THE FACTS: XG Blast!
DS | Rising Star Games | Multi-Card Multiplayer 1-2 | Out Now
Reviewer: Billy White
Geometry Wars was a great modern take on arcade shooters and is now recognised as one of the best games of it's genre, so it was only going to be a matter of time before others started to jump on the bandwagon. Of course, you'd expect those copycat games to be poor, and rushed onto the shelves ( la, the Brain Training rush of '07), but whilst this imitation isn't exactly like Kuju's mathematically named title, it still manages to excel in it's own ways.
At it's core, XG Blast! is played in the same way as Geometry Wars Galaxies on the DS, using the d-pad to control movement, and the touch screen (or ABXY) to choose your direction of fire. Your aim in each level is to blast through as many enemies are possible in order to stay alive through waves of different projectiles and foes. When you've completed a level, you can play through it in an endless style mode where you try and gain the top rankings on the offline leaderboard.
There are a few things that set this game apart from Geometry Wars. First of all, the single player mode is very different, and gives you the choice of which levels you want to play and in which order, as you pass through a maze of interlinking missions. The system used means that if you ever get stuck on a level, you're able to choose another mission and work your way around levels that you may find more difficult than others. If you don't complete a level in single player mode though, you have to go back to that world at a later time and make your way through unfinished levels before you can play them with the endless option.
Another main feature is the replacement of the bombs used in Geometry Wars. Instead of the instant death hits, you are equipped with a more powerful item that is activated as long as one of the shoulder buttons is held. Whilst being used, you can kill enemies more quickly and efficiently than with a normal weapon, but only whilst your meter still has some juice left (which is topped up with more and more kills). Instead of lives, you are also given a life meter as well, and once you've died several times (which is not a hard thing to do in many occasions), you return to the start of the current world.
One unique feature from Geometry Wars Galaxies was that you could collect Geoms after enemies were killed. These would multiply your scores and allow you to upgrade your skills, but in XG Blast!, a similar feature only incorporates the multiplier feature. This is what really sets both of the DS shooters apart though, and if Rising Star would have chosen to include the upgradable drome feature from Galaxies, it would have been a bit too close to call XG their own game.
When it comes to comparing this to Geometry Wars, the omission of downloadable multiplayer (several co-op and versus levels are available for friends with the game) and online tables are the big things that let this game down. The cel-shaded graphics are often superior though (if a little too busy at times), with the background ripple from console versions of Geometry Wars making the odd appearance, boss battles adding a new layer of technique and skill and the new power up's found scattered across different parts of each arena help you to personalize the experience and choose from a selection of different weapons depending on which you feel best with.
XG Blast! is a pretty fun variant on the arcade shooter theme, and even though many of the basics are borrowed from Geometry Wars, the new features are enough to set it apart from the fan favourite. Whilst Geometry Wars offers a pretty solid experience, the addition of the "powerful zappy gun" will often make this seem a tad more enjoyable to play. If you're looking for a classic shooting game, this is certainly worth a look, but if you're no good at evading and blasting your way through steep difficulty levels, you might want to pass for now.
Fun, with enough new additions to set it apart from Geometry Wars, but the difficulty could have been a touch easier
The cel-shaded graphics and explosive effects make for more eye candy than Galaxies, but sometimes it feels a bit too cramped on the DS screen
Arcade fans will find this highly enjoyable - when the difficulty level doesn't overthrow them, that is
The multiplayer options are nice, but there are no download play or online options