Geometry Wars: Dimensions, the sixth installment in the franchise and the first to be made without the involvement of original designer, easily delivers the most refined, addicting experience the series has ever offered and, like its predecessors, is poised to sell like gangbusters.
Developed by Lucid Games, Dimensions retains everything that made the previous titles so incredible while truly evolving the core gameplay in fun and exciting ways. New players will become immediately acclimated with Geometry Wars’ simplistic controls and concept – one thumbstick controls the motion of your nimble little ship while the other allows you to fire your weapons in any direction and you need to survive as long as possible while gunning for the highest possible score. Colorful shapes spawn endlessly into a playfield and seek to destroy your ship by simply making contact with it. You are tasked with eliminating these ships, which drop tiny gems upon being destroyed to boost your scoring multiplier. It encompasses everything there is to love about the golden age of gaming when we’d line up to pump quarters into arcade machines for games that were incredibly simple to grasp but frustratingly difficult to master, all to top your friends’ scores on the leaderboards.
Many of the enemy shapes that fans of the series are familiar with return along with their signature charm. Blue diamonds immediately fly towards your position when they materialize while purple pinwheels hover menacingly, creating obstacles while evading other shapes. Pink squares break apart into tinier pieces, becoming more vicious when they do, and green cubes are just terrible little bastards that actively pursue you until shot at, when they’ll back off temporarily to try and weave around your gunfire, distracting you while other shapes go in for the kill. I’m not really sure if I’m conveying how intense the game is or not as I tend to find recommending Geometry Wars is a hard sell to someone unfamiliar with the series. Describing something essentially as “shooting at waves of shapes until you die” doesn’t sound all that impressive after all, and the retro vector-graphics-inspired screenshots certainly don’t do the title any justice when seen static – it’s impossible to grasp just how fun Geometry Wars: Dimensions is without actually taking it for a spin.
This time around, the grid-like environments each level takes place in are three dimensional and contort into an array of different shapes and sizes, adding a new level of difficulty to an already challenging game. Instead of being attacked from all sides of a flat, rectangular arena, you must now be constantly aware of unknown threats outside your field of vision. Flying around cubes and cylindrical shaped levels will make you blind to enemies on the opposite side of your position. Bullets do travel around edges, as does your ship but, by constantly shooting into the unknown, you also run the risk of taking out enemies without being close enough to gather the multiplier gems they drop (they main way to reach the higher scoring goals). In addition to the great new evolution in the environments themselves, Lucid Games has tweaked the experience in a number of ways. Your ship can now be equipped with a number of unlockable drones and special abilities that players can earn and upgrade along the way. The “smart bomb”, which is a series mainstay and can be used to instantly eliminate all on-screen enemies, is still available on many levels, but these new powers are equipped prior to entering any area, leaving it up to the player which ones may work best for each level. For example, a “firepower” drone will follow your ship (it’s basically an extra ultra-tiny ship that follows close by yours) and fires in the same direction as you, effectively spreading out the area that you can affect. The “magnetism” drone acts instead as a gatherer, pulling in multiplier gems that are close by without having to fly directly over their path. Similarly, abilities like a mine-dropping drone or a drone that fires homing missiles are available a limited number of times per match and are exhausted when used. Each one of these can be upgraded by collecting enough points while playing and each boost increases the advantage you get from its use. In a few areas, I found myself grinding for points just to get into the next upgrade tier before re-attempting a particularly challenging mission. It’s a cool addition and adds a bit of an RPG element to the game.Many of the early challenges involve simply scoring enough points to progress to the next round on a strict time limit or with a limited number of lives, but if you put in a bit of time with the game, there is more variety in the stages as they re-introduce classic modes like “King”, where players can only shoot enemies when inside designated zones which begin to deteriorate as soon as they’re occupied, or “Pacifism”, which challenges players to survive with their weapons disabled. The biggest new addition, of course, is the inclusion of boss battles that pit players against large, armored beings that you must evade until you have a shot at their unprotected core, all while fighting through endless waves of their minions.
And just in case series purists aren’t thrilled about the jump to 3D environments and are bummed over the prospect of not having the “old” Geometry Wars available for their current-gen console, Lucid Games went above and beyond by offering a full “Classic” suite into the game, supplying every game mode from previous titles on a flat scrolling surface, each complete with their own leaderboards. Dimensions is a near-perfect way to blow a few minutes or an afternoon chasing high scores and sharpening your skills. They even introduced a “quick retry” button that, when pressed immediately following failure, resets you back to the level’s start point without delay. Lucid Games clearly knows what fans wanted from a sequel and delivered in spades. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think one of my friends just beat my high score and that simply won’t stand.