Shoot-em-ups have a select following, not only because they're notoriously difficult to conquer, also because of their affinity for Japanese themes. But while the mecha madness that tends to dominate pulls in gamers in their thousands, it also leaves millions of others cold.

Step up Boowie! The Strong Warrior. Its own arty, hand drawn style is hard to pin down – perhaps it's best described as Tim Burton meets ChuChu Rocket!.

It's a shoot-'em-up through and through though, albeit one that's more palatable for newcomers without being a total pushover.

With action scrolling from right to left, you control a bird – presumably called Boowie – as he takes on any number of seemingly ink-laden adversaries. A constant stream of bullets automatically fly from his body, making control of his movement your primary concern.

Flying without wings

Said direction is handled by a particularly sticky virtual directional pad in the bottom-left, the idea being to skirt around the undulating scenery as it scrolls forward.

You have a maximum of four lives to play with - picking up blue spheres along the way levels you up and improves your firepower.

Hit the top level and a special weapon is your reward, while a fierce-looking but ineffectual laser is also at your disposal to deal with any massing hordes.

Running into the enemy square-on causes Boowie to give them a thwack, although if they catch you from an angle or their fire takes you down, one of your four lives is scratched out.

Manoeuverability is therefore the key and positioning yourself to take out your adversaries while avoiding enemy attacks is the whole of the game.

Off-target

As stated however, the controls are far from perfect. The main problem is the finicky nature of the directional pad. Vital seconds are also lost at the start of the first stage with the game seemingly engaged in the process of loading OpenFeint in the background.

And it's fair to say that, despite having a more forgiving difficulty curve than many of its brethren, the game's repetitive nature is unlikely to keep you engaged any longer than if you just had a first unsuccessful bash on lauded Japanese shooter Radiant Silvergun.

It's certainly an easier ride, but not an especially entertaining one.

Meddling with the middle-ground

Indeed, the new lick of paint Boowie! The Strong Warrior sports is something of a mirage. If you were hoping for a fresh take on the genre, you're likely to be disappointed since it doesn't venture outside the standard shoot-em-up set up.

On the other hand, this familiarity means shoot-em-up specialists will feel at home; yet, you're unlikely to be fully put to the test.

The game consciously aims for the middle ground between novice and virtuoso, presenting you with a consistent stream of enemies. It feels a little stale as a result, the arty theme doing little to halt the feeling that you've seen it all before.

It's nowhere near a disaster of course, and it's admirable that Boowie! The Strong Warrior tries to do something different.

Make it through the opening rounds and it blossoms into something a little more intrepid, but as a new page in the shoot-'em-up story, it's really only worth a passing glance.