Graceful Explosion Machine is great. That’s all you really need to know. If you want to read all the reasons why I think it’s great I’ll gladly appreciate that, but I don’t want you miss the core point of this review. Graceful Explosion Machine is a must-have for all Nintendo Switch owners.

Graceful Explosion Machine is a colorful, button mashing shmup (shoot-em up) currently available on the Nintendo Switch eShop for $13.99.  I personally have always been a massive fan of the shoot-em up style of games whether it be more action styled twin-stick shooters or more arcady button mashing classic shooters, I have always enjoyed a good chaotic run and gun. Honestly, whether it’s Super Time Force, Geometry Wars, Dead Nation, Helldivers, Super Stardust, Nano Assault, Hyperlight EX, Gradius, or the still incredible as it was on day one… Resogun, every good video game system needs a good shmup and Graceful Explosion Machine doesn’t disappoint.

Presentation

Graceful Explosion Machine presents itself very well. It’s a simple design, full of minimalistic shapes and textures with smooth lines and bold outlines. The simplistic approach does give way to an impressive color palette and some wonderful 70’s “groovy” shadows. The use of simple shapes with multiple layers of colors that contrast with one-another is a perfect recipe for the chaotic gameplay that ensues. In my experiences with other similar games, especially those with a darker color scheme,  it can be difficult to keep up with you character’s position in the mess unraveling on screen. I never experienced losing my position on during the most intense battles with Graceful Explosion Machine, something that I definitely attribute to the brightly colored, high contrasting art style.

The soundtrack plays in the backround with Graceful Explosion Machine, it doesn’t deter the experience at all but it also doesn’t leave a lasting impression. The sound effects from blasters, missiles and explosions are the highlight of the sound design as they provide both great feedback and satisfaction to the player. Speaking of feedback, Graceful Explosion Machine is the first Nintendo Switch game not named 1-2 Switch that supports HD Rumble. Joycons (or pro controller) vibrates differently depending on what weapon is being used and what enemy you’re destroying and the entire contoller vibrates somewhat violently when you run out of power. It never feels gimmicky and fits right in with how it should feel – That is to say you’ll never notice it enough and it adds to the immersion of the gameplay.

Gameplay

Any good shooter comes down to mechanics & gameplay. Doesn’t matter how pretty it looks, the most simple shooter can be a blast if the gameplay hook is addictive and Graceful Explosion Machine lives up to even lofty expectations. Let’s begin with weapons which you control the following by using the four right face buttons – A blaster (B), missiles (X), a 360 laser sword (Y), and a sniper beam cannon (A). Each of these attacks are limited by a power guage and must be managed during your firefights. Each weapon provides a different capability – the trusty blaster is your go to get it done weapon, the sword attack provides some backup when enemies invade your personal space, missiles provide some much needed fire power at the cost of extra power expeneded and the beam cannon provides a strong ranged attack. And YES, as you’re probably already guessing, there are plenty of different types of enemies that each require to use a different attack to take them out most efficiently. The result is a good old chaotic button-mashing anxiety inducing fun experience.

What would a shmup be without score chasing?! Well as you should expect Graceful Explosion Machine comes packing that too. Not only do you accurrate and efficient attacks chain together to increase your score and push you up the online leaderboards, but each of the over 30 stages also grades you throughout the campaign based on your performance. I can’t even begin to explain the amount of levels I replayed because I wasn’t satisfied with my D+ or C letter grade. It’s a good enough recipe to make me keep pressing the ‘play again’ button when I failed and made for all around addictive gameplay loop; Graceful Explosion Machine is definitely a great “play while you watch TV” option.

My only fault with the gameplay is that I wish you didn’t have to change your direction by pressing the ZL button. I can understand that adding the additional button command aids the chaotic and skillful gameplay, but even after 10 hours with the game I still find myself messing it up as it just doesn’t feel intuitive. I think it would be greatly enchanced if your direction was simply tied to which way you pressed the left thumbstick, a la a Resogun style of movement.

Value

Honestly the best thing Graceful Explosion Machine has going for it is a) it’s only $13 and b) the limited Nintendo Switch library. Even with that said, its a pretty easy sell. Graceful Explosion Machine sounds good, plays even better than it sounds, and costs one-fifth what most games on Nintendo Switch costs. There’s over 30+ levels to complete on your first play through, beating each world unlocks a challenge menu, and even then there’s a ton of replay value considering the leader boards and grades to achieve. From a value perspective the only thing I can think of that’s missing is a coop / multiplayer mode but at only $13 even that feels greedy. This is honestly one game I’m happy is a timed exclusive as players on all consoles should be able to enjoy this great indie title.

Conclusion

A great video game that delivers on style and gameplay, has broad appeal, and it’s available at a great price – What more do you want? These types of games are perfect for portable, on the go play sessions and it looks wonderful on the big screen TV as well. If you have a Nintendo Switch, buy this game. If you don’t have a Switch, put it on your wishlist for when it arrives on a console near you.

 

Graceful Explosion Machine was purchased and reviewed by the author on a Nintendo Switch console. You can read additional information about PSVG’s  review policy on our disclaimer page here.