It looks and plays a lot like Geometry Wars. This is the inescapable reality of We Are Doomed, an upcoming twin-stick shooter from one-man studio Vertex Pop. The world is colored with softer, pastel hues, and the enemies are tangible things instead of angular shapes. But anyone who has played Geo Wars will immediately grok what they’re seeing and experiencing in We Are Doomed and will know exactly what to do. Creator Mobeen Fikree isn’t shying away from the comparison.

“I don’t mind,” he told XBLA Fans earlier this month at PAX East. “I think Geometry Wars is a great game, and following in that lineage of Robotron, Smash TV, Geometry Wars and then, you know, this. I’m happy to be a part of that lineage. When people go, ‘Oh, it’s like Geometry Wars!’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, it’s like Geometry Wars.'”

Until it’s not.

The moment you use the right stick to open fire on the waves of space baddies swarming the screen it becomes clear how We Are Doomed diverges from the formula. Instead of blasting enemies with a never-ending stream of long-range laser fire, players instead must rely on a medium-range “overpowered laserbeam,” as Vertex Pop’s website describes it. In actuality, it doesn’t come off like a laser at all. Instead, it looks and feels more like you’re wielding a flamethrower with an infinite fuel supply. Nudging the stick farther in any direction will elongate the beam/flame, but it will never cause it to reach clear across the screen.

If you want to defeat the baddies — and you’ll of course need to do so if you want to make any progress in the game — then you’ll need to get a bit closer than you may be used to getting in other twin-stick shooters. “You have to dive into the action,” explained Fikree. “You have to be close range if you want to zap baddies — you can’t sit in one corner of the map and shoot things all the way in the other corner.”

His gameplay summation proves true enough. Camping around the edge of the screen and meticulously picking off enemies from a safe distance doesn’t work, because that distance is as safe for the enemies as it is for you. Though it’s certainly possible to meet your doom by colliding with an enemy, this risk has been purposefully mitigated some due to the fact that you have no choice but to be up close and personal when on the offensive.

According to Fikree, the enemy design is directly informed by the game’s weapon of choice. While the enemies are deliberately a bit slower than in We Are Doomed‘s contemporaries, they tend to swarm in groups, causing escape routes to disappear quicker than anticipated. Fikree noted that this means “you need to be very conscious of how you position yourself and how you prioritize which enemies you’re going to take out. So a lot of the game is about positioning and movement and being very [deliberate] with your movements. But that said, if you don’t want to do any of that, and you just want to zap things and enjoy the pretty colors, totally cool. That’s a valid way to play the game.”

Those gamers who do concern themselves with the pursuit of high scores and deep strategies, however, should find opportunities for such here. Fikree promises that there will be full leaderboard support and that advanced players will have to memorize enemy patterns and focus on maximizing their multipliers and using a limited-supply super beam (because an overpowered beam isn’t always enough to get the job done, apparently) at just the right time.

More casual players can rely on the super beam to get them out of the jams they’ll inevitably work themselves into, which is precisely how XBLA Fans made use of it during our play session. “But when you get good at the game you want to use it to maximize your score,” explained Fikree. “So there will always be those few things and some less obvious mechanics in there as well. Those you kind of figure out for yourself.”