You can't move for twin-stick shooters or Diablo clones on Xbox Live Arcade, but a twin-stick shooter/dungeon crawler with MMO sensibilities? Now there's something to get excited about.
It's also something to get confused and a little bewildered about, at least at first. You can't really fault first timers Starfire Studios for their ambition, though; its game Fusion: Genesis is a striking blend of disparate parts that, surprisingly, hangs together brilliantly well. It's a game that's as unique as its title is bland - and while the studio behind it might be new, it helps that the talent behind it is a little more experienced.
Step forward Phil Dunne and Chris Tilston who, alongside two other colleagues, decided to leave behind their previous employers Rare and move to the nimbler, riskier yet more creatively fulfilling world of Xbox Live Arcade.
"We had a good run at Rare, a happy run at Rare," admits Tilston, "When you know it's your time to move on, it's your time. It is definitely a great place to work at and for all intents and purposes still is. But they're obviously into big, 50, 100 man games and they're a 160 man company - so you're a one game company in a way."
The four had already worked on an Xbox Live Arcade game before - although they're unfortunately not at liberty to disclose exactly what it was - and witnessing the freedom such a project introduces was enough to whet their appetites. "It was just really fun getting back in a small team sense," says Tilston, "where everybody is touching more parts of the game. There's a lot more creative input."
"And there's faster iteration on the creative process," agrees Phil, "You can come up with an idea for a design for a ship or whatever, and you get to do it pretty much the next day, and start working on it. The feedback loop is a lot quicker and there are a lot less people to get involved with it. It's just a bit more satisfying in some ways."
Having struck it alone, Starfire decided on a path less travelled for an upstart studio. "It would be great to do an MMO," says Tilston, "That was what we'd played and we'd actually done some research. We'd actually done some stuff like that when we were at Rare.
One question's immediately apparent, and it's one that didn't escape Starfire. "How do we make this with such a small team?" asks Tilston, "We've got to control the scope of the graphics, of the content, and space is obviously a good setting. And a top down shooter, we thought, well, we can knock out the graphics for this in a decent amount of time."
That explains at least part of Fusion: Genesis' make-up then. As a twin-stick game it's generic but professionally handled - a slick frame rate that doesn't look to drop below 60 fps lends Fusion: Genesis the fidelity of an arcade shooter, which makes it all the more surprising when you realise that it most definitely isn't.
Set in the far future, it's backdrop is pure sci-fi schlock - humanity's moved to space, only to find life in the stars isn't so heavenly after all, with hostile aliens lighting up the skies with laser fire. "For the theme we looked at Star Wars and the interactions," says Tilston, "It would be cool if we could have these two military sides fighting. And then, well, what about cops and robbers? The police and the pirates. And then the guys who aren't allied to anybody. How can we have all of this mix in one world? How do they interact?"
Now, here's where it gets interesting. Fusion: Genesis takes the aesthetic of a top down shooter, but beneath is a labyrinth of systems that make it play out like an MMO. Yes, there are things to shoot - plenty of them - but rather than being set in a self-contained arena, Fusion: Genesis offers several open-ended and expansive levels. Within you'll be able to meet up with agents from one of the game's six factions to take on quests- destroy a certain amount of asteroids, or go and mine a certain amount of material. It's a structure borrowed from MMOs, and the influence runs deeper still.
Sentients act as the game's pets, little droids that follow your ship round, protecting it and fighting by your side. In keeping with the spirit of ambition that runs through Fusion: Genesis, these can be evolved and traded in Fusion: Sentient, an accompanying Windows Phone 7 game that takes on an realtime strategy template.
Player ships - of which threre are around 100 - are customisable and upgradeable to an impressive degree. Allying yourself to different factions opens up different abilities and weapon sets, with two upgrade slots on hand to craft your ship in any given direction.
All of which plays nicely into Fusion: Genesis's four player co-op - players can attack the campaign side by side, with the 16 hours or so required for a single playthrough working towards a final raid level. That's not the end of Fusion: Genesis' MMO allusions - throughout the campaign the game will dynamically draw in players, its levels supporting up to eight people each engaged in their own story and each potentially working against one another, while dedicated PvP warzones offer a frenetic battle arena.
It's an odd mix, sure, but it's one that works incredibly well - and it's a blend that's most definitely unique. "The onset of digital distribution has rejuvenated the industry to a large extent," says Phill, "It's got a lot more smaller, unique, interesting titles out there. Some of them aren't fully formed. Some of them aren't fully finished. But people appreciate the fact they're doing something different and they're happy spending their money on it. It's something different from another Call of Duty. Not that I don't like Call of Duty. It's great. But it's very similar to the last one."
Whatever you might say of Fusion: Genesis, there's certainly nothing else quite like it out there.