Geometry Wars is one of our most beloved games series. Given that we’re typically more interested in being transported to new worlds, and following our own internal narrative, it’s quite an achievement that so abstract and deconstructed a shooter - one completely consumed by high scores - should find such a place in the moist, warm, cranny of our affections.
Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions picks up where Retro Evolved 2 left off. For the uninitiated, the series continues to be a neon-lit, dual-stick shooter where you seemingly play a neon-lit staple, shooting at seemingly random patterns of neon-lit geometric shapes, each with its own neon-lit properties and attack pattern (they don’t shoot – they kill by ramming into you; like a crazed, neon-lit sheep).
Then there are power-ups, smart bombs, and wormholes – which swallow the enemies, swirling to furious intensity, before you blow them up, or they explode (disgorging a swarm of little, deadly circles). Frankly, it’s like Asteroids with ADHD (Adhdsteroids?). Or falling off a tall building in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, and smashing face-first through all the shop signs while flailing around for purchase.
So what’s new? Basically, it’s these things: new, subtly 3D-ish graphics, and a 50-stage adventure mode, which mixes the traditional flat-plane levels with more “visually engaging” battles played out on 3D shapes. Also: bosses, and your own personal drones – which come equipped with a variety of special attacks. There’s also a clutch of online modes, but they feel like an ill fit for the series and - to be honest - we can't really stoke up enough enthusiasm to talk about them.
That’s the boring stuff out of the way. And now this happens: we struggled slightly with the adventure mode.
It’s nice in theory, but some of the levels made us feel – and there’s no polite way around this – a bit sick. Like, literally a bit sick. As in nauseous. No, it’s not like you’re being bombarded with graphic autopsy images, or ill-sitting truisms about the stark nature of humankind. But there's something about the new visuals which just didn't work for us (and if something is making you feel like you're going to vomit, then that would be the very definition of not working... unless that thing was a machine designed to induce vomiting).
It’s all fine when it plays out on a flat, 2D plane, but the second we were whizzing around a sphere or a curved surface our brain couldn’t keep up. We found it so uncomfortable we could only play a couple of levels at a stretch before getting up and going outside to stare at the sky.
We accept it might just be us – we once threw up in a bin after going on a banana boat road at a German theme park. But it also makes it a bit on the difficult side to see where the enemies are coming from. In a game as fast paced and busy as this, that is a problem. It’s like having a lightsabre fight with a neon-suited assailant at a Jean Michel Jarre concert, while simultaneously being spun around in an office chair. Nobody needs that...
...Or do they?!
No. No they do not.
It slightly reminded us of that distant era when perfectly decent 2D games all started being remade in 3D, just because they could.
There were various 3D interpretations of Pac-Man and Tetris that seemed to be in 3D purely because there was suddenly enough available processing power to facilitate it. But nobody ever stopped to ask if they should be made. In the process, most of those games lost what it was about the original that made them such immediate classics: simplicity.
Of course, Geometry Wars 3 still has a classic mode – the original gameplay intact, with only the slightest cosmetic modification. So it’s not like we can just whinge about it losing what made it great, and if you've never played a Geometry Wars game - download this now.
But still… we can't help but emit a strange whiff of disappointment. Let’s say you know someone, and you really like their breakdancing. What if, one day, their breakdancing involves them grabbing you by the ankles, and spinning you around at high speed until you vomit. Still like their breakdancing now?
We rest our case.
SUMMARY: Classic gameplay shackled to a less successful adventure mode. If it ain't broke etc...