Mutant Storm Reloaded
Given the amount of arcade-inspired shooters on the Live Arcade marketplace, it’d only be human to wonder what Mutant Storm Reloaded does to differentiate itself from the crowd. Its uniqueness doesn’t derive from some new fangled gameplay mechanic, but instead by its sheer want for wackiness. While the gameplay is essentially that of a standard fare shooter, its merits lie in its desire to be different, Mutant Storm Reloaded is the new wave aesthetic – even if it doesn’t deliver on all promises.
Mutant Storm Reloaded is refreshingly generous in that it gives you a whole eighty-nine levels of bite-sized game time. The aim of the game is simple: exterminate all enemies. You and your ship are let loose in each level with the intention of destroying all living life to progress to the next level, and repeat until the final showdown. There’s no shortage of enemies here, with a wide variety of beasts all baying for your blood.
The game starts off with no real challenge – early levels serve to ease you into the gaming experience, which at first is helpful but on repeated play becomes unavoidably tiresome. Once you pass the fifteenth to twentieth levels, the action starts to heat up, with a greater number and variety of enemies, and essentially a smaller space playing field as you become more caved in by the constant streams of entities. The variety of enemies and their design is an achievement for developers Pom Pom, who you can see have wanted to leave a distinct mark on their creations. Enemies range from miniscule frogspawn/tadpole hybrids to froglike pond-skaters – there seems to be a pond life mixed with science fiction theme apparent in the bug-eyed creatures, such is the uniqueness of Mutant Storm Reloaded.
Similar to Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved and Crystal Quest in its control scheme, Mutant Storm Reloaded retains a furiously frantic pace, especially in the later levels. As enemies spawn all over the playing field your reflexes are tested like wildfire. Your mind needs to think about a multitude of things, such as where enemy gunfire is heading, their positions, or whether you should risk heading for a gun enhancement in an enemy infested corner, for example.
With these things in mind, Mutant Storm Reloaded is a challenging game. Unlike most games on the market that come equip with three difficulties, Mutant Storm Reloaded sports seven. These difficulties are modelled on the seven belt classes of karate (yellow, orange, green, purple, brown, blue, and black), as you would expect from any arcade shooter. Interestingly each consequent difficulty is unlocked by reaching a certain target score, and ship deaths and multipliers play a huge part in whether you can reach the next difficulty. A percentage indicator in the bottom left of the screen tells you how close to the next belt you are and this gives you motivation and determination that you can make the next class, you are good enough - much like real karate, then.
Unfortunately, while many aspects of the game feel delectably different, one of the game’s main flaws lies within the gameplay, specifically in how everything flows. Unlike the effortlessly elegant yet frantic combat seen in Geometry Wars, the way your ship moves and shoots in Mutant Storm Reloaded seems almost jarring and awkward. Your ship moves around the playing field in an unpredictable way and it takes a lot of getting used to if you are to become a champion player. Similarly disappointing is the fact there seems to be no sense of the ‘one-more-go’ factor to be found from a game in a genre fueled on the art of addiction. The game does little to pull you back once you’ve played a few levels. This arguably suggests the main game lacks an immediate sense of fun that other games seem to succeed on. Local co-op multiplayer between two people broadens the mode’s appeal and doubles enjoyment, but with it local play only, it’s a missed opportunity that it wasn’t implemented over Xbox Live.
Alongside the main adventure mode is the suitably named ‘Tally Mode’. Tally mode is an exact replica of the main mode, however while the main mode requires you beat the levels in order and are aiming to beat the final boss, tally mode is all about points. The aim is to rack up as big a score as possible in each of the eighty nine levels. You are now able to play each level on their own and focus on getting the greatest score in that particular level. You can choose which difficulty you want to play each level in, so if one level seems cope-able in one of the harder difficulties it only makes sense that you would complete it accordingly. Online leaderboards serve to reason tally mode’s existence, and without the mode would seem a little tacked on and obsolete.
The graphics define the game’s unique appeal, with an assortment of vibrant colours, (violets and greens lead the fore). The backgrounds are equally charming, with obscurely animated patterns and 3D walls situated around the playing area. The developers have done a fine job of creating a whole load of strange backgrounds that don’t confuse or interrupt the action in the foreground. Sound is just as fitting, with oddball sound effects accompanying an electro musical score. While none of the sound is particularly memorable, they suit the game well and flow along with the gameplay as it should.
The hours of gameplay to be squeezed out of Mutant Storm Reloaded is questionable, since it all depends on how many hours you are wiling to put into the game, and with the steep 800 point price tag, you won’t be buying Mutant Storm Reloaded just for cheap thrills. If you persevere and practise you’re looking at more than enough hours to justify the price, however if you see yourself completing the main game and never returning, then you could only feel cheated. Since the core gameplay isn’t fun enough to be returned to again and again, many of those who buy this game will come out feeling a little disappointed - wanting more, as it were.
The achievements add some more playability to the game but are unfortunately uninspired and feel like an afterthought, and many feel too difficult to achieve. With the gameplay not as good as it could have been, players would do well to muster enough enthusiasm to go for them. In a world of shooters all aiming to win gamers’ hearts, Mutant Storm Reloaded has all the ingredients to succeed alongside the best of them. The potential is there, yet the game hasn’t been exploited to the best of its abilities. With Mutant Storm Empire (the official sequel) on the horizon – and looking promising, round two can only be welcomed.
Seven out of ten