When I first saw Vertex Pop’s Graceful Explosion Machine, I didn’t know what to think as all I saw were cute but funky shapes taking on more shapes. But after sitting down and playing it, it’s a deceptively simple but also complex shoot-em up that reminded me of a few retro titles from back in the day. If you’re a fan of such games or if you’re just looking for something different and fun to play, you’ll want to check out this “GEM” of a game.
There’s not much of a story, but from what I can tell by the cute and simple cutscene pictures, some baddies are attacking your world and it’s up to you as a spaceship to fight back. The wonderfully simple tutorial eases you in gently as you learn to navigate your ship, flip it to face left or right with one button, dash through enemies with another, and gradually pick and learn new attacks using your other face buttons. For example there’s the tried-and-true rapid fire attack that overheats if you use it too much, a 360-sword attack that’s perfect for when you’re swarmed by little bad guys, and a sniper-like beam that’s slow but powerful just to name a few. As you destroy enemies, they’ll drop energy pellets you’ll need to keep some of your weapons charged and at the ready. Once you’re comfortable with the controls and attacks, you’re off to save the universe as you take on multiple stages set across multiple planets while racking up points to share via online leaderboards.
While all of this sounds simple (and for the most part it is), things can quickly get complicated as swarm after swarm of enemies take over the screen as you scramble to maneuver, shoot left and right, and micro-manage your weapon’s cooldowns and energy meters. Throw in a small life meter and only two lives to go through per level before having to start over adds only more stressful fun. I love how the game’s graphics are deceptively cute and simple, consisting of geometric shapes that come in sharp and clean no matter which platform you’re playing it on. The sounds are also on point with perfect zaps and explosions booming against a catchy soundtrack as you blast your way to victory. I know I’m revealing my geek side here, but I noticed that one of the sound effects used is the original Ghostbusters proton-pack sound from the movie and animated 80’s series.
Graceful Explosion Machine is a fun time for all who play, as it pulls you in with its deceptive simpleness and easy to learn but hard to master mechanics alongside it’s cute look and awesome sounds. But once you get into the swing of things, you quickly realize it’s not as simple as it seems, but you’ll find yourself smiling all the way as you blast your way through this shoot-em up gem. (See what I did there and earlier? Graceful Explosion Machine = GEM. I know, awesome right?)