Geometry Wars 2

Geometry Wars 2 is quite possibly my favorite game in the world, and for someone who plays as many games as I do, that's probably saying something. I like it this much because it has that perfect mix of strategy and twitch gaming that I also find attractive in other great games. Oh, and it's also gorgeous and mesmerizing to behold, graphically.

Every year I go to PAX, and without a doubt one of my favorite parts is playing GW2 in one of the console free-play rooms, with the chance of attracting a small crowd. This year I had the added bonus of having some live, stiff competition and meeting some pretty cool guys.

I was going to write a kind of mini-guide, at least for Deadline mode, but then I saw that another site had already done a pretty rad job. But then I thought, I don't see all of the advice I'd say written there (or stated the way I would), so maybe I should write some more anyway. I don't have all the pretty diagrams or videos at my disposal yet, but over time I may add those things.

They put the leaderboards up online, so you can go there and punch in knutaf to see where I sit. As if you care, heh.

General Advice

Before I talk about any of the specific modes, I want to say a few things about the game in general.

Possibly the most important thing that I can mention is seating arrangement. I read somewhere once that the optimal distance to sit away from your TV is about 1.5 times the width of your TV. So on my 50", that would be about 6 feet away. Sure enough, when I sit on the beanbag right in front of the TV, I consistently do much worse than when I sit on the couch back at the wall. I'm pretty sure this has a lot to do with peripheral vision and turning your head. As in, when I'm sitting at the proper distance, things like those jerk arrows coming from the sides of the screen are seen automatically without having to move my eyes or turn my head much.

Another pretty important thing is posture. Yes, like how you sit. Everyone has a different way that they sit to be effective when gaming, and you have to know yours. For instance, I tend to do better when I'm sitting up straight looking forward.

Learn how to "bobble" the right thumbstick. The point is to spread out your shots to cover a wider area. This is absolutely crucial. In many of the modes, you will do this pretty much constantly, so being able to do this without thinking will pay (in points!).

Shooting in the cardinal directions can be very useful if you are flying along a wall and need to shoot something directly in front of or behind you. It's altogether too easy to aim crookedly and have your shots go into the wall.

Enemy Types

I'll only say something about enemies for which I think the strategy isn't immediately obvious. For instance, I'm not going to tell you to watch out for pinwheels and "just shoot them" when they're in your way. You already know that. Also, some of the enemy types, like black holes and gates, will be covered in the context where they're useful.

Orange Arrows

There are a few things to know about these guys. They're actually pretty deadly, even under relatively mundane circumstances. You'll encounter five types of spawns, and you deal with them differently.

Single. A lone arrow that goes across the screen horizontally or vertically. As you're circling the board, it's best to try to take them out when they're moving perpendicularly to you. Once you're going parallel to them, the angle you have to aim at is less forgiving. These guys are tricky because it's easy for them to blindside you as you go by or overtake you from behind.

Half-row. This is half of one of the borders of the screen, all moving horizontally or vertically. If possible, the best way to deal with them is to fly to the empty space of the other half of the row, and fire parallel to them. If you do this right, the entire half-row will die virtually at the same time as it runs into your stream of bullets. See the following diagram for a visual aid.

Full-row. Just like a half row, except taking up a full border of the screen. If it's perpendicular to you, shoot a hole for yourself to go through and then try to deal with it like a half-row. If you're parallel to it, you'll have to shoot sideways to make a hole, then sneak through.

Sparse radial. These spawn around your ship in a ring, either pointing inwards or outwards. If they're pointing inwards, fly out through a hole between the "spokes" and shoot backwards. If you time it right and aim right, your shots will hit all of the arrows as they converge in the center of the circle. If they're pointing outwards, I don't really have a good suggestion.

Dense radial. Same as sparse radial, but packed too tightly to just fly out between the spokes. The technique is similar, though. Shoot a hole in one direction and fly straight out that way. Your aim and precision need to be good for this. Shooting in one of the cardinal directions might serve you well.

A video demonstration, in case you weren't impressed by my hand-made graphics.

Purple pods

You know what I'm talking about, right? The diamonds that break up into 3 little babies. Did you know these are the reason you see many players circle the playing field counter-clockwise? In Geometry Wars 1, the babies from purples only circled counter-clockwise, so if you were also flying in that direction, you had an easier time popping one and sneaking by the babies. Actually, I can't remember if it's that the babies went clockwise, and therefore circled into your stream of shots once they were free...

In any case, in GW2, the babies' direction is random. Nevertheless, your tactic for destroying them is similar. You fire into the purple and keep shooting, possibly bobbling the stick back and forth a bit. If all goes well, your follow-up shots will automatically take out the babies.


They fixed the obnoxious bug (it had to be a bug) from the first game where snakes in the process of spawning in could kill you before they were fully spawned in. Not that you care, if you didn't play the first one.

If possible, shoot them as they're spawning in. They always spawn as a speck, and at this point, the head is vulnerable and an easy target. Once they start actually moving around, tracking the head can be hindered by their own body's occlusion or other snakes.

Green Assassins

The best way to deal with a mob of these guys, aside from running through a gate or triggering a black hole, is to trap them against the wall. If you narrow the angle of the stream of shots until you are shooting directly along the wall, normally you can halt their dodging instinct.

The principle on which this works is that the greenies move in the direction away from shots that are coming towards them. However, if you shoot exactly at them, they can't pick a direction to dodge, and just take it. The wall technique basically uses the wall as a guide to shoot along a straight line directly at them.

