The chances are that you’ve played Geometry Wars after it became the game to buy on XBLA, it was also the title which seemingly everyone used to rank each other by via the online high score tables. XG Blast from Next Wave brings the same hardcore arcade gameplay but tries to add a bit of narrative for the discerning gamer. Let’s see if they managed to not only clone Geometry Wars but get that story line believable enough in our review of XG Blast for DS.
XG Blast’s story starts off with a special ship called the Aknathen heading off into space with a secret gravitational weapon on board (the XG Blast). Not long after the crew go into stasis the ship’s computer (called Aton) senses what appears to be a signal given off from another XG Blast weapon, the strange thing is that there is only meant to be one XG Blast and that is sitting on the ship. So the computer decides to plot a course for the signal as it must be investigated. When the ship arrives at the location it appears the signal is emanating from a black whole not marked on the star charts, confused Aton begins the process to defrost the crew but just at that moment the Aknathen is sucked into the black hole. As you’ve probably worked out for yourself, our job is to get the ship back to reality and destroy any nasty aliens that get in our way.
XG Blast has three game modes; Discovery (the story mode), Survival (a nonstop high score mode) and Multiplayer (for 2-4 players). Discovery mode is split into Zones each with a varying number of level stages, they get progressively harder as you’d expect and at the end of every Zone there is a boss battle. Gameplay in XG Blast works in a very similar manner to Geometry Wars, you control your ship around a small arena trying to avoid whilst shooting the spawning alien ships. Controlling the ship is very simple using the DPad whilst using the stylus to shoot in a chosen direction. The aliens you’ll encounter at the start are quite slow and you won’t find too many of them appearing at once. It’s not long before the waves get bigger and the aliens get tougher. Luckily you have a shield to help you out in times of need but be warned it has a limited power source and unless you charge it up by collecting energy pellets from dropped enemies (or if you’re lucky, bonus energy pods ) you’ll soon get blasted away. The same energy pellets are needed when you get a screen full of baddies and you just need a quick way to blast them out of existence. The XG Blast is a very powerful weapon and just like the shield, uses masses of energy which will need replenishing. The XG Blast pretty much obliterates anything in its path and is very useful in the boss stages so make sure to save some energy up. Your standard weapon can be upgraded by collecting coloured pills of the same colour providing you with up to three upgrades (four power levels). If you collect a different colour pill container your weapon will switch to a new style but thankfully remain at the same power level of your previous weapon. The balance of weapons is quite even so as long as you have upgraded above the lowest power rating you will only have to switch if you have preference to missiles that either home in towards enemies, bounce around walls, those which just fire dead ahead or in a fan shape, whatever your preference is really. As you’d expect variation isn’t XG Blast’s strongest point, it really is a proper arcade game which starts off at a steady but tricky difficultly level and only goes upwards from there. One thing I really like is that your progress is saved automatically meaning you can carry on from the zone you were on when you run out of lives or simply turn the DS off. The lack of progress save is the one annoying thing about most arcade games which tends to put me off, they always make you start at the beginning every time which may very well suit some people (sadists) but usually tends to annoy me more than watching Big Brother.
Survival mode is where the real high score freaks will feel at home, pick an unlocked level from the Discovery mode and try to last as long as you can before you die. Medals are given out for your performance and you’ll really need reactions of a hawk to earn top ranking in this mode, for all I know you can unlock something amazing if you get every medal but it’s so difficult that someone out there will have to write in and tell me because I don’t think I’ll be doing it anytime soon. The multiplayer mode comes in two flavours, a coop mode where two of you can play endlessly trying to kill aliens until the battery in your DS runs out or the Full War mode for up to for up to four players in a timed round of a Frag Festing where your mission is to simply shoot your friends more than anyone else, basic but effective. Sadly I couldn’t test the multiplayer modes out due to a lack of friends (boohoo) and more importantly lack of single card download play option , yes that’s right, everyone needs their own copy. However if the multiplayer mode even matches the single player mode you’ll be in for a right treat.
With no online mode for high scores or play XG Blast at least does look the business, the graphics are sharp, colourful, frantic and all without a hint of slowdown. Sure it doesn’t have the full wow factor of Geometry wars on 360 but it comes close enough. Even though there is a handy map displayed on the top screen the game is so frantic you’ll not ever look at it because your eyes will be glued to the bottom screen, some could argue that instead the game should have spanned both screens but it didn’t really bother me – the added complication may have actually spoilt the game. XG Blast’s music and sound effects didn’t send me into a spin but did suit the game perfectly; electro tunes and your standard space weapons are convincing enough, no complaints here.
If you’re looking for a game to compliment your current copy of Geometry wars for DS, Wii or 360 then you can’t go wrong with XG Blast. I don’t know if the basic story line is different enough to make it an essential purchase if you already own GW but there’s certainly nothing hear that would disappoint old or new GW arcade shooting loving alike. XG Blast for DS does achieve what it set out to do (be an interesting Geometry Wars clone) but drops the ball on adding some extra functionality, online high scores and multiplayer modes would have added some much needed longevity to the game, nevertheless XG Blast for DS scores a blasteriffic 7 out of 10.