It’s raining mutants. Hallelujah…
We have a system for reviewing games here at the TG offices – each week a list of all the upcoming titles gets passed round and we select which ones we’re interested in covering. Whenever I see the words ‘Arcade’ and ‘Shooter’ next to each other on that list, I hastily attempt scrawl my name against any of the other game types. Anything will do. ANYTHING.
Why? Because Arcade Shooters are hard. They throw enemies at you relentlessly and expect you to keep up, they give you limited ammo and laugh as you struggle to defeat enemies on level 4,573. They’re evil, and I hate them.
So naturally, I’m reviewing an Arcade Shooter this week on Nigel’s request. Great.
Crescent Moon’s Mutant Storm is a shooter inspired by the likes of Smash TV and Robotron that first made an appearance on the PC in 2002, then on Xbox Live as Mutant Storm Reloaded in 2005. They presumably dropped the ‘Reloaded’ tag for the iOS release because ‘Mutant Storm Re-reloaded’ wouldn’t have worked as a title. Anyway, that rich heritage means wave upon wave of ‘orrible things attacking you with no mercy until you throw your iPad against something a little too hard to absorb the blow. You enjoy the pain.
The story takes place on a faraway planet where ‘The inhabitants have been struck by a dark cosmic ray causing them to mutate into a wide range of horrible mean nasty vicious blighters’. I could’ve sworn the developers were UK based after a most cockney description like that, but apparently they’re in New York. Go figure.
So after a weird-looking title screen with an off-centre title card as well as options that look as if they’d been greyed out (had to check if I’d accidentally switched my iPad to low light setting), you’re thrown into room 1 of 89.
Each level is a psychedelic 3D arena where the aim is to eliminate all the on-screen mutants by blasting them in their stupid mutant faces before moving on to the next torturous amphitheatre. You begin with a standard twin firing laser that like Ronseal, does what it says on the tin, and for the first few levels which serve as an almost too easy introduction, it does the job.
When the beasties are flying in from every direction though, offensive power-ups such as homing missiles and a three-way laser come in handy. Defensive versions also exist in the form of a spinning shield that cuts through all enemies, and another shield which protects you from incoming attacks. These are obviously all welcome, but as you’ll discover soon enough, they tend expire a tad quickly. It would be nice if they lasted three or four seconds longer. Then again it would be nice if I was the King of Spain, some things just aren’t meant to be.
You’re also blessed with smart bombs which destroy everything in their radius. ‘Radius’ is a key word here because we’re not talking about obliterating everything on-screen, just within a fingers width of your ship. This means you have to choose carefully which set of enemies you want to take out most urgently.
I had serious trouble getting the smart bomb to work at all in the first few levels, leading to me dying prematurely (no, it’s not because I’m crap). The instructions show a picture of a tapping thumb at the top right hand side of the screen, but it never worked for me. Instead I accidentally found out that pinching the same side of the screen got it to work every time. Either I misinterpreted something along the way, or Arcade Shooters really are evil.
As expected, you’ve got to be quick to take advantage of your power ups and use your smart bombs wisely (even though three per level are given, and reset when you die – quite generous). Dexterity is a must. Nimbly weaving in and out of alien traffic while blasting away and narrowly avoiding death is just another Monday evening rush hour on North London streets. Er sorry, I meant to say it brings the specific satisfaction only a throwback Arcade Shooter can.
There are eight difficulty levels based on coloured belts a la martial arts. As harsh as I’ve claimed this type of game to be, a fair inclusion by the developers is that your difficulty level increases if you’re doing well, and lowers once you lose a life. It’s a kind of handicap system for if you’re struggling. It also gives you motivation to keep playing past the current level. After all, the difficulty has just dropped, surely you can progress now?
Controls are simple to pick up – its dual stick without the sticks. The left side of the screen controls your vertical and left/right movement, the right side takes care of your firing direction in a tight circle. They work well, although the right hand pad can be tricky to manoeuvre in a full circle at times, meaning you have to pause for a bit to reorient your thumb. Not a massive problem per se, but it can get hairy when you’re sweating away on the later levels.
The graphical style is simple, striking and brilliant to look at. It’s a top down affair (that sounds like a saucy film from the 60′s. Wahey!), clocking in at a frantic 60fps full of in your face, contrasting colours which are fully retina’d up. The later levels especially display some impressively swirling hypnotic deisgn. My godson would be drawn to it straight away.
The sonics are appropriately blippy. Various noises that sound like alarms sound throughout and although I had no idea what they were for, I always felt in danger because of them. Appropriate, I believe. The title track is also a cool sci-fi techno tune.
So if you’re the type of sadist that enjoys the thrill of unholy enemies zeroing in on you from all angles with barely a minute to catch your breath, then Mutant Storm is as pure an arcade shooter as you’re going to find. Let it rain.
Follow Kevin on Twitter @dreagleg
Mutant Storm is out now for £1.99 on iPad. Get it now on the