One of the first Xbox Live Arcade games I really got into on the Xbox 360 was Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved. I’d missed out on playing the original Geometry Wars, tucked away as a minigame in Project Gotham Racing 2 on the original Xbox, but the XBLA version sucked me in and kept me glued to the screen for hour upon hour of twin stick shooting mayhem. I was even more invested in Geometry Wars 2 when it bowed in 2008, and it should come as no surprise that that familiar and addictive itch needed scratching again when the newly relaunched Sierra announced Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions, a new game for a new platform generation. This third game in the franchise released in November across pretty much every platform not made by Nintendo, and it brings back all the old feelings of frantic strategy while introducing a few new game modes and twists of its own.
And yes, a lot of what Geometry Wars 3 delivers is a rehashing of what we’ve already played. Every game mode from the previous installment is present and accounted for, from old standards like Deadline and Evolved to distinctly niche pursuits like Pacifism mode. If you played and loved (or hated) a mode in a previous incarnation of Geometry Wars, it’s back for another round in this game. The twist that freshens the old game modes is that, as the subtitle suggests, the game is no longer content to have you sliding your little geometric spaceship around a flat 2D plane. Rather, the playscapes now are three dimensional, requiring you to navigate around spheres, tubes, and other shapes while blasting away at your blocky enemies. If that sounds daunting, it is at first, but you’ll warm up to the new dimensionality fairly quickly. But don’t fear if you want to stick with the tried and true 2D rectangle spaces. Those are still available, just with some slight planar twisting so that they technically are three dimensional spaces as well.
Though the game now operates in 3D space, your primary concerns still will be 2D navigation and combat. While you will be flying around shapes, your ship never actually lifts into the Z-axis. All the action still takes place on a flat plane, just wrapped around the three dimensional shapes. That simplifies things a lot and makes the game comfortably manageable. I can’t even imagine the sort of Keanu Matrix powers I’d need to have in order to effectively play Geometry Wars with full 3D control over my ship.
Added for Geometry Wars 3 is an adventure mode that wasn’t present in the previous games. There’s no real story to follow, just a series of levels you’ll be required to complete one after another. You’ll collect stars based on your score as you beat levels, with each level offering a maximum of three stars. At the end of a set of levels you’ll have a boss encounter, a first for the Geometry Wars franchise. Boss levels consist of larger and more durable shapes you’ll have to fight while contending with other waves of smaller shapes assaulting you. It’s pretty challenging, especially if you want to try for the higher star rewards. And try for them you will, because progress through the adventure mode periodically is gated by the number of stars you’ve collected. If you don’t have enough stars to enter the next level, you’ll have to go back and do better on the previous levels to earn better rewards.
The adventure mode also has a progression and upgrade system that is unique to the franchise. As you proceed through adventure mode you will earn an in-game currency that you then can spend to buy and enhance power-ups for your spaceship. These include things like an additional drone that flies alongside your ship to attack the baddies and proximity mines that you can drop as you traverse the arenas. The power-ups become quite useful as you strive for those elusive three-star runs in order to unlock the next adventure levels.
Overall, Geometry Wars 3 is very much the same game you’ve played before, just with sharper graphics and a few additional twists and tweaks. The soundtrack in this third game is every bit as driving and exciting as it was in the last game, and the sound of exploding shapes turning into collectible geoms is every bit as satisfying as before. If you were happy with the previous versions of the game and want one to play on your shiny new Xbox One or PS4, you can’t go wrong here. If you didn’t like the earlier games in the series (you monster!), there’s not much in the third outing that will make a believer out of you. For my own part, I’m thoroughly hooked and foresee many more hours of rhombus blasting in my future.