Graceful Explosion Machine is a side-scrolling shoot-em-up with a great soundtrack and lovely visuals. The game has a good balance of weapons to play with throughout its surprisingly high difficulty. Unfortunately the level design leaves something to be desired. It provides some good challenge to work against but doesn’t hold much longevity.
You control a spaceship as you shoot and dodge your way around looping levels. You can fly throughout the stage horizontally and can flip your ship left and right to attack in both directions. Each stage will spawn more and more enemies until you shoot enough of them. Apart from your standard gun, you get a circular, close range slash attack, a large beam cannon, and a missile spray to play with. Each attack will use up energy that can be picked up off defeated foes. There is a real zen moment you will find yourself in when your firepower, traversal - everything just clicks that makes this game a lot of fun to play through.
The presentation of this game is the standout feature. The visuals are bright and colorful. This 2D design really makes the color pop and the explosions and rainbow effects you can achieve only add to it. For example, getting a high enough score multiplier will create a trail of different colored clones behind you. Playing well rewards the player with even better visuals. As well, the music in the menus and each different world is great and makes tackling a stage repeatedly much less grinding. This game has a great aesthetic and that is present from the start.
One small downside to the visuals is that some of the enemies can get lost amongst the colorful chaos. There are times when there is so much going on that some of the smaller/quicker enemies can seem to slip by and hit you. Despite not happening regularly, you can only take three hits before defeat so each health block is precious. Its an uncommon occurrence but one that popped up enough for me to be annoyed.
The biggest issue in this game is the level design throughout each world. Each planet you unlock has a different color and introduces additional enemies. However, from level to level the stages are all extremely similar. You fly through cavernous like tubes every time. Almost every single stage is like this and the game rarely introduces goals separate from “destroy every enemy”. No bosses to fight or different objectives to achieve. This makes the game feel one note. If replaying the same mission over and over for a better ranking/leaderboard placement isn’t your thing then this game won’t last you too long.
My time with Graceful Explosion Machine was fun but short-lived. The recurring level structure makes it hard to play for too long. Luckily the visuals and great music help entice the player to see what comes next. If only there were a bit more variety to the game it could have vastly improved the experience.