Graceful Explosion Machine (PlayStation 4) Review

By Drew Hurley 26.08.2017

Review for Graceful Explosion Machine on PlayStation 4

The Switch timed-exclusive is now making it to other platforms. Sony players, amongst others, get their hands on this stylish shmup. With Graceful Explosion Machine simplicity is key. While Vertexpop's previous title, We Are Doomed, delivered a Geometry Wars-style twin-stick shooting experience, this latest game instead harkens back to the classic Defender. Fly the titular Graceful Explosion Machine - a retro orange spaceship - through 36 scrolling 2D stages, split over four different worlds, and slaughter countless alien enemies along the way.

The comparisons to Defender are apt, from the core mechanics to the little elements like the familiar mini-map at the top of the screen. While these types of games usually focus on avoiding enemies, the key here is diving straight at them and the focus is clocking up the highest score possible. To do that, a score multiplier has to be utilised to the fullest, with each destroyed enemy increasing that multiplier by 0.1, hence the need to aggressively dive into the heart of enemies. Too long without a kill will restart that multiplier. These scores are used not just to get the coveted S+ rank on each world, but also to climb the online leaderboards and take on the unlockable challenges for each stage. There's even a way to play through entire worlds without a break between stages, allowing for some truly insane score combos.

The ship has four weapons at its disposal, and the standard blaster runs off the age-old shooter system of overheating. Holding that trigger too long and firing off too many shots leaves the machine having to rely on just its special weapons as the primary gun needs to cool down. Those special weapons run off a power gauge that is restored from the drops of destroyed enemies. There are only three special weapons but this ends up working well given the simplistic nature of the game.

Screenshot for Graceful Explosion Machine on PlayStation 4

The main cannon and each of the three specials are mapped to a face button and the triggers are used to either dash or rotate the ship. The dash can be used to dart in little bursts away from enemies and bullets, or even to dive straight through clusters without taking damage. The turn is a design choice that seems awkward at first, but once in the groove, it all comes together to feel very natural. The weapons help with this, each with very specific uses; the "Energy Sword" rotates a beam of light around the ship that destroys anything that gets too close, and it can even take out enemy bullets. The "Missiles" track enemies - kind of - so can be used for the smaller, speedier enemies, or in small spaces to bounce off scenery. Then there's the "Sniper Beam," a huge pulsing laser that can tear through even heaviest armoured enemies. Learning to utilise each weapon to its fullest, and each enemy's weakness, is key to success.

The simple geometric art style, paired with gorgeous vibrant pop colours, have been a signature part of developer Vertexpop's titles, having previously been seen in We Are Doomed and Orbit1. Here that style is paired up with some catchy synth tunes for a real retro experience.

Screenshot for Graceful Explosion Machine on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

There's just something about these types of games that make them intrinsically addictive. After playing Graceful Explosion Machine for long enough, and getting into the flow, the experience is fast, manic, and fluid - the sort of gameplay that harkens back to the pure and simplistic joy that was the core of arcade shooters of the '90s. That being said, the real draw of the game is the replayable rankings and leaderboards, and attempting to get those perfect runs on each stage. Without that, the game is a little short for the cost, with just over 2-3 hours of playtime to finish it off.


Vertex Pop


Vertex Pop





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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