Great games usually have great names too, right?  Well, if we had to review Graceful Explosion Machine simply based on its name, it would be a 10.  It’s fun, whimsical, and perfectly matches the game.

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Graceful Explosion Machine (GEM), at its core, is a side-scrolling shoot ‘em up.  Most games in this genre have an auto-scrolling nature and only scroll the level in one direction: left to right or bottom to top.  GEM tweaks that formula a bit and allows players to fly their spaceship in any direction.  Enemies appear in various clusters or attached to the walls and it’s up to the player to blast all of them to complete each phase.  The game is broken up into 4 planets with about 8 levels in each and 3 phases to each level.  There’s a decent amount of content and the enemy variety stays pretty fresh throughout.

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Thankfully, the game has a nice set of weapons and a good combo system to really make the gameplay interesting for long play sessions.  Destroying enemies in quick succession without getting hit will build up your combo and add to your damage as you go.  Enemies will also drop yellow objects that are used to replenish your special weapons.  Each weapon has a unique trait.  The first is your basic blaster.  It’s good at rapid-fire but if you use it too much, it’ll overheat.  Next, you have the Energy Sword, which spins around you in a circle destroying enemies from all angles.  Then we have the Sniper Beam which, when players hold down the button, fires a continuous beam at the enemy for a large amount of damage.  And finally, we have the missiles which fire in all directions and can also be aimed in a specific direction by using the analog stick while firing.  All of the weapons besides the basic blaster use the yellow energy that is found when destroying enemies.  A strategy I employed was to use my special weapons until the meter was just depleted, and then switch back to my regular blaster.  Toggling between these made sure I didn’t overheat my blaster and also not run out of energy for my special weapons.  It may sound a bit complicated but it’s really easy to get used to and the game does a good job with its tutorial levels.  The gameplay in GEM shines bright, but the colors and visuals shine just as bright if not brighter.

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The visuals and presentation in Graceful Explosion Machine are top-notch.  The visuals are all very simplistic but very stylized.  Everything has a flat, vector look to it that makes it look like some classic shoot ‘em ups, while also having a modern aesthetic.  The game is really fast-paced and the animations and explosions in the game really add to the satisfaction of blasting enemies in each level.  The music in the game matches the style perfectly.  Very airy electronic music mixed with some post-apocalyptic vibes makes the game both relaxing and exciting.  It would’ve been fun to have some multiplayer and/or 2-player co-op but it’s a nice experience solo.

Graceful Explosion Machine is a great change of pace from something like Breath of the Wild.  If you’re looking for some old-school shoot ‘em up gameplay, this is one of the best I’ve played.  The game has an amazing style, great performance, and great weapon variety.  At $12.99, it packs a lot of value as well.