Clocking in at a little over three hours and with no story or plot, Graceful Explosion Machine gives you one objective: chain kills together to get the highest score possible.
Your dinky ship has four weapons which can be used to destroy the enemies but three of them require energy to use, and the other, a standard blaster, overheats if used too much. Each weapon is mapped to one of the buttons on the controller, R1 is the dash and L1 flips your ship so it is facing the opposite direction on the screen.
In terms of mechanics, that’s pretty much it. Scroll through the small levels, barely a two screens across, and kill all the enemies. If this sounds familiar then it is, Graceful Explosion Machine is very much in the vein of the arcade classic Defender, albeit with cuter, chunkier graphics. The big difference is that rather than having one fixed laser you have four weapons, each of which must be used tactically to beat the game.
The standard blaster is perfect for picking of the weaker, smaller enemies, who in turn drop crystals which power your bigger guns. The Energy Sword swishes twice around your ship and also destroys bullets so also acts as a very temporary shield, whilst the Sniper Beam fires a huge laser right across the screen and does a lot of damage if aimed at a single enemy. Rounding off your arsenal are missiles, which can be either targeted at an enemy using a rather fiddly method or fired as homing missiles.
If you are chasing high scores then there are leaderboards and challenge levels to unlock, although you do have to press a button to manually upload your high scores which seems a little archaic. The graphics are bright and functional, and the music burbles away pleasantly in the background and there are no technical issues, and other than adding the odd new enemy now and then meaning you need to learn the attack patterns, the difficultly level is consistent.
If this was the only sideways scrolling, Defender-esque shooter on PlayStation I would be more enthusiastic but we already have Resogun and in comparison to the Housemarque game Graceful Explosion Machine is rather simple and even more forgettable. All four weapons are earned within a couple of levels and there is no difference between the four worlds the levels are set on other than the colour of the background. The enemies themselves are simple geometric shapes with no personality, the weapons are generic, the levels are tiny you’d need a keen eye to tell any difference between them, and the music is totally inoffensive.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Graceful Explosion Machine, and if you enjoy chasing high scores then it will provide you with a decent challenge. For the the rest of us, it’s a dinky little shooter that you can complete in a couple of hours and will forget about in half that time.
Version Tested: PlayStation 4