When it comes to twin stick shooters on Xbox, a gamer’s list usually began and ended with one of the Geometry Wars games. Making its debut as a hidden game within Project Gotham Racing 2, it’s great controls and challenging learning curve made for a perfect little arcade game.
Its reputation was cemented further with the launch of the Xbox 360; the updated version Geometry Wars Retro Evolved was considered by some to be one of the best games to launch with the platform. A sequel arrived a few years later and expanded the number of game modes. Some of those were even borrowed from the series first appearances on non Microsoft platforms (DS and Wii).
And now on Xbox One we get to see the latest game in the series and the first time the game has gone fully multiplatform. And as the name implies, the game had gone into multiple dimensions with playfields that wrap around objects.
The game itself resembles the DS and Wii versions in that it provides an “adventure” mode which is a campaign of sorts that presents the player with a sequential list of levels to work through. Each level consists of a three dimensional playfield such as a sphere, that the player must navigate their craft through using the left thumbstick whilst shooting in a direction indicated by the right (thus the term “twin stick shooter”).
Progress in these levels unlocks additional levels as well as the ability to unlock support features for your craft. The first of these is an AI Droid that follows your craft and shoots in the same direction. After that you unlock the ability to lay mines to further hinder your enemies. These abilities can be swapped in and out as your progress unlocks new options.
As well as the these levels, the game also includes a “classic” mode that includes all the game variations from Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2 including the King of the Hill (only shoot in designated areas), Pacifism (no shooting) and of course Deadline (time limit). The playfield in this section is entirely based on the old game’s 2D flat playfield and is not only a decent port of those games but can be used as practise to get used to the mechanics in “adventure”.
If comparing it to the previous games I’d say the difficulty level feels like it has been turned down a fraction. It’s more noticeable in the classic modes where the volume of enemies ramping up is more measured. It’s subtle and could just be my own impressions I will admit.
An aspect that I wish wasn’t inherited from its predecessors though are the “geoms”, little green collectibles that are key to boosting your in game score multiplier by an ever increasing amount. Both Geometry Wars and the first Retro Evolved rewarded multipliers based on the player’s ability to survive waves and kick butt; the longer you avoided dying the bigger and better your score multiplier. If you died it reset. It made survival the key goal for the player and rewarded them for it. Whereas I feel with the later games the addition of geom collecting tries to create a risk/reward factor of collecting versus survival that I’m not always sure succeeds.
One thing the game does have in abundance though is that same ability to produce Zen moments when a player’s hand eye coordination reaches a point of instinct within the game and flows with a stream of exploding enemies, spiking multipliers and that magical flood of points. It always creates a massive buzz even if those moments can be incredibly, punishingly brief. But that’s just what makes it so addictive.
Geometry Wars 3 Dimensions is a very welcome addition to the Xbox library. After the previous generations abundance of twin stick shooters the well has been dry for some time and this gem of a game fills that need perfectly.
Reviewed on Xbox One. The game is also available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PC.