The Switch has only been out for a month so far, and while the initial notion was that it would solely be a Zelda machine, that notion seems to be making its way out of the thoughts of many gamers. With Snipperclips being a number one best-seller on the Nintendo eShop, and a number of indie titles that have gotten a lot of praise, including Snake Pass and Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, the Switch has gained quite a library for fans of indie and niche gamers everywhere. Enter Graceful Explosion Machine.
Game Name: Graceful Explosion Machine
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Vertex Pop
Developer: Vertex Pop
Release Date: April 6, 2017
Game Download Size: 295MB
Control Schema: Handheld Mode; Tabletop Mode/TV mode with either Joy-Con grip or Pro Controller
Graceful Explosion Machine is an arcade shooter in the vein of Fantasy Zone or Defender, where the objective is to clear the level by defeating all of the enemies that are thrown at you as you pilot the GEM fighter (their words, not mine.) You’ll traverse over 30 beautifully designed levels distributed over 4 worlds, each more difficult than the next.
Graceful Explosion Machine is extremely simple in terms of mechanics. Each stage is split into three phases. The object of each phase is to eliminate the threat in each phase to move on to the next, in each of the 9 stages in each of the 4 worlds. Each attack is tied to a specific button, such as your regular pulse fire being tied to B, your energy sword tied to Y, missiles tied to X and your sniper beam tied to A. Each of these weapons has a special ability tied to them, which can aid you in getting through certain levels. For example, the energy sword goes around the GEM Fighter and eats any energy attacks sent your way, while the sniper beam does extra damage when focused on a single enemy. The GEM fighter can also dash by using the R/ZR buttons and alternate shooting directions by using the L/ZL buttons. While this sounds simple, it can get very complex.
The Heads Up Display (HUD,) while minimalist, tells you a lot about what is going on. In the middle of the HUD is your Power Meter. This meter shows how much energy you have to use the sniper beam, missiles, and energy sword. Once the Power Meter depletes, you can only use your blaster, however, that’s tied to its own individual meter, which only shows up when your ship is about to overheat. In addition, you only get two dashes every 5 seconds, so meter management, much like in fighting games, becomes a necessity. You’ll need to make very quick decisions about approaching different situations because if you get into a sticky situation without your resources, you could lose that sweet point multiplier you’ve been working for. The good thing is, with effective management, as well as a sense of spatial awareness, you should be able to keep your meters in good enough shape.
Speaking of the multiplier, you get 10 points for every enemy you defeat. Just to the right of the score display in the upper right corner, there is a multiplier that starts at 1.0x and goes up as you take out more enemies. The higher the multiplier, the more points you get, however, you’ll constantly have to be attacking and eliminating enemies. Once you get hit or stop attacking enemies for a short time (dependent on your multiplier,) the multiplier resets back to 1.0x. This is where getting into swarms comes in handy, as well as a high reaction time, as not to take a hit and ruin all of that hard work getting a 20x multiplier. In addition, you can save your scores for each level, as well as a score attack mode that opens up after beating the first Warp level, adding a competitive edge to the gameplay, as well a considerable amount of replay value.
As for the aesthetics of the game, the level design is very polygonal, yet simplistic in its beauty. There isn’t much to talk about, however, one thing players will take note of, and this is something I certainly noticed, are the color choices. The color choices are some of the most unique that I have seen. The first world has very bright and vibrant pinks and violets, while another can have earthy blues and teals. It’s never jarring, but the beauty is definitely something to behold. The music and the sounds are very synthpop, yet low-key and easy to vibe to. It never feels intrusive, and it adds to the experience of playing the game.
All in all, I found myself playing Graceful Explosion Machine a lot more lately than I have been playing Breath of the Wild, and that, in my mind, says a lot to what Graceful Explosion Machine has to offer.
*Graceful Explosion Machine was purchased off of the Nintendo Switch eShop by the reviewer for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
All in all, Graceful Explosion Machine does what it advertises, offers a fun arcade shooter experience, with a significant amount of replay value after you finish your first go round with the game. The vibrant colors and the background music, along with the simplistic yet deep controls, make for a fun experience on and off the road. Graceful Explosion Machine is definitely a must have for your Nintendo Switch.