After a spate of overproduced, Heaven's Gate-level bombs (example: June's abysmal Alone In The Dark), the small, humble Geometry Wars series feels like the gaming world equivalent of a spoonful of lime sorbet after an especially greasy meal. With its clean, spare design and practically self-evident gameplay—put the controller in any non-gamer's hands, and he or she will instantly know what to do—Geometry Wars somehow manages to be both comfortingly familiar—at heart, it's really nothing more than a high-def version of Asteroids—and still offers enough bona fide surprises to make the experience feel fresh.
Retro Evolved 2 features six gameplay modes, yet all six represent only slight variations on the original game. Score as many points as possible in three quick minutes in "Deadline" mode. "King" challenges players to shoot at drifting geometric shapes only from the interiors of quickly disintegrating safe zones. "Pacifism" takes away your ship's guns altogether, forcing players to destroy enemies by carefully navigating through explosive gateways.
Despite some overly ornate graphical flourishes—trying to find your ship amidst the unnecessarily busy explosions is frustrating—and the hyperbolic, dance-club soundtrack, Retro Evolved 2, as compelling as it is, turns out to be less of an evolution, and more of a maintaining of the status quo.
Beyond the game: Leaderboard scores are wisely on constant display, meaning that the high scores in each of the game's six modes of your Xbox Live friends will make you feel inferior, providing the necessary motivation to play just one more game.
Worth playing for: The classic Geometry Wars moment of figure-eighting through an armada of enemies, and somehow, someway, arriving unscathed on the other side just doesn't get old.
Frustration sets in when: Enemies seem to be more aggressive than they have been in previous iterations of the game, meaning moments that feel less like a challenge, and more like a bunch of shapes senselessly ganging up on you.
Final judgment: Retro Evolved 2 manages to induce both nostalgia and awe, maintaining the series' status as one of gaming's purest pleasures.