Review: Geometry Wars: Galaxies (DS)

geowarsds.jpgIt is no secret that we’ve been all over the Wii version of Geometry Wars: Galaxies here at Infendo. Blake has been singing its praises on a weekly basis on Infendo Radio, we awarded it our highest ranking in our review and even crowned it as one of the five best Wii games of 2007. We’ve been shamelessly singing the praises of this beautiful shooter for weeks, and if you’ve played it, you know why.

Nintendo Power dropped a big surprise in May when it revealed that the first fully realized console iteration of Geometry Wars, a series born and raised on Microsoft hardware, would be a Wii and DS exclusive. On Wii, as Reggie might say, the proof is in the playing; Galaxies is a deliciously addictive gaming treat that, according to one reviewer, finally shows “what the console is good for.”

But does the portable version of Galaxies have the same impact as its Wii-dwelling cousin? Well, yes…and no.

Geometry Wars: Galaxies is a nearly identical package on both systems, so almost everything we raved about in our review of the Wii version can be applied to Galaxies DS. The core gameplay is still strikingly simple and addictive, there is a seemingly endless progression of unique battle grids to work through and loads of intriguing new enemies. Connecting to the Wii version unlocks even more new levels, there are online leaderboards and like the Wii version, the handheld version of Galaxies boasts a lower price point, at $29.99, than most elite games available for the system.

But there are some unfortunate issues with the DS version that keep it from reaching the stratospheric status of its Wii counterpart. So remember just about everything we mentioned in our review of the Wii version, but make the following minor considerations.

Obviously, the stunning visuals that make Geometry Wars so compelling to view in motion are absent on the under-powered DS. The hypnotic particle explosions, the iridescent glow of enemy fighters, the vivid colors…they have been dramatically toned down for Nintendo’s handheld. This eye candy is actually one of the most charming aspects of Galaxies, and unfortunately, its absence makes the DS experience significantly less enjoyable.

Though developer Kuju Entertainment offered a surprisingly effective remote and nunchuk control configuration to the Wii version, it was the addition of Classic Controller support that hooked many veteran gamers on Galaxies. If we are to consider the stylus and d-pad controls of Galaxies DS the third overall control option for Geometry Wars, we must also consider them the least desirable.

Make no mistake, the controls certainly do not break the game. They do work, yet they never become anything more than merely adequate. In addition to inducing somes of the worst cases of DS hand cramps we’ve seen yet, stylus-driven control presents unfortunate problems non-existent in Galaxies Wii. Players control their ship with the d-pad, which is inherently limited in directional mobility and inferior to the freedom afforded by an analog stick, while blasting enemies by aiming with the stylus on the bottom screen.

The result is a control setup similar to the aiming mechanics of Metroid Prime: Hunters. But unfortunately, Samus’ controls haven’t translated quite as well to Galaxies DS. As the enemy waves increase in size and the action intensifies, it can be difficult to find the neutral aiming zone.

On Wii, for example, players using the Classic Controller can always release the analog stick to return their aim to neutral. Players using the Wii remote and nunchuk are constantly in control of their aiming because their cursor is on the same screen as the game itself, making it very easy to make adjustments on the move. But gamers playing Galaxies DS may occasionally encounter a need to glance at the bottom screen to reorient themselves with their aiming. This is particularly problematic for a Geometry Wars game in which looking away from the action for even a split second can be disastrous.

Galaxies DS does have one obvious advantage over the Wii version: it’s portable. And having the ability to take the Geometry Wars experience, particularly one as rich as Galaxies, wherever your travels may lead you makes living otherwise somehow seem unfair. Subway rides, bus trips, lunch breaks and visits to the doctor’s office will literally seem to pass in seconds. Perhaps even more so on the DS, Galaxies leeches the passing minutes like a stubborn Metroid.

At its core is one of the most enjoyable games of the year, and minor shortcomings aside, Geometry Wars: Galaxies is still one of the best DS titles to release in 2007. Because it’s essentially the same game as Galaxies Wii, however, it is hard to recommend the DS version over its superior Wii counterpart. Gamers with a deep wallet or unhealthy infatuation with Geometry Wars may consider both, and those who find Galaxies DS in their stocking Tuesday should be very pleased with this great piece of software.

It’s just that on Wii, blasting hexagons and rectangles is a lot more fun. Geometry Wars: Galaxies gets 3 stars out of 4 on the DS.