If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s what Activision’s Sierra imprint and Lucid Games have done with Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions ($9.99). They iterated and tweaked upon a winning formula without rocking the boat too much. The game is this: it’s the base modes of Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2, which formed the base of the long-gone Geometry Wars: Touch. It then adds in the adventure mode, centered around what Geometry Wars: Galaxies introduced. These are levels where you have to hit certain score thresholds to get stars and to advance. Mix those in with the new modes introduced by the Retro Evolved 2 game, and throw in some original creations, like Sniper, where there’s limited bullets to use. Visually, it sticks the glowy geometric style of Geometry Wars, but throws in some new touches, like spherical 3D boards similar to Super Stardust. Yet it has a particular color scheme that makes it something that’s familiar in many ways, but ultimately is its own creation. And with all that, you get Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions. Lucid Games absolutely knocked it out of the park when it first came out on console and desktop, and now it’s on iOS. It is a wonderful game.
If you’ve played a Geometry Wars game before; heck, if you’ve played a dual-stick shooter before, you know the deal. I believe the modern bunch of dual-stick shooters owe their popularity and conceptual genesis to Geometry Wars, back when Bizarre Creations was making them. It all consists of arena-based challenges where you move and fire with independent joysticks, and can deploy bombs. Some modes give you limited amounts of time; others give you limited lives; my personal favorite, Pacifism, makes you unable to shoot, instead giving you gates to go through that can detonate enemies. The geoms that enemies drop go toward your score multiplier, so it’s worth collecting them whenever it’s safe to do so.
The five high score modes from Geometry Wars: Touch/Retro Evolved 2 are here in Classic Mode: Deadline, Retro, King, Pacifism, and Waves. There’s also the Adventure mode, where there’s 50-odd levels to complete, all with star ratings, but they’re just as much high score chasers as the Classic modes are. They just have different levels and parameters. If the game was just the Classic modes, and it cost $4.99, I’d have few complaints, they’re fun enough as it is. But the Campaign mode is a ton of fun, and it’s where Lucid expands upon the formula and adds their own touches.
You can use the geoms you collect to upgrade your drones and supers, separate from your bombs. Don’t worry, there are no in-app purchases here, this is a good old-fashioned progression system! The crazy new level designs are a welcome addition, and not being able to kep track of everything at once adds new challenges. Plus, it’s fun to play existing modes with new twists and rules. The boss fights are challenging new additions, as well.The game gets ever more difficult as future Adventure levels are unlocked, but there’s always something to do. This is Geometry Wars, just with loads of fresh new twists.
While I’m a little disappointed that the Evolved content added a few months after the console/PC release isn’t here yet, I can imagine that perhaps it’s coming down the road at some point. Perhaps it’ll come as an update to generate some extra attention to the game down the road. It’s hard to say that there’s anything bad about the lack of some of this added content. The 50-plus levels are going to be a pain to make it all the way through, and don’t let the star ratings fools you: they’re all high score chases with their own parameters. And if you can’t have fun for hours on end in the five classic modes, well, you probably don’t like dual-stick shooters at all. The multiplayer modes from the console/PC version aren’t here, but they’re not an essential inclusion to a mobile game, in my opinion.
The great thing about Geometry Wars 3 is the variety. The classic modes are all wonderfully-designed game modes, just as they were back in Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2. The Adventure levels then go and provide experiences which always leave you guessing as to what’s next. They all present new obstacles to tackle, and require different approaches to succeed at. Retro Evolved 2 is still one of the best dual-stick shooters of all time, and other dual-stick shooters are still failing to feel and play as fun as that does. Now we have a sequel that doesn’t mess with what it established too much, and works on modern devices. What’s not to like?
On the iOS features list, Geometry Wars 3 does as well a job as it possibly can. Any game requiring virtual joysticks is not a perfect fit, but I’d rather have games with them that are otherwise fits than to not have them at all. Geometry Wars: Touch will not be remembered for having the best controls, no. This game feels so much better, and is fantastic to play. Perhaps four more years of practice with virtual sticks have made them feel better. Or maybe Lucid just did a much better job at making them than the GW: Touch developers did. Is the game better with a controller? Yes, but you can use an MFi controller if you want. Regardless, the virtual sticks feel great, have several configurable settings including lefty flip, and support auto-firing. I loved that functionality in JoyJoy, and it means that you can trigger bombs and supers without needing to stop firing. It’s a smart addition.
The game is perfectly playable with touch controls, and the auto-firing helps out a lot there, but sometimes you just want to play with a controller. All the menus and interfaces work with a controller, though there’s the occasional weirdness with some items that are only selectable with the joystick and others that can only be done with the d-pad. It’s just a small bit of weirdness. Overall, Geometry Wars 3 feels as great on mobile as it possibly could.
Metal is in use for the visuals, and it shows. The specs to run the game on PC are quite low, sure. But everything’s still looking great and running as smoothly as possible on the iPhone 6 Plus. This game looks gorgeous in its own way. I can’t quite get the iCloud syncing to work, but I’m convinced either that I’m doing something wrong, my pre-release build messed things up, or iCloud is just being as wonky as it’s been for the last few years. Your mileage may vary, but as with anything iCloud – don’t buy the game just because of it.
When Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions first came out, I was hopeful that a mobile version was inbound, because this is a perfect game to play on the go. It’s built for short sessions and lots of replayability. I only had to wait a few months to finally play this somewhere other than my computer. $4.99 is an utter steal for a game I happily paid $14.99 for. If you love dual-stick shooters, Geometry Wars, heck, games period: Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions is a must-buy. It’s one of my favorite games of recent memory and I’m so happy that it’s on iOS. Buy it.