Graceful Explosion Machine - PS4 Review

Graceful Explosion Machine is a bright, colorful and quirky shooter with some interesting visuals that back up some pretty solid shooting gameplay. Having already been released on the Switch several months ago, Graceful Explosion Machine makes its way to the PlayStation 4 where it fills the screen with some pretty crazy action.

Full pun intended here, but Graceful Explosion Machine gets off to an explosive start. Blowing things up is a blast, and some serious kudos need to go out to the visual designer here. At first glance, I really did not know what to make of the big, bright design, but I found it immediately appealing. There's some crazy use of geometric shapes, and the colors look like they were pulled from pieces of construction paper I played with as a kid. Heck, most of the designs, including that of the ship are simple enough that a child could have designed them, but there's an undeniable charm that comes from all of it that makes this one of the most unique and eye-pleasing shooters I have played in some time.

The actual gameplay is focused almost exclusively on horizontal scrolling as you blast away at enemies using one of four weapon types. Whether using a typical rapid fire blaster, or a more powerful precision laser or a melee-like laser sword or homing missiles, you pretty much have a weapon for just about every situation that comes up. However, there is an aspect of resource management here that can make Graceful Explosion Machine a bit more challenging, as you collect yellow gems dropped by enemies to power up the latter three weapons, while even your primary blaster has an element of moderation to it as you can overheat it. Thankfully a couple of other abilities give you something of a defensive edge as you can flip either way and a dash move for when you really need to haul tail out of a tight situation.

If that sounds like a lot to take in... well, it is. And I think one area where Graceful Explosion Machine could have improved would have been starting the earlier stages with simpler situations and giving you these upgrades throughout the total game. While the overall mechanics are fun, there is a lack of progression or development to the game's core mechanics, which means you are pretty much doing the exact same thing near the end of the game that you were in the beginning. Thankfully the action is fun and the stages are generally well-designed, but enemy AI doesn't seem very complicated and the lack of evolving mechanics was a bit of a bummer.

Like most shooters, Graceful Explosion Machine can be a bit of a tough one too. It is primarily a 'high score' game, which gets reset quickly enough when your game ends, but you will die a great deal and restart at the beginning of stages a lot. Stages are long and lack adequate checkpoints for most modern gamers I suspect, especially in the warp stages that can at times feel like they are going on forever. Again, these are not entirely new sensibilities - in fact there were times Graceful Explosion Machine made me recall the shooters of old in how its difficulty scales and continuation works. As an old-timer gamer, I could appreciate that, but I suspect most people will be repeating phases once their three lives run out quite a bit. However, it is worth noting that the environment is far more forgiving in this title than it is in many shooters, which penalize you for tapping the floor or ceilings. Once I realized that, the game felt a lot more forgiving.

By and large, Graceful Explosion Machine succeeds due to satisfactory core mechanics and a fantastic visual style that help to elevate it past a few quibbles about how the gameplay itself really does not develop along the way. Sure, it is not the most memorable game out there - unfortunately the shoot-'em-up genre seldom makes the same impact on the general public that epic titles like a Dragon Age might, but if you want to turn off your brain and fine tune your reflexes for a bit, Graceful Explosion Machine is a pretty solid way to go.

Game Information

PlayStation 4
Vertex Pop
Vertex Pop
Single Player
Other Platform(s):

Provided by Publisher

Article by Nick


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