"MSE improves on the formula of Geometry Wars in nearly every way. While its predecessor was a very limited point grind with the entirety of the game taking place in one small boxlike grid, MSE adds levels. While this seems like a fairly standard addition, having a clear goal really makes all the difference. Each level introduces a number of unique enemies with unique behavior. At times, you fight against tanks and metallic soldiers. At others it's alien dolphins and large gelatinous eels."
One of the best things about Xbox Live, and perhaps the 360 as a whole, is the way it allows smaller publishers a channel to release their work to the public. This is wonderful in part because it gets feet in the door, and therefore potentially broadens the market for all of us in the future. But beyond that, it gives the gamer a chance to enjoy a number of games at their convenience. Pay a small fee, and get entertainment without leaving your home.
Mutant Storm Empire is an absolute steal at the price of $5.
At its core, MSE is the next logical progression from fellow Live Arcade game Geometry Wars, which is a simple shooter that plays more or less entirely using the two control sticks. The game uses a top down view, with enemies spawning on all sides on a free-roaming plane. The left analog stick controls the motion of your craft, and the right fires your weapon in whichever direction you tilt it. That's basically it. Simplistic though it is, the configuration allows for very smooth dodging while aiming in any direction.
However, MSE improves on the formula of Geometry Wars in nearly every way. While its predecessor was a very limited point grind with the entirety of the game taking place in one small boxlike grid, MSE adds levels. While this seems like a fairly standard addition, having a clear goal really makes all the difference. Each level introduces a number of unique enemies with unique behavior. At times, you fight against tanks and metallic soldiers. At others it's alien dolphins and large gelatinous eels.
Overcoming one group is nothing like overcoming another, which really adds a lot to the game's play time. Shooters of this nature live and die by replay value, and a game with more varied objectives will obviously last longer than one without. The fact that each level has its own feel adds a lot to a game that can be easily beaten in an hour.
Probably the best part of the game are the boss fights. Of course the screen seethes with a hoard enemies launching glittering clouds of explosive ammunition that leave you skittering into the furthest corners of the screen for an escape. But each boss has a different feel to it, anyway.
One boss descends upon you in a room full of tall columns and the fight requires you to weave in and out of them. You basically play a dangerous game of tag with an enemy that likes to dip behind cover and circle around you for a clearer shot. Another boss traps you between slowly rotating lasers, boxing you into a small section of the room as it launches many smaller enemies to attack you indirectly.
The objectives themselves are never varied. Blast everything, and don't get hit. Still, the game does a good job of keeping it fresh by mixing up the enemies and terrain.
The game's online mode actually provides a lot of solid fun, as well. Having someone to watch your back can make the insane later levels a little more manageable. There's a bit of relief to be had when a portion of the hail of gunfire on screen isn't aimed at you.
Textbook as shooters go, Mutant Storm Empire is fast-paced, difficult, and unrelenting in its screen-filling assault. It's also very short. However, the asking price is insignificant. Especially given the fact that it's better than a number of similar shooters that demand the standard industry price.
Freelance review by Josh Higley (November 18, 2007)
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