Geometry Wars Mobile
I'm a big fan of Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved. Big. So big that (and I'm not making this up), I bought a 360 just for that game. I didn't even own any retail 360 titles for a few months I owned the system. So I expected it to be more difficult to give Retro Evolved Mobile a fair shot than it is for other console to mobile adaptations. After all, you don't need to be a hardcore player to see how the lack of a dual-analogue control set-up could hinder the zen-like GeoWars experience.
It's true that I was initially disappointed that REM wasn't as frantic, fluid, or twitch-oriented as the 360 title I'd whiled away so many hours on, but developer Hardcore 3D Wireless knows the limitations of the mobile medium well, and did a nice job of compensating for mobile's inherent shortcomings.
The first big thing I noticed about the title is that the controls, quite surprisingly, ceased to be an issue after just a few minutes of playing. The package actually contains six unique control set-ups, and although I did find a favorite, each one was perfectly usable.
The method I preferred used the phone's U,D,L,R cross-pad for movement, with your ship firing in whatever direction it was facing. Pressing the center button, however, locked the ship's firing direction, allowing you to move around at-will while continuing to fire in one direction. This makes scenarios like scooting to the bottom of the screen, and firing upward while strafing left and right easy to pull off with just one thumb. Clever!
The game's other big addition is a number of replay-enhancing challenge modes. Although some are very similar ( accumulate 9 bombs, 9 lives, or a 10X multiplier in the shortest amount of time possible are three), some really do change the way the game is played. "Trenches" forces gamers to earn as high a score as possible without moving your ship. My personal favorite, however, was "Monster." This challenge gives you a constant 10X multiplier, but runs the game at it's most difficult setting the entire time. The multiplier gives you enough lives and bombs to almost keep up.
There are a couple of issues that drag the title down a notch or two, unfortunately. The biggest of which has been plaguing 2D shooters for decades: slowdown. When the action gets too crazy, the game slows down to a fairly glacial pace. It actually gives the game a weird difficulty curve. It starts off easy, and gradually gets more and more difficult as the action picks up, but after it reaches a certain point the slowdown begins, actually making it easier to dodge enemy and worm out of tight situations. After making it over that difficult middle hump, it's possible to continue playing indefinitely - the slower pace of the game when so many enemies are on-screen makes dying far less likely.
But even besides the slowdown, the difficulty could have used a little more tweaking. My first few rounds I found the game to be a good challenge, but even during that first session with the game, after a little practice, I was wracking up scores of over 4 million. After a while to end any session I just had to let myself be killed repeatedly until I was out of lives. This makes the online leaderboards much more about patience and free time than skill.
Given all the challenge modes, I can't believe they didn't include a timed challenge. Seeing who can score the most points in 3, 5, or 10-minute increments would have been a perfect fit for mobile, and would have prevented the leaderboard skewing already present.
Still, despite these issues, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved Mobile definitely exhibits the same zen-like qualities as its console cousin. I didn't find it downright impossible to put down like the original Retro Evolved, but it's still lowered my productivity a decent amount since its been sitting on my desk.
What's Hot: Lots of new modes, several control options, online leaderboards
What's Not: Difficulty could have used some tweaking. Some nasty slowdown.