Graceful Explosion Machine review
A reinvigorated callback to arcade cabinets long past.
Steam is to arcade-style games what a can is for beans: a means of comfortable housing and easy access. Independent developers have taken to this idea over the years and the genre is now full to the brim; Vertex Pop’s side-scrolling space shoot-’em-up, Graceful Explosion Machine, is one of the better titles to enter the fray, bringing a wonderfully authentic arcade cabinet experience onto the home computer for all to enjoy.
The game sends players into the titular Graceful Explosion Machine, which they must pilot through the galaxy in order to find their way home, battling through a bountiful, extremely unique selection of enemies — from basic swarms of tiny buggers to laser-eyed balls of fury — while also trying to achieve the highest possible score. It’s clear that Vertex Pop put a lot of attention into the game’s flow, ensuring that players can’t just fly about recklessly and hope for the best: it forces them to feel the different phases of each level as they pan out, to eliminate certain groups of enemies before the next ones spawn and switch rapidly between the ship’s weapons to fit the ever-changing landscape of the game’s combat.
The Graceful Explosion Machine comes outfitted with 4 diverse and adaptable weapons: a light sword that rotates 360 degrees to destroy nearby enemies, a basic machine gun that overheats with extended use (read: often), a beam-like sniper rifle, and homing missiles. All of these weapons — excluding the machine gun — use an energy bar that refills from gold pickups that are dropped by dead enemies. This bar empties extremely quickly with prolonged usage, so players must always be on their toes and moving whilst keeping an eye on the energy bar. The Machine is also equipped with a dash mechanic, allowing for two rapid leaps forward before it needs to recharge, which is typically enough to get players out of a dire situation.
Graceful Explosion Machine has a very capturing allure about it that is held up by its fun visuals and boppy soundtrack. With that being said, players can choose to forego the soundtrack and start a game while listening to anything from Carpenter Brut’s discography, which really lends itself to exploding pixels.
Although Graceful Explosion Machine is very tightly knit, high-octane, and an absolute blast, it doesn’t offer much outside of an arcade experience; it offers only four worlds with nine levels each, as well as an unlockable challenge mode which is a bit of a disappointment The game entices players with casual challenge and certified fun but not much else.
Graceful Explosion Machine is a lot of fun. It is reminiscent of ages long past of arcade cabinets and feverish high scores, bringing players that dizzying feeling of being on top of the leaderboards; unfortunately, it’s a little meaningless given that there is no competition. Come for the side-scrolling shooter combat, stay for the adrenaline rush.
Graceful Explosion Machine was reviewed using a game code provided to us by Vertex Pop.