If you have a really huge swarm of greenies, there's a special way you can take them out, but it isn't generally applicable. It is fun to watch, though.


Deadline is hands down my favorite mode. I love it because in a very tangible way, the game is adapting to you in real time. When you do well, the game "rewards" you with more and harder enemies. When you do badly, it punishes you by taking them away.

If you've taken the GRE computer-adaptive test, you may know what I'm talking about. It's taken on a computer, and it keeps track of whether you're getting questions right or wrong, and what kinds. If you rock, you'll keep getting harder and harder questions (which are worth more points); if you suck, you'll end up with weaksauce questions that don't help your score all that much. It's super stressful to keep thinking about whether each question was easier or harder than the previous one. Wow, what a tangent...

In Deadline, the faster you kill enemies, the faster enemies spawn. One way I think about it is that the game spawns a set of enemies all at the same time. Then it counts down some timer in its head till the next spawn. If you're fast enough to kill the entire spawn within that time, the next spawn will have more enemies than it would normally have. Not only that, but the next spawn will occur pretty much as soon as you've cleared the spawn before it, which buys you precious seconds. Apparently how fast and how many enemies are spawning is referred to as your "rank."

What's that? I didn't explain the premise? Woops. The goal in Deadline is to score the most points in 3 minutes as you can. You have some bombs, and infinite lives. The latter makes it a good mode for practicing, but if you're really going for a high score, let's not kid ourselves; if you die more than twice, you probably won't clear 15 million.

Dying is bad for two reasons: firstly, it will take several seconds to get lots of enemies back on the screen; and secondly, it lowers your rank. It actually feels a little more subtle. Let's consider your rank like a "level" in a typical RPG. You get some number of experience points, and once you cross some threshold, you level up, and at that instant, all of your stats raise. I think the rank here is the same way--a discrete function rather than a continuous one. So if you die once, you go back to the start of your current rank. You may not see too much of a difference in spawn rate. But if you die again too soon, you'll lose a whole rank, which will take time to gain back.

Tips and Strategies

The Robot Panic site does a reasonably good job with their tactics, so that's a good read. They mention 3 phases. At first, you want to kill enemies as quickly as possible. The way I think about it, this proves to the game that you've got the chops to take on more enemies. It accelerates the spawn rate. Eventually, you have a good number of enemies spawning regularly, so you want to make sure to suck up all the geoms possible, to raise your multiplier. Finally, when it's madness all over the place, you need to kill the mob of dudes following you using black holes and gates, which give a 5x multiplier to those kills.

The general method of playing this is to circle around the outer wall, shooting ahead or sometimes inwards.

Black Holes

There was a kind of switch that flipped in my head at one point, when I stopped considering black holes to be a bad thing (because they're a trap waiting to happen, and if they blow, they can spawn enemies that are faster than you are) and started thinking of them as a useful tool for clearing out enemies following me.

You'll want to get good at two skills here. The first, I like to call the "drive-by." The idea is to fly really close to the side of a black hole and pop in enough bullets in a split second to blow it up immediately. In particular, it's important that it blow up before it sucks in any enemies. Once it sucks something in, it starts to get out of control, and with it goes your ability to blow it up without being caught in the midst of flotsam on the way in.

The second technique is taking it to the next level: fly to the "far" side of it before doing the drive-by. When I say "far" side, I of course mean the side farthest from the huge mob of enemies following you. By doing this, more of the blast will take out the mob, giving you that delicious 5x boost.

I stole this diagram directy from the Robot Panic post because it's just that well done.


These are the other source of big money in Deadline. Dealing with these effectively is just as tricky as dealing with black holes. I have two related pieces of advice regarding these, and they have to do with how you go through the gate (duh).

First, what not to do. If you can help it, don't fly straight through the gate when you're approaching it perpendicularly. The way a gate operates is that the two orange end-caps are the explosive devices. They explode, taking out anything in their blast radius. Again, remember that you're followed by a mob. The closer you can get one of the end-caps to your mob when it explodes, the more 5x points you'll get.

So if you're approaching perpendicularly, fly around to the far side of the gate and run through in reverse. If you're picturing this in your head, you may realize that the mob has followed you around the side, and is more or less positioned directly on top of one end-cap. Mega points!

If you're approaching parallel to the gate, don't just pull a hard left or right turn through it. Snake far to either side and then pull through, which should position more of the mob over and end-cap.

I had a very important realization the other day, that if you have greenies following you, and their turning radius makes them able to intercept you in one of these circling or snaking maneuvers, you can briefly fire shots at them to ward them off of your path. For me at this point, it's a bit of luck, but it seems to help.

There may be some strategy associated with bouncing shots off of the gates, which is supposed to attract a bonus of its own, but I don't know how big the bonus is, and I've never found that I could really be successful while simultaneously evading and aiming at a gate.


In all of the videos I've seen for Deadline, the players use at least one bomb, but only to get huge amounts of geoms. Your first two choices for killing a mob ought to be black holes and gates, but barring that, if it's been too long since the game has spawned one of those and your mob is large, it may be worth your while to bomb them and suck up all the geoms. Remember, bombs don't give you points. Also remember, it will take a couple seconds after a bomb to bring up the momentum of spawning again. Precious seconds!

Next time I'll write about some other mode, like Sequence. I finally got the Smile achievement, so I actually have specific advice about some of the levels.


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