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DS Fanboy Review: Geometry Wars: Galaxies

Geometry Wars is one of those games that shows up on every system possible, and yet it always manages to be a little bit different in every iteration. And if you played it first on Xbox Live (let's all raise our hands), then you might be wondering -- as I was -- just how the game, which worked so well with a dual analog setup, would translate instead to dual screens. The result not only plays and controls better than expected, but ends up being just as much fun as the original ... if a little tougher on the ol' hands.

The real question here is: how do you take a cheap downloadable title and turn it into a full game? This is a question a lot of DS games have faced, and with Geometry Wars: Galaxies, there's plenty of added content that makes the shooter feel fully expanded. The lower price on the DS title (as compared to the Wii version) surely never hurts, though!

Didn't play it? No worries -- the concept is simple enough. Geometry Wars: Galaxies is a multi-directional shooter that can (and occasionally is) described as Asteroids on speed. You're a tiny ship in a hostile world of geometric shapes, and the action doesn't stop until you do. But hey -- at least when death comes, it's often colorful.

Some of the changes that mark the title's evolution into a full game are obvious; there are a number of worlds, and a pretty sweet multiplayer function as well. But it's your little buddy, your customizable drone, that really makes Galaxies a stellar experience. As you play, you collect geoms from defeated enemies, and you use them not only to unlock other levels, but to upgrade your drone. You will never feel so attached to a tiny blob on the screen as you will when that little dude saves your butt -- and he will. He can make life easier, as well, by collecting geoms for you. It's a never-ending cycle of awesome.

Further, if you take a Poké-approach to Geometry Wars (gotta catch 'em all!) and you pick up both the DS and Wii versions (or maybe get with a friend who has the other), you can sync the two games and open up an entire new world ... and it is really tough.

There is one small kink, though, and that's in the controls. Don't get me wrong -- Galaxies feels incredibly precise with the stylus (a little less so, at least to me, when controlling with the right buttons), but combining the stylus on the touchscreen with the tiny d-pad and keeping a finger for your bombs (fired off with the left trigger) induced some crampalicious moments. This is made worse by the fact that you probably won't want to stop playing. I recommend short breaks before crawling back to the DS -- and if you're at all into shooters, you will crawl back again and again, hand cramps be damned.

As if the game experience wasn't enough, you've local wireless, including download play (so you can convince your friends who haven't made the purchase to get in the game), as well as online leaderboards that allow you to declare your dominance to the world. So if you're worried that Galaxies may not be worth the jump in price over the XBLA version -- don't be. Just remaking the game for the DS might have been enough, but with all the extras? Galaxies ends up being one of the most fun games this year.

Visuals: While some of the more attractive effects from the other versions are missing here, the DS version of the game still manages a crisp, clean presentation that is very easy on the eyes. Of course, you're too busy not being destroyed to appreciate it, most of the time ....

Sound: The signature soundtrack is present in full effect, and works just fine here with or without headphones. While some people have reported problems with the sound effects, I didn't experience any, but then again, I may have been too busy not being destroyed to notice. Picking up on a theme here?

Story: This is how you know Geometry Wars: Galaxies was not done by Square Enix. You have a claw ship. You've got drones. You shoot at things what are trying to kill you. Who needs story?

Difficulty: Woo, here we are -- the meat of the title. It's no Contra 4, but Geometry Wars: Galaxies ain't a day in the park with Grandma, either. There's some extreme intensity to be found here, but it's always just entertaining enough to keep you soldiering on through the different worlds. The drones add a great deal to the experience as well, and best of all, the frustrating moments never reach an unreasonable level. It's a fine line, and this game walks it well -- except for the occasional framerate issue when things are really intense. Thankfully, those didn't pop up too often.

Final verdict: 8/10 -- a great pocket challenge, and simply perfect for a bit of on-the-go intensity.

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