Review: Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle

Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle

Cost
$59.99
Format
Retail and Digital
Size
2.3 GB
Available On
Nintendo Switch
Release Date
08/29/2017
Developer
Ubisoft Paris
Publisher
Ubisoft
Modes
Single Player and Co-op mode

The story of Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle has been an interesting one to say the least. When leaks and rumors of leaks started about a half year ago, many Nintendo fans, myself included, were very skeptical. Ubisoft is making a Mario game? And it’s a Rabbids crossover? Even with the cynicism, I wanted to give the game a chance. Ubisoft has been one of my favorite developers over the past half-decade or so and I am always ready for a fun Mario spinoff if done right. However, as soon as the first images were released some of my initial pessimistic feelings on the project crept back into my mind. Rabid Peach taking a selfie in a Nintendo game just felt wrong. (Little would I know, Luigi would also be dabbing on the final release). But, once E3 2017 rolled around, my roller coaster feelings for Mario + Rabbids spiked up yet again when Miyamoto walked on that Ubisoft stage, Ubisoft man (Davide Soliani) started crying, and I first got a real look at the gameplay and world. I was sold from just a few moments of E3 gameplay; I believed the game would be good after all. Ubisoft and Nintendo seemed to collaborate on a cute, cool little game here—I was still underestimating it. During the worst years of the Wii U era, if you told me Nintendo and Ubisoft made a Mario Rabbids crossover, I absolutely would have expected it to be a failure. Now that this weird, goofy game is finally out; now that this crazy crossover that doesn’t seem like it should even exist is in my hands, I can undeniably say that Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is one of the most delightful surprises in recent gaming memory—it’s fantastic.

Mario + Rabbids is a turn-based tactical strategy game. The easiest thing to compare the gameplay too is the XCOM series. However, Mario + Rabbids is my first experience with this style of gameplay. At a glance, it looks complicating and a bit overwhelming, but after just a match or two, I was able to understand the concept and instantly fell in love. Mario and the gang take turns maneuvering through the map to tackle enemies, bounce off teammates, get to high grounds (which gives an advantage), and move behind cover to shoot enemies and hide from oncoming attacks. There is a beautiful strategy that takes place with complimenting the characters movements and schemes to take down the opponents perfectly. I found it incredibly satisfying when a plan came together. Each character plays a little differently, with different movement and jumping distances, unique weapons, and special abilities. For example, Mario can stomp on bad guys (as he’s been doing for 30+ years) and Rabid Peach has the talent of healing her teammates. Overall there is a deep complexity built into the DNA of the gameplay, yet it plays with brilliant simplicity.

The game also has RPG-esque elements with over 200 weapons to unlock and a skill tree for each character to develop. The new abilities and enhancements deepen the strategy of the game. For example, after unlocking the ability, Rabbid Luigi’s tackle can steal health from enemies (vamp) to give back to himself. The progression helps keep the game fresh. There are eight playable characters in the game. Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Yoshi; along with Rabid Mario, Rabid Luigi, Rabid Peach, and Rabid Yoshi. My one complaint would be that Mario always has to be in the crew. For the purpose of the story, I guess it makes sense that Mario always needs to be there. But I would have liked to play with an all Rabbid team or let Luigi take charge. P.S. Rabid Mario is one of my favorite designed characters in a long time; I can’t get enough of his smug self.

The morphed Rabbid enemy design is hilarious. The animation and expressions on these bad guys are priceless, and it’s just plain fun to take them down. There are many different types of Rabbids, all with different abilities. Hoppers can bounce around the map and use a helpful shield. Smashers don’t have guns. Instead, they bash with a huge melee attack. Supporters throw grenades and heal teammates. Peek-a-Boos can transport themselves long distances and have sniper-like abilities, etc.

While the majority of the missions are a blast, but the enjoyment comes screeching to a halt with escort missions that asked me to safely deliver Toad, Toadette, or Spawny across treacherous paths. Surprise! Escort missions aren’t fun. How would have thought? In the history of video games, I cannot recall a fun escort mission. The highlights of the game are the mid-bosses and final bosses of each world. They bring a unique challenge, and the character design again is top notch. I won’t spoil them, but Rabbid Kong from the trailers and promotional materials is just the tip of the iceberg.

