PomPom Games is possibly the most platform agnostic of all developers. Since the launch of Space Tripper as a downloadable PC title, the mostly two-man design team (Michael Michael does the art, Miles Visman handles the programming, while audio specialist James Drabble is also a regular collaborator) has spent the best part of a decade working on everything from the original Xbox's fledgling Live Arcade service to the iPhone. PomPom's games have even been ported to exercise machines - not a device with a particularly vocal fan-base.
Lots of games do the trick of asking you to dodge things with one thumb while you shoot back with the other. Robotron and Geometry Wars, for example, or the first two Mutant Storm games for another. These are by no means isolated examples. And I'm not just talking about the way I grouped them in little pairs, either - two-stick shooters are so common these days that you could slap a few public footpaths on top and call them green-space.
Good ones, like Mutant Storm Empire, are tricky, but fair. They introduce enemies and obstacles openly, making sure you've spotted them, and establish attack and defence patterns that are easy to identify but difficult to routinely overcome without skill and practice. And though they are repetitive, they use that repetition to their advantage - Geometry Wars bubbles up and up until it's hard not to burn yourself repeatedly to death, but it changes the ingredients on each go, so you end up having to apply what you know about each type of enemy to all sorts of different swarms.
Mutant Storm Empire starts off building similar themes. The first enemies will appear virtually benign to most shmup fans, marching single-file onto the screen and dying quickly, but the object is more to impart the combo system, which works by counting the amount of enemies of one type you've killed in a row and then rewarding you if you can chain alternating sequences of particular lengths. Gradually, as you move through the first world's different chambers, you're exposed to more aggressive enemies - some fire projectiles, some spit out smaller objects that flood the screen, some go after you directly. All adhere to their own set of rules and behaviours.
Microsoft has confirmed that Mutant Storm Empire will be released on Xbox Live Arcade tomorrow, priced 800 Microsoft points (GBP 6.80 / EUR 9.30), and has also highlighted some of the other XBLA titles due out in "the coming weeks".
Mutant Storm Empire will be released on Xbox Live Arcade next Wednesday, 31st October, PomPom has told Eurogamer.