I’m a huge fan of follies. You know, the pyramid some nutcase built in a graveyard and then paid a tramp to live in for a year, the network of tunnels, leading nowhere and constructed for no obvious reasons. Mutant Storm Empire has the feel of a folly to it – and I only mean that in a good way. It’s an arena shooter let loose in a mansion. It’s a babbling torrent of gloopy freakery.
Man, it’s also just the best thing, throwing in dozens of weird new ideas while it builds on the twin stick fundamentals of Mutant Storm Reloaded – which I still prefer to Geometry Wars, if I’m being honest, even though I adore both of them. If Reloaded was Robotron, Empire is Smash TV or Total Carnage: a blaster with a lot more space to play in, but the same arcadey focus on splatter and a delivering sense of connection.
There’s a new colour-matching combo system that encourages you to play the game in some really perverse ways, and there’s a new emphasis on really huge enemies, with doll-faced robotic cat things, and weird millipede guys with Mickey Mouse heads and ears attached. More than that, though, there’s a sense that the brave men at PomPom have just gone wild with the detailing, lavishing attention on door-opening mechanisms, filling rooms with bizarre technology and alien fauna, and creating a hectic pace based on a churn between survival and surprise.
I recently asked PomPom’s Michael Michael (seriously) how Empire did for the company, and he shook his head and looked into the distance, lost in the sort of watery gaze that Peter O’Toole might have done something Oscar-worthy with. A shame, but I guess it’s kind of appropriate. The very best follies are not for the masses. They are wonderful secrets, loved and understood by a handful of lucky initiates.
Mutant Storm Empire is available for Xbox 360. 800 MSP!