game harder, but it does nothing to vary the experience. Changes are made to the game space, such as scalloped walls or a decreased area, yet these minute variations don't substantially affect the play dynamic.
To be clear, though, the lack of variety doesn't make Geometry Wars: Galaxies a poor game. On the contrary, it's a great game that just becomes monotonous after more than about 15 minutes in a single sitting. Incidentally, its stage-based structure lends well to short session gaming. On one hand you've got a repetitive game, yet in another you have a game that tunes up this flaw for near-perfect portable play. No matter how you put it, your hands will be full.
Online multiplayer is oddly absent, although three modes of local play serves as solid consolation. Cooperative play through any of the single-player stages is offered, as well as Versus mode in which one player directs waves of enemies against the other. The third mode – Simultaneous Versus – enables both players to unleash barrages of enemies equal to the number which they've destroyed. Think of it as deflecting geometry homework back onto your teacher for every assignment you successfully complete yourself. If only.
Forgiving Geometry Wars: Galaxies for its shortcomings is easy because of how enjoyable it is. The lack of online play and general repetition in its design are distant concerns when you're in the middle of an intense shootout with dozens of shapes bearing down on your ship. Rest assured, Geometry Wars: Galaxies is the most fun you'll ever have with mathematics.