Back in 2008, on the eve of the Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 launch, lead programmer Stephen Cakebread proudly announced that his team had enough ideas "for probably about 10 games." Sadly, this confidence didn't translate into a string of sequels. With the exception of the iOS release in 2010, Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions is the first new installment in six years. And while it's a solid, well-built extension of one of my favorite Xbox 360 games, the whole thing makes me wonder why it took Activision so long to make a proper follow-up.
Whatever the reason, I'm happy to report that Dimensions is yet another fun addition in the Geometry Wars franchise. Although it has been six years, the brand new developers have not missed a beat. This sequel largely builds on what we saw in Retro Evolved 2, adding more game modes and a lengthy single-player campaign. It may not reinvent the dual-stick shooter genre, but I can't imagine fans being disappointed with this $15 package.
For those new to the series, Geometry Wars is a dual-stick shooter that sees players zipping around small levels while shooting waves of vector-based bad guys. Using both analog sticks, players can move the claw-shaped spaceship while shooting in any direction, similar to Smash TV, #killallzombies and countless other PSN releases. Destroyed baddies leave behind geoms, which will increase the player's multiplier and lead to higher scores. But don't delay picking up these geoms, as they only stick around for a few seconds. Players will need to choose between running away from the increasingly difficult enemies, or risking danger to pick up the multipliers.
Picking up right where Retro Evolved 2 left off, Dimensions takes the next step and creates a single-player campaign that merges many of the unique game types seen in past installments. The Adventure mode takes players through 50 challenging levels, each using different stage designs and conditions for victory. Some levels require players to earn a few million points in only a couple minutes, while another stage will demand a high score without firing a single shot. Completing the challenge will not only unlock the next level, but earn players up to three stars.
There are a number of clever game types mixed into the campaign. For example, Sniper mode gives players a finite amount of bullets to fire. In Rainbow mode, our claw-shaped ship will need to earn big points before the bad guys color the entire playfield. Claustrophobia mode uses the curved stages to limit where the player can escape, creating an incredibly tense experience.
It's the three-dimensional stages that sets this sequel apart from the previous iterations. In the past, players did little more than zip around a large rectangle. But that's a distant memory, thanks to stages that come in all shapes and sizes. Taking a page out of games like Super Mario Galaxy and Super Stardust HD, these Geometry Wars stages take place on small planets, cubes and a variety of other shapes. This adds a whole new wrinkle to the gameplay, but also creates new frustrations.
Because stages are now three-dimensional, players will quickly discover that it's hard to keep track of where the enemies are. The level designs create blind spots that make cheap deaths far more likely than in past installments. This can sometimes lead to a more thrilling experience, while also simultaneously straying too far from what made Geometry Wars so much fun in the first place.
Beyond the changes made to the stage design, Dimensions also adds a number important tweaks to the gameplay. The big addition comes in the way of a drone, which is capable of picking up geoms, shooting enemies and ramming the color bad guys. Before each stage, players will be able to choose and upgrade five different drones. Although players may accidentally mistake the little guy for an enemy, this addition will certainly make life easier.
On top of the drone, we get a choice between super attacks. This is a single-use attack that works in concert with the tried and true smart bomb. Players start with a super attack that lays down mines, but will quickly unlock homing missiles, a black hole and a very helpful clone. Much like the drones, these super attacks can be upgraded using the collected geoms.
After fighting through several different stages, players will come face-to-face with one of the six challenging boss fights. Although these large enemies aren't all that impressive, the battles themselves are tense in the best way possible. Adding another wrinkle, players will need to draw out the fight in order to earn the maximum three stars. Once you figure out the pattern, these boss stages become a lot of fun.
For those who don't want to worry about three-dimensional stages and boss battles, Geometry Wars 3 has a classic mode that all but recreates Retro Evolved 2. Here we see a return to the flat rectangle design of past installments, giving players the old school feel they're used to. There's also a nice variety of game types, including deadline, king, evolved classic, waves and, my favorite, pacifism. Best of all, each of these modes comes with their own leaderboard.
Despite running into a lot of cheap deaths, I enjoyed most of the three-dimensional changes made to the stage designs. In some ways, this change helped to make the game feel fresh again. Unfortunately, it does this by imitating other dual-stick shooters that have done this type of thing better. It's definitely a welcome step forward, but Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions feels like it still has some evolving to do.
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!