There are four worlds to explore in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. As an expert Mushroom Kingdom explorer, that number is a bit disappointing. And traveling throughout these four worlds is not that fun. It’s a shame because the visual design is fantastic. It’s amusing to see the mushroom kingdom in crazy peril with insane Rabbid humor running amuck. But the exploration is bogged down with tedious time-consuming puzzles and a bit too much backtracking. There are secrets everywhere (which is a must for a Mario game) but finding those secrets isn’t that enjoyable. And with the exception of new weapons, the light at the end of those secret tunnels don’t seem worth the hassle.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle isn’t the most beautiful Mario game ever, but it’s still pleasurable to look at. Animations are fluid. Colors pop. The worlds are pretty. Mario and the normal Mushroom Kingdom crew look a little outdated like the models are from the GameCube era or from spin-offs like the Party series or Mario sports games. It feels like more time and effort went into the Rabbids design; they steal the show when they are on screen. The music, which is orchestrated by Grant Kirkhope, is marvelous. The tunes are catchy and fit the mood with perfection. Some songs are soft and sweet, humming in the background of the game and are not intrusive. Meanwhile, other pieces are boisterous, energetic and gave me an adrenaline rush as I shot crazy Rabbids into oblivion.

Mario + Rabbids is one of my favorite games on the Switch thus far. It’s encouraging that Nintendo allowed Ubisoft to play with its most important franchise and create such a great game. It might be missing out on that perfect polish that Nintendo is known for, but it does have a lot of that Nintendo magic.

PROS:
1) Simplistic gameplay with deep dna
2) Rabbids aren’t annoying
3) Loads of fun
4) Great soundtrack
5) The Mario mashup actually works

CONS:
1) Lacking some of that Nintendo polish
2) Walking around in the world isn’t enjoyable

8.6
Excellent

 

Review: Madden NFL 18

Madden NFL 2018
Cost
$59.99
Format
Retail and Digital
Size
36.52 GB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed], PS4
Release Date
Aug, 25, 2017
Developer
EA Tiburon
Publisher
EA
Modes
Single and Multi-Player

My new series is here!
I absolutely love reviewing games. So in an effort to switch it up and be able to cover more games than ever, I’ll be doing reviews in a short sweet 60 second fashion. I hope you all enjoy them! Give me feedback along the way! Thanks!

PROS:
1) Beautiful graphics
2) Smooth solid gameplay
3) Longshot Story Mode, solid start
4) MUT is addictive as ever

CONS:
1) Incredibly long load times
2) Longshot Story Mode, could be better

8.5
Excellent

 

Splatoon 2’s Salmon Run is the Most Fun Wave-Based Co-Op I’ve ever Played

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Bam Rants

 

Co-op in games has been a back and forth trend through video game’s young but beautiful history. In the arcades or on the NES we had plenty of games that took advantage of good old “player two.” Once three-dimensional games came into the picture, it seemed that co-op took a bit of a back seat to either single player epics or competitive multiplayer action. Who can forget the hours, nay days and months and years that many of us put into games like Mario Kart 64 and Golden Eye? Playing cooperatively in that era of gaming was slightly less popular than knocking your buddy out of first place with a blue shell.

Thankfully, like the ebb and flow of the tide, co-op games have found a nice place in modern gaming. One of the reasons to be thankful for that is the wave-based hoard style co-op games that have found their way into many shooters over the past decade. Although this feature was sprinkled into several games, it was arguably Gears of War’s “horde-mode” that helped popularize the game-mode. And soon after, games like Halo, Mass Effect, Killing Floor, and Call of Duty all adapted a similar style of wave-based co-op fun.

My own personal start to the wave-based subgenre was in Halo 3 ODST’s firefight. I wasn’t at the time the biggest Gears fan, but when Bungie gave its own spin on it, I was in. And wow was it fun! I was instantly hooked. My next step was backtracking to Call of Duty: World at War, and this is where my love for the Zombies mode took off like a forest fire. To this day it is my favorite of all the “horde” style modes. Now obviously each of these games has their own spin on the game mode. To directly compare Gears of War’s Horde mode to Zombies in Call of Duty isn’t really fair. It’s sorta an apple to oranges comparison, but apples and oranges are still both fruits after all. Just a few sentences ago I made a statement about my favorite “horde” style game—I may have to walk that back already. Because in actuality I’m finding out that there’s a new wave-based co-op game that might be taking the top spot. If it’s not my favorite, it is certainly the most fun. And fun is the bottom line for video games, isn’t it?

 

On April 12 (2017), in a Nintendo Direct dedicated to Splatoon 2, Nintendo announced a new mode coming to the inktastic multiplayer shooter. That mode is called “Salmon Run.” And while I was instantly intrigued by its announcement, I can say that now that I’ve put weeks into the game mode, my love for Salmon Run far outshines what I even imagined.

