Myths and Legends

Myths and Legends
Pulsing Vectors of the Universe

Jordan Deam | 25 Mar 2008 12:56
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You could always tell when Aaron was playing Geometry Wars because of the breathing.

It started out normal enough. Hand him the controller and he'd square up to the TV, the screen perfectly centered in his field of vision, alert to every unfortunate possibility of his downfall - a snake spawn along the edge of the grid, a particularly squirrelly green square, the chaotic spiral of pink debris.

Five minutes later, his breathing quickened, as if he was physically exerting himself against the image in front of him, or attempting to regulate his pace in the uphill leg of a marathon. Conversation ceased, and walking between him and the screen became a cardinal sin, a burdensome reminder that the world around him still existed, in all its three dreary dimensions.

Ten minutes into his run, and he was in full-on Lamaze mode. I'm still not sure how he kept from hyperventilating, but the tension was apparently so unbearable that it became a struggle to keep from passing out. The only relief was death, a precious three-second respite from the onslaught of brightly colored shapes that poured from every corner of the grid. Eight or nine times later, and he was back to the title screen; the thumping techno beat faded into a more atmospheric wash of swirling synths, and his breathing returned to its resting state.

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If Aaron smoked, this is probably when he would have a cigarette. And we'd continue to look on with a mixture of amusement and mild discomfort.

***

Geometry Wars belies a surprising amount of complexity and depth for a 30-second download from Xbox Live Arcade. Like most classic arcade games, there are no extrinsic awards except for a paltry 200 achievement points. And unlike its sequel, there are no outside indicators of your performance aside from your score. It's just you, a grid and an endless supply of 2-D polygons whose sole purpose is to send your hexagonal ass back whence it came.

Two months into the Xbox 360's life cycle, Geometry Wars was the best game on the system. Not simply the best Arcade game, but the strongest title in an otherwise terminally weak launch lineup. Aaron had camped out in sub-zero temperatures to secure his console, and he wasn't about to let his suffering go to waste. Geometry Wars was the reason his Xbox wasn't on eBay in time for the pre-Christmas price spike, and while Perfect Dark Zero was collecting dust, we were attempting to extract every penny of gameplay from our $5 download.

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