The Basics: Mutant Storm Empire is PomPom Games' second Live Arcade game, and officially turns the original Mutant Storm from a one-off into the first of a series. It's a dual-stick shooter, with the standard “left stick moves, right stick fires” setup, featuring a variety of themed worlds, lots of enemies, and some interesting changes to the original game's style.
Ditching the arena setup of the first game, Mutant Storm Empire features huge levels composed of connected rooms. Much like Smash TV you need to kill everything, go through the now-open door, then do it all over again. What makes Mutant Storm Empire work, even at its current early stage of development, is the sheer variety found in the rooms' obstacles and enemies. Rolling gears, marching guys, pulsating plants that spew out swarms of bug/fish things, giant octopuses, tanks, turrets, and much, much more populate the levels.
What we think: There have been a lot of dual-stick shooters lately on Live Arcade, from the original Robotron to Geometry Wars 2 to Mutant Storm Reloaded, and a few others besides. I went into the Mutant Storm Empire demo feeling a bit worn out on the genre and came out the other side raring for more.
On top of having some exceptionally smooth gameplay, especially in this early form, Mutant Storm Empire boasts one of the nicest graphics engines yet seen in a Live Arcade game. Bump mapping and nifty lighting effects are on everything, and it all moves at very high framerate while throwing around as many enemies as will fit on screen. Both the mechanical and plant levels showed off some good visual design as well.
The best part, though, was just how solid the game felt to play. Though no powerups or bombs were in place yet, the challenge felt tough but fair. Control was smooth, although the ship does tend to glide to a halt rather than stop dead, and death always felt like it was my fault for not paying attention. That's exactly how any arcade game should make you feel, that if only you were a bit quicker then it wouldn't have gone so wrong. Like the best of its kind, Mutant Storm Empire made me want to play one more round, because the next time would go better.