Graceful Explosion Machine is a fun 2D shoot-em-up from indie developer Vertex Pop. It keeps the old formulas intact while also making the genre feel fresh again.
With slightly obvious inspiration from other classics in the genre like Resogun and Geomerty Wars, Graceful Explosion Machine still manages to shine. The controls are simple. The level design is simple. The graphics are simple. Fried chicken is also simple, but that doesn’t stop it from being oh-so good. The same can be said for Graceful Explosion Machine. It is simply good.
Similar to Resogun, levels wrap around themselves, so going in one direction doesn’t mean you’re going to miss out on any of the enemies. This works well because you will be overrun rather quickly. Unlike other games in the genre, the player will only take control of one ship. This one ship, however, is well equipped to take down anything that stands (or flies) in its way. In addition to the game’s standard blaster, there are 3 unique weapons that are powered by pick-ups left behind by destroyed enemies. The game does a really good job of making each one feel unique, and each has its own level of effectiveness against certain enemies and situations. Using each of them effectively will not only make each level a breeze, but will also help with increasing your high score.
Each weapon comes with strengths and weaknesses. The energy sword delivers a 360-degree attack around the ship, destroying both attackers and oncoming missiles. It is good to use when the player is overwhelmed by swarms of weak opponents, but doesn’t do much against the stronger ones. The sniper beam shoots a far-reaching, high damage beam in a concentrated area, but causes your movement speed to drastically decrease. The auto-targeting missiles use the most energy, but shoots bursts of missiles destroying anything and everything.
The game pulls you in quickly and doesn’t let go. There are 4 worlds with 8 or 9 levels in each, and it does a good job of introducing new enemies with interesting attacks along the way. With such good mechanics and interesting weapons, it’s a real shame that there are no bosses to battle at the end of the worlds. Using all of the different weapons could have made for really interesting boss fights. Regardless, the various enemy appearances, strengths, attacks, movement speeds, or lack thereof, offer enough to keep the game exciting throughout.
The sound design holds its own with the amazing gameplay. The music is catchy, and fits with the overall tone. The sound of that energy sword is truly majestic, and the orchestra of explosions is both a visual and aural delight. The art style is simple without looking like another retro, pixelated game from the 80’s. Even though the levels could use a bit more diversity, with most just looking like the same textures at slightly different color variations, they still stand out in a positive way amongst most of the other games in the genre.
The addictive gameplay, and top-notch polish make Graceful Explosion Machine a fun experience to be had. The Nintendo Switch gets the upper hand with the game making great use of the HD Rumble. Overall, Graceful Explosion Machine is a solid 8 out of 10.
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Here is the Graceful Explosion Machine Gameplay Montage Trailer:
Graceful Explosion Machine is available on PS4, Nintendo Switch and Steam.