Those of you who are familiar with Midway's Robotron or Smash TV (either you're old enough to have been their the first time, or you may have played them or the Midway's Greatest Hits disc) will know roughly what to expect from this game. Basically you control one ship in the middle of an arena, and a constant stream of enemies warp in and try and destroy you. If you survive, you warp on to the next arena, and so on. What made Midway's games unique was the control scheme - the arcade machines had two joysticks, one for movement and one which fired your weapon in whatever direction you pointed it. PomPom, the developers of Mutant Storm, have successfully replicated this if you have a twin stick pad for your PC, and the game is also perfectly serviceable on an 8-button pad. If all you have is a keyboard however, I would suggest you treat yourself to a pad of some sort if you're serious about those high scores.
PomPom have thrown a few more ideas into the classic mixture. These include the complex high score system and scaling level of difficulty. Basically, the longer you can go without dying, the higher your score multiplier will get, and therefore your score at the end of the game will be higher. As you rack up points, you will a kind of experience bar, and once it is completely full, you go up a belt. These belts are similar to martial arts belts, and range from white through to black. The higher you get the more the odds are stacked against you, and only the true masters will live to see the end of the black belt levels.
Once a belt is unlocked, you can play the game from the beginning on that difficulty setting. These means you can customise the game to your abilities. While you're still getting used to the game and honing your reflexes, you will probably want to stick to the white or yellow belts, but as your confidence increases you can step up the challenge a notch and challenge the best.
Once you achieve a high score you can connect to the internet and upload it onto the official Mutant Storm scoreboard, but you will have to put some serious practice in if you want to challenge the best.
Graphically, Mutant Storm is extremely smooth, fast and is crammed with bright colors. In the more hectic levels the entire screen can be covered in mutants, bullets and explosions, yet you don't need a powerful PC to run the game at a decent framerate. The sound is a bit more functional, but it suits the style of the game and is reminiscent of the sounds of the classic arcade machines.
If you hunger for simple but challenging gameplay, and you have a love of retro shoot 'em ups, then Mutant Storm is the ideal game for you. If you've never tried a game like this, and you think you might like it, then it's well worth the risk finding out for the paltry £5 asking price. I look forward to PomPom's next game with great interest.
Eat laser death, alien scum!