When Mutant Storm Reloaded was launched with the Xbox Live Arcade service, it served as an excellent diversion from hours upon hours of Geometry Wars. While the original from PomPom games might have gotten a bit lost in the GW hype explosion, their new entry into the series breaks from the room-clearing formula of it's predecessor to become a nifty little slice of shooter heaven all its own. While it maintains the classic left-stick moves, right-stick shoots controls, the way you navigate the world has completely changed. Rather than warp from room to room, you travel along a path between 16 levels across four highly stylised worlds upon your tentacled spaceship. Each world has its theme, with enemies tailored to match. The design is quite fantastic, really, with some very unique creatures to be found among the more standard shmup fare.
While some rooms are just that - rooms with doors that lock when you enter - other areas are more along the lines of your classic side-scrollers, travelling down a corridor as the enemies come at you from all directions. At times the action gets quite frantic, especially in the levels where the corridor is completely filled with motile red bubbles that you need to constantly shoot to keep your path clear.
I love the new health system, which replaces the normal lives with hit points. Six hits and you're toast, which makes much more sense than the shooter standby of your craft exploding only to immediately be replaced by an identical one. Your health regenerates between levels, as does your super weapon, which is extremely powerful but only has a certain amount of firing time.
The belted difficulty system returns, with point values raised the higher the difficulty. At white belt level the game can be a relatively short walk in the park. At black belt...forget about it. Black belt is a game for a younger man than I.
The only issue I really have with the game is the length. I finished it within an hour or so, and while there is always co-op multiplayer and score tweaking, it really doesn't compare to the original game's 89 rooms. Still, Mutant Storm Empire is a game I would gladly spend 800 Microsoft points on.