Review: Graceful Explosion Machine
Graceful Explosion Machine is a Shoot ‘em up, in which you pilot a small spacecraft in very colorful levels. The game has been developed by Vertex Pop and has recently been released on the Nintendo Switch. With the current sparcity of games on the Nintendo Eshop, many Switch owners are eager for some new content. Find out here if Graceful Explosion Machine will be enough to fulfill your needs for the time being.
About the game
The game mostly focuses on its gameplay rather than on a story. Its main objective is to complete all the levels, which are spanned across 4 different planets. Each of these planets has its own theme, which contributes to the nice looking and colorful aesthetic of the game. With it, it seems to find itself at home on a Nintendo Platform and the game runs with a smooth framerate of 60fps on both the docked and undocked configurations of the Switch. This performance is greatly appreciated, especially since many games on the Switch have yet to live up to technical standards expected by the community.
Let’s go over the basics first. You control a spaceship which is swarmed by enemies that you will have to shoot down using your weapons. If an enemy touches you or hits you with a projectile, you will lose health and you can get hit up to three times before you die. Each level consists of 3 phases, which also function as checkpoints. Advancing to the next phase mixes up the enemies and also morphs the map slightly. This means that you need to adapt to every single phase accordingly.
There are some very interesting levels out there and some for example throw in moving laser hazards. Nearly every single level will loop around once you hit its edge so for example; going to the right will eventually return you to the point where you started. This unfortunately results in most levels feeling indistinguishable from one another, since the simple changes in map layout they have between them will result in more or less the same gameplay.
In terms of weapons, you have four of them available in your arsenal. You activate these with the face buttons. You a have main attack called the Blaster, which will shoot a very simple horizontal laser. If you use it for too long though, it will overheat.
However, you can then still use three more weapons, the Energy Sword, the Sniper Beam and the Missiles. Their usage is limited by a separate energy meter and you will need to collect crystals, dropped by the enemies you destroy, to refill it. This means that you have to use your Blaster to keep your energy up, while using the 3 special attacks to make sure you can clear out foes without overheating your Blaster. The arsenal of weapons and the resource management that come with it is probably the game’s biggest strength. They are fun to use and give the game a decent amount of depth that can result in some very tense situations.
The enemies in this game are quite varied. There are some that will simply follow you, others that will try to shoot you down and some more that will pose as hazards on the map. While the enemy variety is good in this game, they unfortunately change up the gameplay very little. Your routine of avoiding enemies and shooting them will stay more or less identical. Since you fight against so many enemies at once, any new type of foe will just be another drop in ocean.
Our biggest critique point of the game however would be its movement system. The general controls are the movement with the left stick, turning your ship around with the left trigger and dodging with the right trigger. Unfortunately, the movement with the left stick is digital rather than analogue. That means, moving your stick slightly results in the same speed of the spacecraft as moving it fully. Fine tuning your position is made near impossible due to this and is a somewhat of a disappointment for a game where a slight displacement could mean hitting an enemy and getting hurt.
Then there is the dodging. It in principle works really great, you can use it to pass enemies unscathed and also cancel it mid-movement, but it only allows you to do so horizontally. This limits your strategic options and can put you in some very tight situations, which can end up being very frustrating.
Let’s analyze the value of the game now and compare it to our recently reviewed Mr. Shifty, which we gave a value of 10 dollars. Graceful Explosion Machine beats Mr. Shifty’s playtime with 5 hours compared to 3 hours. However when it comes to gameplay, Mr. Shifty outshines its contender but loses out on replayability. All in all, while Mr. Shifty is a better game in our eyes, Graceful Explosion Machine edges out Mr. Shifty in terms of value with 12 dollars.
In conclusion, the game has a very colorful and nice looking aesthetic and boasts great technical performance. The core of the gameplay is potentially fun and well executed, yet the repetitive levels and issues with the movement greatly hamper the potential of the game. The level structure of the game makes it be best enjoyed in shorter bursts of play, possibly on a commute or during a break. We give the game a score of 70. If you are the type of person who likes shoot ‘em ups and are looking for some games to play on your Switch, go for it.
(out of 100)
While the game could have done a better job with its gameplay, it is very colorful, charming and an overall polished experience. If you are the type of person who likes shoot ‘em ups and are looking for some games to play on your Switch, go for it.
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