By Marisa Alexander / September 7th, 2017
|Title||Graceful Explosion Machine|
|Release Date||April 06, 2017|
|Genre||Shoot ’em up|
|Platform||PC, Switch, PS4|
In a galaxy far, far away, an alien armada decimates an entire space colony. None survived the attack—except for one lonely ship. Without anywhere to go, the pilot searches four different planets in order to find a way back home. However, the aliens are around every corner, waiting to strike. This is the premise behind the entirety of Graceful Explosion Machine. You control the GEM fighter, equipped with four powerful weapons. Across the four planets, you must find four warp crystals to get back home. Without outside assistance, will you be able to survive the trials ahead?
The game starts off simple, with two tutorials demonstrating everything you need to know. Your four weapons are as follows: blaster, energy sword, sniper beam, and missiles. The blaster is your standard weapon, firing directly in front of you and can overheat. The energy sword is a close-range 360-degree attack that can destroy projectiles. The sniper beam fires a straight beam, which has the most range. Lastly, the missiles are the most powerful, being able to clear an entire group of enemies swiftly. All but the blaster requires energy to use, with missiles consuming the most. Energy is recharged by the crystals enemies drop, or over time if your energy is low enough. If surrounded, you are also able to dash through enemies but not projectiles.
Inside every level, there is a vast alien armada ready for battle. You have the standard enemies that can be taken out with one shot using the blaster. Then, you have enemies that stick to the environment and fire four shots. There are turrets that can shoot from afar and have a shield that can regenerate after being damaged. As such, your sniper beam works wonders for them as it destroys shields easily. Snake-like aliens can also appear, and missiles are the best option for them. Due to the variety of enemies, each weapon has its uses, no matter how specific.
With that said, there is still some discrepancy in regards to weapon utility. The energy sword’s hitbox is deceptive. At best, it will hit seven enemies instead of cleanly sweeping up all the weak enemies. The sniper beam can only hit one target at a time and takes a brief moment to kill one weak enemy. This issue forces the sniper beam’s specialty to be taking out any enemy with shields. The biggest offender, however, are the missiles. The missiles can shoot all around the player and destroy groups of enemies easily. The energy cost is hardly an issue due to the amount of crystals dropped. Missiles can easily be spammed to the point they are the best method to score points. Even without energy, dashing and using the blaster is more than sufficient to keep a combo up until your energy reserves recharge.
The game’s difficulty is overall comfortable throughout most of the adventure. While the game escalates in difficulty, it rarely became frustrating. Even the challenge levels unlocked after fully completing a planet aren’t exceedingly challenging. There are very few levels that demand very fine precision or overwhelm the player with enemies. The game’s difficulty curve is very smooth and provides a calming experience. As such, the game makes for a great stress reliever.
For presentation, the game sports a relaxing aesthetic. While planet themes consist of one primary color, the myriad of shades, geometry, and enemy explosions makes the game a delight visually. Enemies and projectiles also are normally easy to see even if they are the same color as the planet. Sometimes, projectiles or enemies can blend into the environment, but this is a rare issue. Otherwise, they are noticeably brighter than everything else on the screen. The sound design is alright. While explosions or weapon effects lack any crunch or spark, the soft sound effects do cater to the relaxing atmosphere. The music is incredibly peaceful as well, fitting with the motif of space exploration.
Overall, Graceful Explosion Machine is a great shooter to relax to. While it’s hardly exciting to get higher scores, the game’s comfortable difficulty is its greatest strength. With forty levels in total across a four-hour adventure, the thirteen dollar price tag is more than worth it. For some, it might be boring due to a lack of difficulty. Not every game needs to be highly challenging though. Many times, it is good to just sit back and enjoy the explosions. The explosions in the game, after all, are graceful at their core.
Review Copy provided by the publisher.
Graceful Explosion MachinePCPS4Shoot 'em upSwitchVertex Pop