Game On

If you miss the games of yesteryear, with their simplicity and easily enjoyable fun, you’re not the only one. More and more titles being released are trying to harken back to the “godfathers” of that bygone era (think Mario and Zelda). The latest to dabble in nostalgia is Graceful Explosion Machine. With a fitting juxtaposition for a title, this space-shooter hits all its targets.

Right from the start, you know Graceful Explosion Machine isn’t going to be a game that takes itself too seriously. Humorous cartoon illustrations on what look like flashcards are used to tell the story of a battle in space, leading up to where you begin playing. Once you start, you’re in control of a small spaceship in a side-scrolling presentation similar to classic sci-fi arcade games. Enemies in other ships and alien-type baddies eventually come at you from both sides, as you are allowed to go back and forth instead of being forced right, like other side-scrolling games. The colors are bright and the ships look more like fish floating around in a tank. But it’s all cool because Graceful Explosion Machine is actually fun. Of course, there are small annoyances ‑ dying and having to start over from the beginning after being hit only three times and being given three lives to start with can really test your patience ‑ but nothing that will make you chuck the controller.

And while it may seem like a child’s game at times, there is in fact an element of strategy that goes into Graceful Explosion Machine. Various weapons, like the Sword (a 360-degree magna force that surrounds you) or Sniper Beam (name says it all), help you get out of tight binds. Be careful how much you use them, though; there is a power meter that will deplete to nothing if you use your arsenal too much, rendering you defenseless, so you need to pick your spots. You can go haywire if you want and blow everything up at once, but if you want to advance to the next planet on the map, it’s not a smart idea. And just like the power meter, there is an enemy meter that lets you know how many more targets you have to take care of before you can move on.

Graceful Explosion Machine is a joy. It isn’t for everybody, and that’s just fine. It offers an alternative for anyone tired of the over-dramatic and gloomy shooter games that litter the shelves. Bright, cheerful and full of exuberant energy, Graceful Explosion Machine is worth a shot.

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