The original Splatoon for the Wii U was a surprising success and one of my personal favorite games on the failed console. So to see Splatoon 2 doing so well on the Switch, with a trajectory that looks to be the complete opposite of the Wii U, I can’t help but be happy for Nintendo. Splatoon 2’s regular online multiplayer is so enjoyable, and it’s one of the kings of the “one. more. game.” epidemic that many gamers deal with (me included). However the more I play this marvelous multiplayer, the more I realize something that shocks me. I think I like Salmon Run even better! As practically perfect that the inkredible gameplay is for multiplayer, it is somehow suited even better for Salmon Run. When I play Splatoon 2, I only want to do one thing, and that one thing is shooting the green guts out of Steel Eels, Stingers, and Scrappers!

 

Now that I got the confession out of the way that Salmon Run is my favorite thing in Splatoon 2, I want to talk about why and how it compares to other wave-based game modes in other games and why it’s the most fun.

Let’s start with the negatives. Obviously, Nintendo’s online infrastructure hinders the game. I’d love to be able to chat with friends as I do on my Xbox easily but it’s just not as simple. The smartphone app undoubtedly helps, but it doesn’t completely fix the problem either. But to be honest,  given the parameters and limitations of the Switch, Splaton 2 and Salmon Run couldn’t do it any better. The timed openings for Salmon Run is kinda weird. As previously stated the number one thing I want to do in Splatoon 2 is play Salmon Run. But I can’t. Salmon Run is only open at specific times every day. They are open for 12 or 24-hour windows from times like 8pm-8am est. It’s such an odd choice by Nintendo, I can’t grasp the reasoning behind it. The cool thing is that during that time-frame I can collect bonuses and work my way up to a higher pay-grade. And it makes it feel like a mini-event whenever Salmon Run is open for business. But the timing choice could have still been handled differently. Imagine if the bonuses were just time based, that every 24-hours they would reset, but Salmon Run was still always open. It would create a similar strategy as far as allowing players to work hard for a short period of time and gain some cool prizes.

Rewards include currency to be spent in the stores, tickets for multiplayer bonuses, gear, and more

 

However it’s not all negative, the fact that Salmon Run is only open for a specific time creates a sense of urgency that suits the style of the game mode really well. For that small period of time, I have to rush in there and play as many matches as I can to get my prizes, and that adds to the slimy, grimy almost shady and sinister feel of the game mode. Something’s going on with Mr. Grizz. I’m not sure if he eats all those golden eggs or if he sells them on the black market or what, but even when you receive your bonuses from the man…bear? statue guy? he laughs ominously which is creepy and confusing. The whole game mode fits this peculiar and bizarre feel in the best ways possible. While the regular game of Splatoon 2 is all bright, colorful, flashy, and fresh—Salmon Run is run down, kinda gross, and a bit grim. It just feels dirtier, but its appeal is still undeniable. While competing in Splatoon 2’s multiplayer my squid kid is playing and having fun. In Salmon Run, that same squid kid is going to work and risking his life! And Mr. Grizz honestly doesn’t care. He just wants more golden eggs! Also, the music is horrible. But amazing. It sounds like a seven-year old learning to play the violin, but it also is music to my ears. I don’t know how to explain it, it just AGAIN fits the feel and style of Salmon Run perfectly.

On top of having a somehow seductively foreboding flair, one of the best aspects of Salmon Run is the enemies’ diverse and delightful design. Salmonids are the standard enemy in Salmon Run, they come in all shapes and sizes and can easily switch from being cannon fodder to overwhelming and obnoxious. They look goofy and are just amusing to shoot. The bosses are where the real challenge is, and where Nintendo’s seemingly endless fountain of creativity is shown off. There are Steelheads that throw gigantic explosions out of their head. Flyfish levitate in the air and launch missiles from the sky.  The Maw swims under the ink and jumps out of the deep like a killer whale. The Drizzler jumps in the air and rains down ink from above. Each of these bosses is hilariously designed. Some of which seem to have dangerous natural abilities like the Maw. While others, like the Steel Eel, are simply robotic creations controlled by a tiny Salmonid driving it around like an oversized bicycle. Whenever a boss has been killed, it drops three golden eggs, and to win a wave, the team must collect the quota of golden eggs which can be anywhere from 7 to 15 or so.

