How important is employment? From very early on in our childhood, we’re funnelled down the process of refining some skills and repressing others to prepare for our mythical lifetime job. Nothing holds a higher priority than forcing children into shapes that might one day yield the all-important salary, an approach that is seemingly justified by the existence of endless bills as adulthood takes hold.
So, after years of education and hardship and crappy interim jobs selling your soul a chunk at a time in the form of car insurance policies, it must take something pretty special to tempt you into actually risking your hold on a stable, career-based job.
Unfortunately, Geometry Wars Waves is exactly that kind of special.
The first Geometry Wars appeared as a secret freebie in Bizarre Creations’ wonderful Project Gotham Racing, a tasty Easter Egg that was a direct throwback to bustling arcades and sticky popcorn floors. Taking its cue from 1982’s Robotron, it’s a 2D shooter that ties movement to the left stick and 360 degree shooting to the right. Your tiny ship scoots around the walled play area, hanging on for dear life as the waves of enemies slowly increase. The art style is all glowing neon and sparkling particles, a sight so beautiful that its next-gen sequel, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved, is still regarded as the title that single-handedly launched thousands of Xbox 360s.
By this point, it was expected that every new Project Gotham Racing would have a new iteration of the concept, so when PGR4 was released it led to many heading straight for the arcade cabinets in the garage. There, waiting for us in the corner, was Geometry Wars Waves. Instead of the usual rounds of collected enemies, Waves places the player in the middle of the playbox and starts to slowly throw walls of angry red arrowheads inward. The only way to survive is to either fly round or shoot through, and the speed of the new walls then gradually ramps up until your heart thumps in time to each warning swoosh.
Geometry Wars has always been about the friend list leaderboards which allow for some fantastic ongoing grudge matches as you seek to scrape a few more points and crawl to the top. The genius of Waves is that each defeated enemy drops a glowing yellow orb, and these translate directly into multipliers for your score. This creates a kind of ballet that is the perfect mix of risk and reward, nimble thumbs deftly dancing around the neon spikes. The Geometry Wars Waves zone is when pure instinct takes over and time slows down to soak in everything through huge dilated pupils. For want of a better word, it’s just so pure.
And this was how I nearly got fired. The combination of the amazing gameplay, score attacks and instant restart button meant that I got caught in a seemingly infinite play-die-restart loop only matched later by Super Hexagon. Each restart shaved an inch of time away from my journey to the bus stop, to catch the bus, to teach the class. Each restart also teased that this time, this time, I’d finally break my highscore waiting for me behind the red arrows. Play-die-restart, over and over. In the end, the decades of teachers’ voices finally sneaked through and I physically forced myself to turn the machine off before making the bus with seconds to spare. I still don’t know if my slamming heart was from the sprinting or the playing.