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Hands On Preview: Explodemon!

Jem Vs. Explodemon.

This article was written by industry stalwart Jem Alexander, who graciously popped in to Curve Studios at our request and promptly ate all their biscuits.

To us Explodemon may look like a Saturday morning cartoonist was asked to redesign Mega Man, but to the people of his planet he’s seen as a dangerous menace; a volatile pest who has a tendency to do more harm than good. That may explain why he’s been kept in stasis, out of trouble, until an alien invasion shakes him from his slumber and his delusional tale of heroics-cum-redemption begins.

Explodemon! is 2D platforming with an explosive twist. While it’s easy to draw the obvious comparisons to Twisted Pixel’s Splosionman, the similarities stop at the main character’s ability to periodically explode. While Splosionman tasked players with navigating a tightly designed puzzle, Explodemon! is much more akin to 80s platformers like Sonic and Mario.

The levels start off simple enough, but after having had a sneak peek at some of the labyrinthine later stages, it’s easy to see that Explodemon! has a large emphasis on exploring these vast, twisty environments looking for the almost intimidating number of pickups hidden throughout. The developers wanted to fill the game with as many collectibles as possibly without overwhelming the player. It’s a fine line, but one that they seem to have tread carefully. Completionists will have hours of exploring every nook and cranny of each level for every coin, power up and explodicon, while those more interested in speed running levels can blitz through the main path, shaving off seconds from their last time with pixel perfect precision in their explosions.

I’ve already mentioned Mega Man; just one of many games (and probably the most obvious) from which the developers at Curve have drawn inspiration. These nods to classic games are obvious when you start playing the game. From the character and level design to the dialogue – one NPC requests that you clear their apartment of some rat-sized aliens – Explodemon! is a clear homage to any number of fantasy RPGs made in the last 30 years.

The narrative also borrows from Japanese culture, with Explodemon himself speaking in badly translated Japanese (known as Engrish), which makes for some genuinely funny dialogue. Especially when coupled with his delusions of heroism and civilians’ distrust of him. Thankfully, between the beautifully illustrated comic-style cutscenes and the in-game NPC banter, there’s plenty of this dialogue to experience.

The level design isn’t the only thing which gets more complicated as the game progresses. New game mechanics are promised to be introduced throughout, such as the ability to control the trajectory of nearby objects before you explode (think Super Guide in Peggle), and opening doors to all sorts of puzzle based gameplay including throwing keys into locks in order to access hidden collectibles. Some of these will only work if you complete the puzzle perfectly on your first attempt, requiring you to return to the level later to try again. This is just one example of how Curve invites you back to levels, along with completing each stage under a par time and returning with new abilities gained later in order to access new areas, Metroid style. See? Yet another classic game comparison.

Explodemon’s rival, Absorbemon, will show up every so often to block your path for a while. These boss battles feel very Mega Man-esque and will even result in you receiving a new ability. These are handed out every two levels, in order to keep things fresh. You can also upgrade your skills between levels using currency as well as by finding hidden power ups.

Curve reckons it’ll take you around ten hours to get everything from the game, and they’re already making plans for DLC. The game is designed so that you’re coming more to grips with Explodemon’s powers as you progress, such as learning the intricacies of the combat and platforming – exploding nearer an enemy will deal more damage and the sooner you explode after having jumped, the further you will fly.

Explodemon! has been a long time coming, but from what I’ve seen it will be worth the wait. There’s a lot of game here for a downloadable title, especially for completionists. The explosion mechanics give a unique, modern twist to a game otherwise steeped in old school imagery. Judging how the first planet-and-a-bit progresses, I can’t wait to discover how large and mazy the later levels become when the game releases on PSN later this month.

  1. Forrest_01
    Since: Jun 2009

    I played this at the MCM Expo in London & can safely say that it is awesome. Everything said above is pretty spot on & i too can’t wait until it’s released. It’s brilliant.

    Comment posted on 12/01/2011 at 16:13.
  2. l C0D3 M0NK3Y l
    Since: Dec 2010

    OK, so he looks like a bad knock-off of Iron Man to me… is that intentional?

    Comment posted on 12/01/2011 at 16:19.
    • kevatron400
      Drake, baby.
      Since: Dec 2008

      I thought that straight away, especially in the arms. Wasn’t there an exploding-based XBLA game a while ago? Is it anything like that?

      Comment posted on 12/01/2011 at 16:23.
      • Forrest_01
        Since: Jun 2009

        You are thinking of ‘splosion man – It’s even mentioned in the article, but this game is more than that, as it’s a whole different level of addictivenness!

        Comment posted on 12/01/2011 at 16:30.
      • kevatron400
        Drake, baby.
        Since: Dec 2008

        Oh yeah I see now. I only skim read because I’m at work at they’d slap my wrists if they saw me reading it.

        Comment posted on 12/01/2011 at 18:09.
      • Forrest_01
        Since: Jun 2009

        I am actually the same, but i am a bit sneaky about it – I generally copy the text out into a word doc or something so that it looks like i am reading through a work document! That way i can read at my leisure & come back & comment a bit later in the day! :)

        Comment posted on 12/01/2011 at 18:42.
    • Serebii.Net
      Since: Apr 2010

      I was wondering why he looked familiar, but I couldn’t work out why.. Thank you xD

      Comment posted on 12/01/2011 at 16:32.
    • moshi
      Since: Jun 2009

      And a bit of Viewtiful Joe in the mix visual wise.

      Comment posted on 12/01/2011 at 18:57.
  3. cc_star
    Team TSA: Writer
    Since: Forever

    Hey its Jem!

    Really looking forward to this game, can’t wait in fact.

    Comment posted on 12/01/2011 at 16:24.
  4. cam_manutd
    Since: May 2010

    At first I thought it was Pokemon rip off :P

    Sounds good though :)

    Comment posted on 13/01/2011 at 12:32.