Every boss also has to be taken down in different ways. This is another way that Salmon Run is unique when compared to many of the other wave-based co-op games. In something like Halo’s Firefight or Call of Duty’s Zombies, unloading bullets into the enemy until they are dead is the way to go. However, in Salmon Run, there’s much more strategy than that. Some bosses need to be shot in specific areas, like Steelheads explosive skull. The Scrapper needs to be disabled first before you shoot at his behind to splat him. The Maw can only be killed by throwing a grenade at the exact location it’s attempting to launch out of the ink to devour the inklings. All of this diversity in taking down the enemies creates a required knowledge and skill—it also makes the game incredibly frantic when there are half a dozen bosses attacking at once. One round of taking down baddies can go flawlessly, and the next can be a total bleep-storm of insanity. One minute I feel like me and my team have it down pact, and there’s no way we will lose. The next minute there’s two drizzlers raining down on us, a Stinger sniping from a distance, and Maws and Steelheads at every corner. As a team, if just one or two bosses is neglected suddenly it becomes a race to finish the round alive.

The layout of the levels change round by round as well, something else that most other wave-based games don’t do. In round one, the tide may be all the way down, and there are bosses coming from every corner. But in the very next round, the tide could be as high as it gets and there’s barely anywhere to move. On top of crazy bosses and changing tides, there are rare special rounds with new bosses and surprising changes that genuinely caught me off guard the first few dozen times I saw them. And in fact, even though I am a “profressional, which is the highest rank that I can tell, just two days ago saw one of these special rounds for the first time (and with updates Nintendo could possibly add more). When these special rounds start, the sun goes down, and the eerieness rises. Motherships come to steal the golden eggs. Grillers mow me down with difficult hit points and tiny salmonoids as henchmen. World War Z zombie like salmonoids rush at the inklings a billion miles per hour as we fight to survive. Some of these special rounds that randomly appear can be absolutely brutal, I think I’ve only won two mothership rounds out of a dozen, but it’s still so much fun.

The mixed bag of miscellaneous bosses, levels of tide, random special rounds, and multiple levels (with more rumored on the way) truly creates a feeling that each match of Salmon Run is fresh and unique. I never play multiple games in a row and feel like I’m doing the same thing over and over. There’s even a mix of four random weapons that each days’ run of Salmon Run gives the players, so it forces new strategies and game plans. If I play one round with a slosher I have to play the next round completely differently when I use a charger. Sometimes it makes the game much more difficult, but it’s never detracted from the satisfaction.

All of this forced variety abolishes boredom from the equation.

I mentioned earlier that each round there is a quota of power eggs to fill. This again is something that set’s Salmon Run apart from other games of its type. Usually, the goal is just to kill all the bad guys in the round and survive. But in Salmon Run, there is a specific timer and quota that must be filled. If the time runs out and that quota isn’t filled, we lose! This creates a different kind of tension and excitement. I can’t count the number of buzzer beaters I’ve witnessed and been a part of where I’m dodging ink rain from above, swimming past a dozen Salmonids and dumping the last golden egg in the basket with a second to spare. It’s exhilarating! There’s also been plenty of times where the opposite happens, where I’m inches away from the basket and time runs out!

One of the greatest design choices in the game is the fact that Salmon Run is only three rounds. Again, this is a distinctive feature compared to other wave-based co-op games. Most of them either have endless rounds or a very high benchmark for the goal. In Salmon Run, it is only three rounds. Only three rounds mean a match is done in less than 10 minutes. A 10-minute match of COD: Zombies or Gears’ Horde is a failure. Only three rounds mean that I get stuck in the aforementioned “one. more. game” mentality and I just can’t put the game down. Only three rounds mean I can mix it up with the standard multiplayer of Splatoon 2 and have fun doing different things; as opposed to dedicating my night to one or the other. Only three rounds mean if I had a rough match with a group of bad teammates or an unlucky roll of the dice of special rounds and bosses, I can jump into the next game instantly and not feel like I wasted half my night. And maybe most importantly, only three rounds means that I feel successful after a good match! In COD: Zombies when I finally die, I rarely have a sense of accomplishment. If I only could have lasted one round further! With just three rounds for Salmon Run, I can pump my fist of triumph as I know, I kicked some tail and did the job well. If I lose in those three rounds, I want to jump back in and try again. If I won in those three rounds, I think to myself, that was awesome let’s do it again.

