Now that the Nintendo Switch has been out for a month and everyone has either conquered or decided to live in Hyrule, this is the time for the system to start finding an identity outside of the launch title. It'll have some chances once the next Mario Kart game rolls around, but like a lot of Nintendo consoles, the third-party titles are going to be the ones that either elevate it or tank it. Today we're looking at one of the many that are on the way with Vertex Pop's space shooter, Graceful Explosion Machine.
The game puts you inside a small fighter ship that is brutally attacked by a hoard of enemies. Seeking shelter and resources, you make your way to a chain of planets with that appears to be the eventual goal of driving the enemies back and reclaiming your small piece of the galaxy they've come to invade. You start off on what is essentially the tutorial planet and make your way up as you figure out all the weapons and options your tiny little ship has to offer.
One of the key things that separate Graceful Explosion Machine from other shooters is that while your weapons are slowly revealed to you at the start, you keep them as you go and aren't totally dependent on specialty items being dropped along the way. You rely on a power bar that's fueled by crystals dropped by the enemies you kill, so you can't just spam a weapon until stuff died, you need to be smart and calculated about how it comes into play. The ship has maneuvering capabilities that will allow you to switch directions you're firing in, as well as dash past the enemies you encounter to avoid damage. However, there's no shielding or allies to come to your defense.
The enemies vary in type, size, and pattern. Some will follow you around until they can hit you, others will stay stationary blocking your path, and others will follow a specific area trying to reach you as you pass by. You'll have opportunities to collectively kill everything at once or dash away and try picking them off one at at time. The strategy is yours to choose. The one drawback is that you only have three hits per ship and only three lives. I've played through a couple planets and unless I'm missing something, there's no way to increase your lives or recover your health, which adds to the danger and strategy but can also kill off your progress through a level very quickly.
The graphics and the music fit well with the style and give you a sense of thrill as you makes your way from planet to planet. The designs change up as you go, and every level is designed to be a single repeating band. Which means you'll keep traveling around in a circle until you defeat everything on the board at that moment. The only weird part about it is that while on a level, once you beat an enemy, the design will change in front of you. It's a cool transitional moment, but it also makes me feel like they compacted their design strategy in front of you. Cool, but weird.
Graceful Explosion Machine is a fine space shooter that handles well and is a nice throwback to arcade-style shooters. There's no lack of control or issues when dealing with enemies, everything plays like a well-oiled machine. It has great replay value and isn't too short to make you feel frustrated. The only real issue I had was with the health, but that just means you need to get good. An awesome game for the price on a system made for this to work, I highly recommend snagging it if you're looking for a change of pace on the Switch.