Graceful Explosion Machine is a 2d arcade shoot-em-up developed by Vertex Pop. You are a ship fighting off aliens in tight spaces with various weapons as you try to find your way back home.
This is where I usually go deeper into story, but there really isn't one in the game. The lack of a story does not hamper this review though. So let's get into the rest of it.
I haven't played a lot of games in this genre, but I can say that this is definitely one of the best ones I have played. I loved almost every aspect of the gameplay as well as the mechanics of the game. The gameplay is fast and fun without being too hectic, the controls felt tight and were easy to pick back up after periods of not playing the game, the level structure is compact but with an endless loop and the adding or removing of parts of the level to keep you right in the action, and the game was challenging without being difficult. But their is still so much more about this game that makes it so great.
In the game, their are four worlds, with nine levels in each. Each world also offers a challenge mode, which consists of a score attack mode and a challenge version of the last level. Going with the main part of the game first, I found the the thirty-six levels a lot of fun. For starters, the tutorial was fast yet informative. It only took up two of the thirty-six, but still taught me everything I needed to know. Like I said earlier, the levels are tight, with parts adding or subtracting to add or detract difficulty, looping to bring you right back to the action, and filled with enemies. All of the missions except for the final levels of each world consists of surviving three waves of enemies. The last mission is killing enemies until a meter fills up. I didn't feel that the gameplay or the levels had diversity between each world, and they started to get repetitive. It was jump from one action-packed level to the next killing every alien you see. Even when the game threw curveballs at you like adding moving lasers or new blocks of the level, it still didn't differentiate the levels that much. But what did have a lot of variety were the enemies. New enemies were put into the levels at a good pace and each offered something new to worry about. They offered a good challenge and made you change up how you play.
On the other hand, challenge mode was weaker in my opinion. In the challenge mode, their are two things you can do: a 'harder' version of the final level of each world, and a score attack mode that takes you threw each level in one sitting and trying to do it in the fastest time possible. The only change I noticed between the normal final level and the challenge final level is that the challenge one doesn't give you extra lives. The only thing is that the normal mode also doesn't give you extra lives when you die despite showing that you have extra lives. So in other words, their is no noticeable difference between the two. The other one was the score attack mode. While I think it is a good concept, I found the mixture of a long playthrough of the game with the fast-paced action to not combine well. With faster-paced games like this one or others like Devil Daggers, I find myself playing less of those games compared to slower games because they are more taxing on my attention span for the game. So the game trying to make me play a bunch of levels in one sitting was not fun to me.
Going back to the gameplay aspect, I found the game to be well balanced. On one hand, the enemies could be considered really easy, with simple attacks and slow movement. On the other hand, you can only shoot in one direction:left or right. It was these balances that made the game challenging, but a sort of challenging that was fun and drew you back into the game. The weapons in the game were also another highlight. Their are four weapons: a normal blaster, a sword that circles around the ship, a sniper beam, and guided missiles. While I certainly loved some weapons more than others, I still enjoyed the fact that they were unique from each other as well as each had their own unique trait. The blaster wasn't tied to the limited ammo system the rest of the weapons were and instead had an overheating system, the sword destroyed bullets, the sniper beam was the only weapon in my opinion that worked against really high health enemies, and the missiles were guided and were able to bounce off walls. It were these traits that made sure I wasn't just hogging one weapon and not ever using the other.
One thing that my previous Switch review didn't have was a leader board, and man is this game the opposite. Their is a leader board on every single level, and each one asks if you want to or not. I was surprisingly happy to see that their is a leader board in the game because of the previous game. Also, any scores you didn't submit can be submitted all at once from the main menu, for those playing offline. This made submitting so much easier.
Some final notes I want to add are about dying in the game and some things missing from the game that I felt should be there. Their are few shooting games where I feel that none of my deaths were bs, and this is one of them. I felt every time I lose health or lose a life was fair and I hardly found myself ever blaming the enemy for my death. For me, I feel that this aspect is under-appreciated, and only having myself to blame made the experience better for me. On the other hand, I believe that the game was missing some game modes that should have replaced the challenge modes. I felt that instead of those challenge modes, their should have been an endless mode and a local play mode. The game reminds me a bit of Geometry Wars, and I thought that an endless similar to that would have been perfect for the game. Also, the controls for the Switch would work fine with only one joycon, and because of that I think this game would benefit with local play. Having you and a friend work cooperatively to stay alive while competing for a high score would be a lot of fun.
The verdict: Graceful Explosion Machine is an incredibly fun arcade shooter with fast and well balanced action, a good amount of levels, and a lot of good mechanics. But not everything in this game is fantastic, and I felt that the repetivity, poor challenge mode, and lack of endless or local play hindered my experience with the game. But all things aside, I believe that this is a great game to pick up and play for those looking to rack up points in an arcade game or those looking for fast-paced gameplay.