Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions for Mac review

It's rare that the Mac gets a new game release the same time as everyone else, which makes Aspyr's recent Mac release of Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions noteworthy. It's also noteworthy for being a purely-distilled arcade game experience that sports a retro design paired with thoroughly modern play sensibilities.

If you've never played Geometry Wars, the concept is simple: You pilot a claw-shaped ship at the center of the screen, and your goal is to survive as long as possible, racking up as many points as you can. You do that by shooting other ships that appear on the playfield. Their destruction leaves behind objects called geoms; collecting them increases the value of a point multiplier, which helps run up your score.

Geometry Wars 3

Geometry Wars: Dimensions is very much recognizable as a Geometry Wars game: The same artwork has been used. Its style is very evocative of the vector-based games of the 1980s, especially Tempest: Bright neon-colored abstract objects on heavily contrasting grids, with a pulsing electronic dance music soundtrack as backdrop.

The original Geometry Wars and its sequels were laid out on a two-dimensional grid; the first big innovation in Dimensions is, as the title implies, a change to the grid layout, which is now projected on 3D objects like cubes, tubes and spheres. This adds some challenge to the game, especially if you've depended in the past on being able to "herd" your foes into specific areas of the board to blast them, since there's no "top" or "bottom" to the board — it now rotates as you move.

Geometry Wars 3 boss battle

Dimensions sports "classic" gameplay modes that made early Geometry Wars games so much fun: Pacifism, for example, in which you only have one life and can't shoot, but must fly through gates to destroy nearby enemies; or King, in which you can only fire when you're inside a safety zone that randomly appears on the playfield (Deadline, Evolved and Waves also make appearances here). Dimensions also incorporates an "Adventure" campaign mode that's new to this installment of the series, adding boss battles and dozens of progressively more difficult levels.

There is also a multiplayer component here. You can either go head-to-head with other players online or play a cooperative game using multiple controllers on the same computer. There are also community leaderboards so you can track how your friends are doing in the game.

It's worth noting that Geometry Wars: Dimensions is a straight-up port from the console version: No attempt has been made to rework the game's user interface for a Mac, so you'll see references galore to buttons that you'd find on a game pad — like A, B and X (and no, those aren't mapped to the corresponding keyboard keys). Finding your way around the interface can be a bit daunting, because for whatever reason, Aspyr didn't elect to use conventions like the Esc key to back out of menus (I discovered quite by accident that the Delete key does the trick, though). Worse, there's no documentation that I could find in the version I downloaded from Steam, so you're really on your own to figure out how it works.

Fortunately, if you actually use a gamepad on your Mac, you'll find that it'll work. I hooked up a wired Xbox 360 controller and Geometry Wars 3 recognized it and supported it seamlessly. The left thumbpad controls ship movement, right thumbpad affects direction of fire. I'd strongly recommend using a gamepad if you have the option — the game plays much better with one. (Aspyr says it'll work on the Mac with the PlayStation 3 and 4 controllers, too, as well as Xbox One controllers.)

For everyone else, Geometry Wars uses keyboard input — W, A, S and D keys control the ship's movement, cursor keys control direction of fire. You can remap input to different keys if you want, in the game's options.

The Geometry Wars franchise has been around for more than a decade now, though this marks its first appearance on the Mac (as well as Linux, whose port was also managed by Aspyr). Hopefully it won't be the last.

Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions is rated E for Everyone by the ESRB.

The good

  • Fast and frenetic arcade-style shooting gameplay
  • At last, a real Geometry Wars game for the Mac
  • Simultaneous release for Mac and other platforms
  • Multiplayer and coop modes

The bad

  • You really need a gamepad to be able to play well
  • No documentation

The bottom line

Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions updates the classic Geometry Wars gameplay with a new twist that some folks are bound to love, some are bound to hate, depending on how much they've invested in previous installments in the series. Regardless, it's pure, unadulterated twitch action that should satisfy even the most demanding game enthusiast, and it's a welcome addition to the Mac game library.

Geometry Wars 3 is available right now through both the Mac App Store and Steam.


Mac App Store:

Peter Cohen