Arcade shooters are a dime a dozen, and Sony is no stranger to the genre with titles like Resogun or Super Stardust leading the charge. Aside from things like graphical changes or perspective, the concept is usually the same. Vertex Pop is a local Canadian developer (shout out!) who’s game is distinctive and fun, full of color, and hard to complete. I’m also really burnt out on games that ask me for long term commitments when at my age, that really isn’t an option anymore.’
Firstly, Graceful Explosion Machine is visually a treat to look at. Gone are dreary, realistic sci-fi assets, replaced by color! The enemies themselves are cartoonish; the visuals easily harken back to the gummi ships of the Kingdom Hearts series. The more I played, the more of a connection I found myself enjoying blasting away at enemies.
I died in the tutorial stages because I didn’t approach the game with any level of caution, a mistake I would make over and over during my playthrough. Combat is much deeper than I thought it would be, at the beginning of the game you are given your main weapons including an energy sword, your energy blaster, a sniper gun, and missiles. The main component is managing your energy between your weapons, your main blaster being the exception, all other weapons require you to manage your energy output, otherwise, your weapons will overheat and leave you in trouble against your enemies.
Enemy types are varied, and there are just enough to keep things interesting. Some weapons work much better against enemies, for example, swarms are weak against the energy sword, missiles deplete your energy and leave you defenseless. You will need to manage these aspects of your survival.
Each weapon class has its specialty as well, my personal favorite, the Sniper gun, breaks through shields, breaks through shields, which allows you to go on the offenses, many times this weapon followed by a missile barrage would save me from complete annihilation. With the energy blaster, you can continually shoot at enemies until your gun needs to cool down, however, you can collect power-ups that boost your cooldown period by destroying enemies.
Across four different planets, you must tackle nine individual stages, each stage has three waves of enemies to annihilate, which can quickly overwhelm you if you aren’t careful. Once you complete a level, you’re given a score with S being the best rank you can achieve. Controlling your ship is easy and responsive, often dodging enemy fire requires some patience but quickly becomes second nature with the sheer ease of the controls. The layouts of each world and the ability to maneuver your ship by flipping sides creates a certain rhythm and flow to the gameplay, creating scenarios that allow you to outsmart the enemy.
Graceful Explosion Machine is an intense, and addictive experience that doesn’t hold your hand. You will face an onslaught of enemies and they will not go easy on you. The vibrant colors provide a simple but entertaining experience that leaves you wanting more. I’d recommend this to those not looking for anything long term or without a heavy story to focus on, instead, Graceful Explosion Machine is a fantastic romp through space that engages you with its solid mechanics and tight controls.