Graceful Explosion Machine is an aesthetically pleasing arcade shooter available on the Nintendo Switch eShop from Vortex Pop. On the surface it’s an incredibly simple game. You get through levels by blasting away at everything on screen until you dwindle the number of enemies down to zero, choosing between a limited arsenal of weapons. Within the first thirty minutes you will have seen most of what the game has to offer, but the excitement comes from mastering which weapons to use against which enemies and honing your reflexes to make it to the end of the level with the highest score possible.
After the initial hour or so Graceful Explosion Machine may start to feel a little dull. The levels are split up across four worlds, each with eight levels, which in turn feature three stages. The worlds and levels for the most part look the same. The world’s change the background color and some of the “landscape” of the level. The biggest changes to the levels that you play through are when the stages change. These change up the obstacles and enemies that appear in the level. A large rock that you used to have to maneuver around may disappear, or a large open space may be obstructed. Having to adapt to these changes once you’ve started getting the hang of a specific layout is where the game gets tricky.
The intensity of getting rushed by waves of enemies, only to find the safe corner of the map you were retreating to in the previous stage is now blocked off or surrounded by enemies is where the game really shines. The gameplay is simple but maneuvering your ship and knowing which attacks work best for certain enemies is what makes the game fun.
As previously mentioned Graceful Explosion Machine is a delight on the senses. The colorful environments and enemy models make you forget that you’re playing a white-knuckle shoot-em-up, and the game’s audio will lull you into a false sense of calm. The game also makes good use of the Switch’s HD rumble so the entire game is a sensory experience.
About halfway through I fell into a bit of a lull with the game, getting a tad bored with the lack of progression. You get all your weapons within the first thirty minutes of the game and there are no power-ups. After struggling with whether or not I wanted to continue playing I found myself still attached to the game. I’m glad that I stuck with it, as the sense of progression comes not from the game, but from your ability to string together high combos and narrowly avoiding enemies.
The addiction of the game also comes from scores and chaining together combos of attacks to raise your score multiplayer. Your score goes by varying what weapons you use on enemies and making sure you’re consecutively hitting enemies with your attacks while also dodging the enemy’s attacks. If you get hit or if you go too long without hitting an enemy your score multiplier resets. The better combos you get and the less hits you take are factored into your final score which also receives a letter grade. High score chasers will see this game eating up plenty of their time.
That being said if you’re not one to chase after high scores, there isn’t much to be done with Graceful Explosion Machine after you’ve completed every level. It takes around ten hours to make it to the end, and the difficulty curve is perfect. You’re going to get frustrated, but because you know you can do better which makes all the difference. While I’m not sure how much time I will spend with the speed run and high score bonus modes that are available in the game, I definitely enjoyed the time that I had with Graceful Explosion Machine.