Salmon Run is definitely a relative to Horde Mode and other wave-based co-op game modes out there. But it stands out with unmatched charm and distinctiveness. I’m not sure if other games should mirror what Salmon Run has done or if Nintendo just knows how to do its own thing in its own way. What I do know is that Salmon Run is a blast. It’s weird. It’s fun. It’s strange. It’s adrenaline-charged. And it’s just so Nintendo. I’m constantly amazed by the Big N in this regard. Nintendo gets blamed at times for being behind the times with features and functionalities. But when Nintendo finally decides to dip their toes into something that they haven’t done before, they always create something that is special and unlike its contemporaries. Splatoon is an example of this in shooters. Arms is a recent instance as well. Smash Bros. created a subgenre of fighter types. When Nintendo creates, they either pave the way with a fresh idea that no one saw coming (dual screens anyone?), or they follow up on an existing idea and create something entirely new and delightful. Salmon Run is the newest illustration of Nintendo’s genius. Yes, sometimes Nintendo makes me want to yank my hair out with utterly confusing ideas. But usually, they craft captivating creations that blow me away and keep me coming back for more.

Salmon Run is clearly the latter… just. one. more. run

 

 

If you’d like to watch a sixty second review of the full game, check out this video

Review: Ironcast

Ironcast
<
574 MB
Cost
$12.99
Format
Digital
Size
Available On
Switch [Reviewed], PC
Release Date
08/10/2017
Developer
Deadbit
Publisher
Ripstone
Modes
Single Player

Sixty Second Review

With SO many games out there we are introducing a new series of reviews! We will still do the old fashion reviews as well but if we think we can cram in all the info and create an enjoyable informative sixty second (give or take a few) video then we’re gonna do it!
– Enjoy!

PROS:
1) Deep strategic gameplay
2) Steampunk setting

CONS:
1) Outdated graphics
2) Deep learning curve

7.3
Good

 

Review: Overcooked: Special Edition

Overcooked: Special Edition
Cost
$19.99
Format
Digital
Size
748 MB
Available On
Nintendo Switch [Reviewed] Xbox ONE, PS4, PC
Release Date
7/27/2017
Developer
Ghost Town Games
Publisher
Team 17
Modes
Single and Multiplayer

Sixty Second Review

With SO many games out there we are introducing a new series of reviews! We will still do the old fashion reviews as well but if we think we can cram in all the info and create an enjoyable informative sixty second (give or take a few) video then we’re gonna do it!
– Enjoy!

PROS:
1) Simple yet brilliant gameplay
2) Some of the best co-op out there
3) Boiling over with charm

CONS:
1) Single player not quite as fun as MP
2) Touchy controls at times

8.5
Excellent

 

Review: Splatoon 2

Splatoon 2
Cost
$59.99
Format
Retail and Digital
Size
5.5 GB
Available On
Nintendo Switch
Release Date
7/21/2017
Developer
Nintendo
Publisher
Nintendo
Modes
Single and Multi-player

Sixty Second Review

With SO many games out there we are introducing a new series of reviews! We will still do the old fashion reviews as well but if we think we can cram in all the info and create an enjoyable informative sixty second (give or take a few) video then we’re gonna do it!
– Enjoy!

PROS:
1) Same inkredible gameplay from the original
2) Salmon Run
3) Bursting with charm
4) Just so fun

CONS:
1) Nintendo still behind on online MP features

8.9
Excellent

 

Review: Little Nightmares

Little Nightmares
Cost
$19.99
Format
Digital
Size
6.39 GB
Available On
Xbox ONE [Reviewed], PS4, PC
Release Date
04/27/17
Developer
Tarsier Studios
Publisher
Bandai Namco
Modes
Single Player

Sixty Second Review: (Sorta…. this game is too good, my video went a bit longer this time by a few seconds!)

With so many games out there we’re trying a new format for some games to try to cover a larger amount of content. Not all reviews will be done in this style–but if there’s a game we can cover in detail in a fun sixty second video then we will give it a shot!

PROS:
1) Incredible eerie tone
2) Beautiful art style and sound design
3) Smart level design

CONS:
1) Slightly clunky and imperfect controls

9.0
Phenomenal

 

Review: Arms

Arms
Cost
$59.99
Format
Retail and Digital
Size
2.2 GB
Available On
Nintendo Switch
Release Date
06/16/17
Developer
Nintendo
Publisher
Nintendo
Modes
Single Player, Local and Online Multiplayer

Sixty Second Review:

With so many games out there we’re trying a new format for some games to try to cover a larger amount of content. Not all reviews will be done in this style–but if there’s a game we can cover in detail in a fun sixty second video then we will give it a shot!

