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Ignominious defeat

Defeat Geometry Wars 2 is killing me. Over and over, it's finding new and better ways to kill me. To be fair to the game (and why should I be, since all it wants to do is kill me?) most of the time I'm dying because of my own carelessness or stupid mistakes. But either way you look at it, this game is killing me.

I was pretty good at the first edition of Geometry Wars, mainly because I do better playing defensively. Maybe it's the pacifist in me, but I prefer biding my time, avoiding trouble, and shooting my way out of situations only when cornered. That strategy worked fairly well in GW1, but GW2 insists that I take it to those pinwheels, diamonds, and snakes with extreme prejudice. That's fine, and I'm glad the sequel feels like a different game, but the new version doesn't play to my strengths. And so I die in King; I die in Evolved; and I die in Pacifism - the one mode I hoped might offer me a reprieve.

Every time I play an arcade game that knocks me on my arse, I think of Ikaruga. Even typing that word makes my left eye twitch just a little. Ikaruga is the hardest game I've ever played, and that includes video games, coin-op games, board games, card games, Sunday New York Times crossword puzzles - you name it, Ikaruga is harder. I think about Ikaruga because, for me (and I know other gamers with actual talent disagree) Ikaruga crosses the line that separates fair and unreasonable challenge. When I die in GW2, I get mad at myself. When I die in Ikaruga, I get mad at the game.

This line makes all the difference for me because Ikaruga ceases to be fun when it kills me, but dying in GW2 only makes me want to play it more. Because I know I can do this thing. I just know it. Damn, I just died again.

There was a day when I enjoyed my one shining moment. Several years ago, after having been thoroughly thrashed by my students in Halo 2, I decided to demonstrate my mad old-school skills with Robotron 2084. I brought in my fancy X-Arcade dual joystick controls, loaded up the game on my computer connected to a classroom projector, and proceeded to quadruple the best score posted by any of my students - my glory displayed on a giant screen for all to see and wonder at with awe.

They say the Geometry Wars games are inspired by Robotron, but I just can't see it. If that were true, I'd be a master at both, right? No. They're totally different games. Totally different. Maybe I'll try to hook up these X-Arcade sticks to my Xbox 360. Yeah, that's the ticket. These gamepad thumbsticks are a joke. How can you even play with these? It's an equipment issue. Arcade sticks are the only way to go. Hey look, I just died again.

I'm reviewing Geometry Wars 2 for Popmatters later this week, so I've got a lot more dying to do before I'm done with it. I need to try the co-op and co-pilot modes, but it's hard to find anybody in my house who thinks this game would be fun to play. Why should they when all they ever hear is my screaming?