Starting with a small history of me and Geometry Wars before I get into Dimensions:
Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 1 and 2 for XBLA were two of my favourite games ever and I got to the top of the leaderboard on the deadline mode in RE2, I’ve put so many hours into them that I don’t really want to think about an actual number, its one of my favourite series and the way the series was handled since the acquisition of Bizarre Creations by Activision was pretty poor (read: non-existant), especially as Retro Evolved 2 would have been coming anyway but publishing switched to Activision after the buyout.
Its been a long time coming and when it was finally announced in August last year I was very excited especially as it was releasing in the holidays and wasn’t far away, developed by ex-Bizarre Creations staff at Lucid Games Geometry Wars 3 Dimensions was unfortunately a huge disappointment to me.
The original stick shooter released as part of PGR2 on the Xbox, Geometry Wars is very simple but expertly executed with a range of geometrically shaped enemies which needed shooting and bombing on a 2D grid and many hours were had getting high scores and beating friends. Retro Evolved which released with the Xbox 360 and one of the first XBLA games took the original (which was packed in) made it bigger and better and Retro Evolved 2 then bettered this with 6 game modes all of which were unique and fun to play, had great music, looked nice and had a good UI too as well as a local co-op mode. Deadline was my favourite game type (3 minute rounds), I also enjoyed the new Evolve mode and Pacifism.
The biggest change in Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2 actually came from the Nintendo DS/Wii game Geometry Wars Galaxies where geons were dropped by enemies and the player would have to collect these to increase your multiplier. This had a big effect on the game and rather than scores in the low millions as on RE1 they could easily grow into hundreds of millions depending on the mode you were playing. Galaxies also introduced a story mode style of levels to offer a bigger game with different variants and drones which were presumably added to make up for the not quite so smooth controls on the DS (I never played the Wii versions, admittedly).
Stephen Cakebread was the creator and designer of all things Geometry Wars at Bizarre including Galaxies which was developed by Kuju Entertainment and he wasn’t involved in Geometry Wars 3 Dimensions at all.
Dimensions for me suffers from not doing anything to improve the series, it rehashes mechanics introduced either in Galaxies or other games and as a huge fan, was incredibly disappointing in almost every aspect.
The foundations of Geometry Wars were unchanged and 5 out of the 6 game modes from RE2 were included called “classic” mode (Sequence was missing for some reason) with the updated graphics style and new music as well, the new look whilst brighter does look very sharp and the art itself is nice enough. Unfortunately the classic game modes ported from RE2 make up the best part of the package which was a shame given I played these to death over the previous 6 years.
Adventure mode introduces drones, 3D levels, bosses and has 50 levels and I can’t say I find any of these inclusions to be necessary of particularly good additions to the game although the bosses are probably the worst. The boss levels aren’t particularly well executed or fun to do, I found them a needless inclusion and I have to wonder who the “fans” were that actually asked for bosses because I certainly was not one of them. The whole adventure mode seems to me like they’ve spent a lot more time playing Super Stardust HD than Geometry Wars, now there’s nothing wrong with Super Stardust, it’s a perfectly good game but for my tastes it’s no Geometry Wars which I preferred as it was compared to the changes made here.
3D levels were a concern for me from the beginning and in general I found almost all of the levels to be uninspiring, they aren’t particularly fun to play and it doesn’t add anything to the game, I also found the effect felt a bit strange in motion too. It seems to be a case of quantity over quality for the levels too, the only levels I particularly enjoyed enough to go back and get higher scores on were level 33 Dome of Doom (currently 12th on the leaderboard) and level 35 Endurance (8th) which were by far the best of the bunch but even then they are just minor adjustments to the deadline formula and weren’t actually anything new.
I would have preferred it if they had skipped making 50 levels with bosses and all the other extras and focused on making a few new modes that were a much better experience, expanding on how things were done previously, introducing new things and rules is fine if they are good additions but they also need to be backed up with interesting levels.
Drones are now part of the equation too there to assist you as you play, help you get higher scores and there are 5 variants which each offer something different in attack or defence, I never felt like I needed a drone to help me in either RE1 or 2 and it seems like another strange inclusion to me. Drones also have a “super” as well which is a special ability you can activate to help you further and to be honest given that I didn’t have any issues previously without drones I thought they were disguising some deficiencies in the design of the game that would have made the game overly difficult without them.
A final new addition to the series is an online multiplayer versus mode component which seemed to have not much of a following at all anytime I tried it around launch and in the months after and the actual co-op adventure mode which the achievements are tied to is local co-op only.
Music is another thing that was spectacular in the previous entries but in this one is feels a bit flat which is compounded by how deadline ends in classic mode, on Retro Evolved 2 is finishes with a bang and much like the rest of Dimensions it winds down and ends with a whimper.
The UI in Retro Evolved 2 had a nice look to it of displaying all of your friends high scores on the main page so you could see easily and quickly if anyone has beat you, what scores have changed and its strange that this wasn’t included in Dimensions. When you switch across each mode either classic or level in adventure for some reason the scores don’t seem to load on the pop up either, requiring you to go into the leaderboards of each one to check them.
For me as a long time Geometry Wars fans Dimensions is just a very disappointing entry in the series especially given its been 6 years. It looks good but the adventure mode offers very little that I wanted or expected and the inclusion of the classic modes is nice but its a shame that whilst it shows the foundations of the franchise have always been based on great mechanics there isn’t much that I feel represents any sort of improvement over that formula or worthwhile inclusion in Dimensions. Adventure mode isn’t bad but I found the levels themselves to mostly uninteresting, it was fairly easily to get 3* on each level and ultimately the thing I should be wanting to do the most is to keep improving my scores, getting up the leaderboards and I don’t really feel like I enjoy the game enough to want to do that.
Overall the new additions seem superfluous compared to how Geometry Wars evolved between Retro Evolved 1 and 2 which was a true evolution of the series and after 6 years I’m still waiting for Retro Evolved 3.
Formats: Xbox One (Played), Xbox 360, PC, Playstation 3, Playstation 4
Developer: Lucid Games