Title: Graceful Explosion Machine
Available On: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows
Developer: Vertex Pop
Publisher: Vertex Pop
Genre: 2-D, Side-scrolling shoot ’em up
Official Site: Graceful Explosion Machine
Release Date: April 6, 2017
Where To Buy: PlayStation Store, Steam, Nintendo eShop, Windows Store
These days I feel like the only games I spend money on are 50 to 100 hour RPGs that promise giant open worlds with endless gameplay. And as awesome as those can be, the fact that I have so many of them in my backlog is frankly overwhelming. So when I have the opportunity to play something that promises a shorter, simpler experience I jump at it. This is the case with the side-scrolling shoot ’em up from Vertex Pop, Graceful Explosion Machine. Titles like Resogun have shown that the PlayStation 4 can be a fertile ground for small games like this. That being said, there are a lot of indie games on the system and for one to stand out and receive praise it has to reach a pretty high standard. So it was with tempered expectations that I began my playthrough of Graceful Explosion Machine.
As soon as I started playing Graceful Explosion Machine I noticed the quality of the game’s presentation. It is impossible to ignore. The art style used by the developers is simply striking with crisp and vivid colors bombarding you from the outset. This game is a lot of fun just to look at in motion, and even when I was frantically zipping around trying desperately not to die I couldn’t help but appreciate the scenery. The ship and enemy models are simplistic, but beautiful with clean lines and primary colors. The soundtrack in the game is also very well done, with various the synth tracks lining up well the game’s action and the sound effects stay fun and interesting.
The combat in Graceful Explosion Machine is surprisingly deep. Starting with the tutorial levels, you are given various weapon types to juggle. These weapons require energy which in typical fashion you gain from defeating enemies. Your main weapon is a simple blaster that doesn’t rely on energy but can overheat with continued use. This system of energy and heat management requires some active thought, keeping combat interesting by keeping you on your toes. You will find yourself flying through stages using all sorts of combinations of weapons and occasionally be on edge as you are momentarily unable to fight back against your enemies due to a poor use of your resources.
In addition, the different weapons are more effective against certain enemy types and in certain situations. This variety of gameplay keeps combat from getting stale. With you deciding at any given time whether to use your sniper, sword, missiles, or blaster. You will also find your ship to be incredibly agile. With the ability to flip, spin, and with a limited use escape boost. This is very useful considering the game’s unique level layout. Rather than just moving left-to-right the stages loop around on themselves. To proceed to the next area you must destroy all the enemies in a given area first. This can be quite challenging to accomplish as the number of enemies you are dealing with can quickly become overwhelming if you are not careful.
Although it can be a challenge, throughout the game’s various levels the difficulty never reached a level that I found to be impossible, and going back and trying to set new high scores in previous stages was a lot of fun. Like with most games of this genre as you progress you will find yourself improving and if you decide to go back and improve your score on previous levels you could find them a lot easier. That being said other than trying to improve your score there is little reason to replay levels. This game could have benefited greatly from some sort of unlockables system. And with the small number of worlds offered by the game, your time with Graceful Explosion Machine will probably be short. I myself only spent a couple of days with it, but it was still worth my time and I am definitely looking forward to whatever Vertex Pop decides to do next.
Verdict: Vertex Pop has created a really fun experience with Graceful Explosion Machine. The art direction is unique and beautiful. The controls are tight and responsive. There is enough variety in the stages and enemies to get things from getting boring. The only real problem with the game is that it is a little bit on the short side, and you will find yourself finishing it more quickly than you would expect. I would happily recommend Graceful Explosion Machine to fans of side-scrolling shoot ’em ups and anyone looking for a worthwhile experience that is not hard on your wallet.
- Beautiful art direction
- Tight and responsive controls
- Variety in content to get this from getting boring
- Small number of levels