Graceful Explosion Machine review (PS4)

Graceful Explosion Machine by Vertex Pop has launched on Steam and PS4 and it scratches that itch that Resogun fans might have to play something new. Here’s the review of the console version.

The classic 2D shooter is one of the oldest and most enduring genres out there. It’s also one that I keep coming back to. Partly due to the simple and intuitive nature of the gameplay, but also because a well-designed shooter is instantly playable and fun for a short burst of gameplay – no worries about the narrative, no 25 hour campaign that you don’t have time for… there are a lot of reasons to enjoy some good old arcade shooting, and Graceful Explosion Machine fits that formula very well.

It’s a space shooter where you face off against a seemingly endless fleet of alien ships – see, nothing too original in terms of the storyline there. Where Graceful Explosion Machine differentiates itself from other games in the genre is through its audiovisual delivery and its gameplay mechanics, though the changes there are mostly subtle and the game doesn’t stray too far from the genre’s conventions.

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Audiovisually speaking, Graceful Explosion Machine features a bright and colorful art style that evokes memories of 16 bit arcade shooters – especially the Japanese ones – despite its high definition visuals. It’s a bit like the difference between Rayman Legends and the very first Rayman title for the original Playstation – instantly recognizable, yet visually modern. The audio consists mainly of weapons fire, accompanied by a music score that seems inspired by the likes of Jean Michel Jarre, the French synthesizer maestro.

Gameplay-wise, you have access to a basic laser blaster as well as three ‘superweapons’ of various strength. You fire these by using up a certain portion of your energy meter, with the missile barrage taking up the most energy and the ‘sword’ weapon using up the least. Sitting in between is your sniper pulse, and different weapons are more effective against certain enemies. Take the fact that your main gun can also overheat into consideration, and you’re looking at a tactical approach to your shooting that will require you to settle into a certain rhythm if you are to keep yourself from being exposed and want to rack up multiplier bonuses.

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Much like Resogun and the arcade classic Defender, you’re able to fly in both directions as the level loops around on a 2D plane. There aren’t too many enemy types and levels available though, since Graceful Explosion Machine is relatively low on content. Instead, your long term fun will have to stem to the itch you might have to pursue higher and higher scores for previous levels – and stringing kills together by effectively using your different weapon systems is the key in doing this. It’s fun, but perhaps not everyone’s favorite way of enjoying a shooter since it requires extensive learning and practice if you really want to get to the top of the online leaderboards.

Graceful Explosion Machine is a fun little indie shoot ’em up that was clearly inspired by what came before, but manages to craft its own little niche in the genre. It’s light on content, but enjoyable and worth a purchase for shooter fans.

Score: 7.1/10

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