Wow. If I had to sum up my opinion of Geometry Wars: Galaxies for Wii in one word, that would be it. Having never actually played Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved on the XBLA (though I did play the included version of Retro Evolved on Galaxies, for the purposes of this review), I had no idea at all what all the fuss over Geometry Wars was about. Honestly, I didn't think it was anything special. Oh boy, how wrong I was. What I thought was just an updated amalgam of classics like Robotron and Tempest turned out to be one of the most amazingly addictive, outright FUN games I've ever experienced. Those of you who have still not experienced Geometry Wars may be wondering what it is. Well, let's put it this way. Imagine that Robotron 2084 and Tempest had a child. Then imagine that child was adopted by Team Shanghai Alice (creators of the Touhou series of PC shmups). And then imagine that child married into the Cave family. That's Geometry Wars. Classic gameplay, accelerated to the point of sheer insanity.
Those of you who have played the XBLA version of Geometry Wars may be wondering just what is so special about the Wii version. You may also be wondering just what they could have added to the game to warrant it's $40 price tag, which is $35 more than the XBLA version. How about 60+ levels, new enemy types, a currency system, helper drones which you can assign different behaviors to, new music, the original Retro Evolved version of the game, two player co-op, Wii-to-DS connectivity, and multiple control options? Basically what Kuju Entertainment did was flesh out a $5 XBLA game into a full-fledged console shmup.
The gameplay in Galaxies is deceptively simple. You pilot your ship (which looks like the twin brother of the ship from Tempest) around grids of various shapes and sizes, and destroy anything and everything that is in your path. Just like Robotron, the name of the game is survival. The stages never end. Eventually you WILL lose. The whole point is to stay alive as long as you possibly can, racking up millions and millions of points while you're at it. Piloting your ship is handled with either the Nunchuk's analog stick or the Classic Controller's left analog stick, and firing is handled with either the Wii Remote's pointer function coupled with the A button or the right analog stick on the Classic Controller, whichever you decide to use. Personally, I prefer the Classic Controller's dual-analog setup, but some players may prefer the new pointer-based controls.
New to Galaxies are "Geoms", which are dropped by enemies. Geoms act as currency, which you can use to purchase new drone behaviors and new galaxies and planets to play on. They also serve to increase your score multiplier, which can go as high as 150x, leading to immensely high scores. Also, collecting enough Geoms will reward you with extra lives, extra smart bombs, and upgraded weapons. This adds a whole new element to the game, as you now have to balance avoiding enemies with getting as many Geoms as you can before they quickly disappear. Also new to Galaxies are Drones. Drones add yet another new element to Geometry Wars' gameplay. At the start of the game, the only Drone behavior you have is Attack. Basically the drone will follow you around, and shoot in roughly the same direction you're shooting. Once you get enough Geoms, however, you can buy new Drone behaviors. A few examples of this are Sweep, which will cause your Drone to spin around you in a wide circle, destroying everything it touches, and Collect, which will cause the Drone to collect Geoms for you. There are eight different Drone behaviors in all, each one more expensive than the last. These behaviors can also be leveled up by using them, which will increase their effectiveness. Choosing the right Drone for a stage could possibly be the difference between success and failure.
The game's new stages aren't just differently shaped and colored grids, either. Each type of stage introduces a new gameplay element. One type of stage features walls that are constantly moving. The thing about these walls is that while you cannot go through them, your enemies can. Another type of stage has a vortex in the center, which spins everything in the stage around as though it were a giant washing machine. The vortex will also randomly change the direction it's spinning in, as well. Yet another type of stage restricts you to only one life, and no bombs at all, and challenges you to go as far as you can on only one life. The variety in the stages is one of the best parts of Galaxies. And speaking of variety, don't think you'll just be able to memorize patterns and get through the stages with no problem. Enemy patterns change every time you play a stage. You'll never see the same pattern twice.
One thing that veterans of the XBLA version of the game will notice is that Galaxies doesn't really look as good as the 360 version. The colors are a little less vibrant, and everything seems just a little less polished. However, once you get into the gameplay, you won't notice this one bit. You'll be too caught up in trying to collect more Geoms to open the next planet, or set of planets, and trying to level up your Drones. Another added element to Galaxies is the medal system. You can earn Bronze, Silver, or Gold medals in each of the game's stages by reaching a certain score. This adds a whole new dimension to the game, as it gives you a real reason to come back to a specific stage again and again. Some of the score requirements are insane, too. One stage in particular has a requirement of 30,000,000 points just for a Bronze medal.
Sound also plays a prominent role in the game. The game's techno/trance soundtrack fits right in with the game's wire-frame, everything-glows-neon visual style. More important to the actual gameplay, though, is the sound effects. Everything has a different sound. Every type of enemy makes a different sound when they spawn. Every time you get an extra life, an extra smart bomb, reach the 150x score multiplier, or reach the requirements for a medal, you'll hear a different sound. Eventually you'll learn to recognize all of these sound effects and what they mean. You'll be able to know when that one particular enemy type you hate spawns, even before you see it. Personally, I love this element of the game. It makes the game that much more immersing, adding another element to the zen-like state you'll have to achieve to earn high scores in the game's harder levels. You'll have to not only use your eyes, but your ears as well to truly be successful.
Galaxies also features two player co-op play. While it's fun to plow through endless swarms of enemies with a friend, it's disappointing that you can't play through any of the game's stages in this mode. Instead, you're limited to ten or so stages in which you and a friend can team up. Galaxies also takes advantage of Nintendo's WFC service for online leaderboards. You can access leaderboards for each individual planet, each individual galaxy, and for your overall combined high score. Another feature the game takes advantage of is the Wii's ability to connect to the DS. From the Wii version, you can send any DS in the area the full version of Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved for the DS. Also, both the DS and Wii versions of the game have unlockable content that you can only access by connecting the two systems. While this is a good way to take advantage of the little-used connectivity between the Wii and the DS, it seems a little lame that you have to buy both versions to access all the game's planets.
So, in closing? Go. Buy this game. Right now. This is the one Wii game that I'd recommend to everyone, regardless of their taste in games. Anyone should be able to enjoy the pure visceral thrill of being surrounded by countless enemies, struggling to clear yourself a path through them just so you can stay alive long enough to get that Gold medal you've been striving to get for days, or to get those last few Geoms you need to unlock the next planet or galaxy. Simply put, Geometry Wars: Galaxies is the most fun game I've played for the Wii yet. It's addictive, engaging, and just simply amazing. It hearkens back to the old days of gaming, before lifelike 3D graphics and half-hour cutscenes, when the only thing that mattered was staying alive for as long as you could and getting a high score. It's probably the purest gaming experience available today, and the true definition of a "hardcore" game.