Graceful Explosion Machine is a side scrolling Shoot em’ up by Vertex Pop done in a very minimalist style.
Story: Basically non-existent bar a few still images with no text, not important at all though.
Game play: Graceful Explosion Machine’s Stages place you in various caves which endlessly loop around while you shoot off hordes of waves, you are given 4 weapons to do this with:
Blaster: Your standard “Shoot in a straight line” Gun, the weakest weapon in your arsenal and will overheat from overuse, however it doesn’t use any energy to fire and takes little time to cool down to prevent its overheating. HOWEVER it also provides no style bonus.
Sword: The orbit-style weapon of the game, does fairly average damage for a small cost, each time you use it the sword-like projectile will orbit your ship twice, destroying any projectiles and damaging ships. This weapon has very limited use outside of its style bonus and has a blind zone right immediately next to your ship.
Sniper Beam: Can we just call this the laser? like seriously, my main issue with this weapon is its name, there’s nothing “Sniper”-y about this. After a short charge-up time it behaves like the blaster, it shoots in a straight line, stopping at the first enemy it runs into, the added benefit is it destroys enemies with shields, that’s about it. Its energy cost is a continuous drain of the meter once it reaches full power. Still had more use than the sword.
Missiles: Your Standard Run of the Mill homing projectile. This thing is A-Freaking-Mazing, like this was my main option to cleave through groups, maintain combo, literally anything that I didn’t need other weapons for … It has the highest damage of any weapon (besides laser on a shielded one) but has a high energy cost per salvo, you can also hold the button down for additional missiles. This thing was Stupid good
Dash: While not Technically a weapon, it is something at your disposal, at a button press you will move a set distance in a direction (seems to be left or right), during this dash you will move directly through enemies BUT projectiles will still hurt you. This has its own limit in which you can’t dash more than 2 times in quick succession without having to wait for it to recharge. It does have its uses and when used in conjunction with the sword but takes bit to get used to.
In general you will use these tools to fend off aforementioned waves of foes over 4 worlds each with 9 levels. Most of these are split into 3 smaller segments known as “Phases” which will represent a wave of units. At the end of each wave Minor changes to the environment may occur (segments of wall appearing or disappearing). However there is 1 stage per world that doesn’t follow these rules, that being the “Warp” stage, in which you will have to go through all of it in one wave, with area adjustments on the fly. The main goal being “Survive” and “Set a high score”. Completing every stage in a world will unlock its Challenge stages, consisting of a “Warp +” stage. A variation of the Warp stage with more enemies and several tougher enemies and the “Score Attack” Stage, where you will play all stages in which you can get a letter rank back to back. Dying in a normal stage will allow you to continue from the start of the current phase up to Twice, this will reset score to 0 though, Be wary when dying in a Warp or Challenge stage, you don’t get to continue there, its all or nothing.
Scoring: In a nutshell your main scoring methods is “Kill stuff” like most games but there’s some other things to note:
Style Bonus: This is awarded for each hit you score with weapons that are not the Blaster.
Combo/Score Multiplier: This for the most part increases by 0.1x per enemy killed in quick Succession and will drop if you take too long or get hit.
Perfect Phase: This is for completing a phase without dropping combo or getting hit once, these are essential for getting good scores and rankings
So in a nutshell to maximise scoring you’ll need to master using all 4 weapons to maintain combo maximise style bonus.
At the end of each stage you are also given a ranking based on your performance, showing your total score, and best chain (with some other numbers noting style bonus, kills, highest multiplier etc.) so far I’ve seen ranks between C+ – S+ (I consider myself half-decent at shmups), I don’t know how low the ranking can go but S is treated the highest for scores, If you want to get that Elusive S+ Rank you’ll need to perfect the stage from start to end.
Music: The music is just some generic ambience that fits the “looping endless caves” theme the game has. It’s nothing special or outstanding.
Overall Opinion: Graceful Explosion Machine is a great experience to play around with. Fluid and very precise controls. Interesting use of the Switch’s HD rumble Feature. Bright and standout colours. Definitely worth looking into, I fell in love with it when I saw its announcement trailer because I love shmups (I suck at a lot of the harder ones though *glares at Mushihimesama*). My main gripes were mainly with enemies deciding to snipe me just as I dashed, as dashing through projectiles still hurts you and with enemies spawning on top of me, which they do give warning about but when you’re in the middle of fighting through hordes of enemies. I spent a lot of time doing resets to get a decent score but that’s me when i do this sort of game too, getting hit early ruins my natural rhythm and leads to getting hit.
All in all, I would recommend this game if you’re a general shmup fan or looking into something new to try. As someone who main experience with shmups is Touhou I found Graceful Explosion Machine to be a fun and enjoyable experience. so if you like anime-style shmups like Touhou or space shooters like Gradius. This game may be right up your alley.