PROS:
1) Simple fun gameplay
2) Fun vast character design
3) Nintendo charm
4) Great online modes

CONS:
1) Poor single player
2) Simple random gameplay

7.8
Good

 

Review: NBA Playgrounds

NBA Playgrounds
Cost
$19.99
Format
Digital
Size
7.4 GB
Available On
Nintendo Switch [Reviewed], Xbox One, PS4
Release Date
03/09/17
Developer
Mad Dog Games
Publisher
Saber Interactive Inc
Modes
Single and Multi-player, Online and Couch

Sixty Second Review:

With so many games out there we’re trying a new format for some games to try to cover a larger amount of content. Not all reviews will be done in this style–but if there’s a game we can cover in detail in a fun sixty second video then we will give it a shot!

PROS:
1) Large cast of current NBA players and classic legends
2) Fun NBA Jam style gameplay

CONS:
1) Little depth and replayability
2) Unlocking players is a random chore

6.8
Average

 

Review: Graceful Explosion Machine

Graceful Explosion Machine
Cost
$11.99
Format
Digital
Size
295 MB
Available On
Switch (Timed Exclusive)
Release Date
04/06/2017
Developer
Vortex Pop
Publisher
Vortex Pop
Modes
Single Player, Online Leaderboards

Graceful Explosion Machine is a shoot ‘em up developed by Vertex Pop. It is a colorful, fast paced space shooter that tests the gamer’s skills, reflexes, and sometimes patience. The game, in general, is rather simplistic. It doesn’t have deep gameplay or a plethora of variety in-game modes—but its core-gameplay is pure fun. As the first “shmup” on the Switch and at a fairly low price-point, it is definitely worth your consideration, and it’s a great addition to the Switch library.

Graceful Explosion Machine’s gameplay is both simple and fresh. The shooting mechanics are smart and genuinely fun. Each of the four face buttons (a,b,x,y) control a different weapon. The standard blaster shoots out small bullets that are great for taking out weak enemies or spraying into a massive hoard. The sniper beam is perhaps the most satisfying to shoot, and creates a massive “Kamehameha” like blast that is essential for taking out the toughest bad guys. The energy sword is the most versatile weapon. When used it creates a quick barrier that circles around the ship. This also slices every enemy it touches as well as deflects incoming bullets. The missiles are the deadliest weapon, as it seeks out and hits enemies all over the screen. The standard blaster runs on a cooldown; if shot too much it will overheat. Meanwhile, the remaining three weapons run on energy that can be collected by picking up yellow orbs that each enemy drops. There is also a boost that allows for quick dodges in and out of trouble by flying through the enemies without taking damage. However, a bullet will still kill. At first, all of this is rather overwhelming, but the initial world is easy enough that I was able to pick up the skill and improve rather quickly. By the second world, the game gets very intense, and the battles are just plain fun. The dance of cycling through different weapons, boosting out of trouble, picking up orbs, and blasting through enemies is very rewarding. On a pure gameplay perspective, Graceful Explosion Machine is smooth, responsive and refined. Rarely did I feel like my death was my own cause, instead it feels like every moment I am in total control and my deaths come from a split second poor decision or a bad move.

In true SHMUP form, the game also runs on a high score and online leaderboard system that adds to the entertainment. The added pressure of trying to keep a combo going only amplifies the fast-paced, frantic action. There are four worlds, and at the end of each world, there is a warp level. These levels have no check points. Normal levels work on a three phase system; each phase saves your progress. But the warp levels are much more challenging and stressful. I would have liked a boss at the end of each world, some massive creative alien monster that is stimulating and different. It’s a bit disappointing that the climax of each world is just a level that is slightly more difficult than an average level and that’s it. Once the world is beaten, a score attack version opens up in that world that gives a bit of a different feel. There’s also a warp + level that is an even more challenging version of the warp levels. All in all the gameplay is so much fun; I just wish there was another game mode or two that changed things up a bit.
The enemy diversity is another strong point. Very quickly I learned all the different enemies and how they attack in diverse ways. Finding out the best way to take them down plays out like a puzzle. Meanwhile, when the screen is filled with hundreds of enemies the challenge of taking down each diverse enemy strategically and ruthlessly with the different weapons is satisfying.

The graphics are good, but not overly special. They don’t have the same “pop” that a game like Geometry Wars has or the same polish and gorgeousness of Rezogun. However, the simplistic art style is very appealing. Enemies stand out and don’t seem to get lost which can sometimes be a problem in this genre of games. Explosions look fantastic. And no matter how insane the action got, I never had a framerate issue or hiccup in any way, and that is impressive. The music is rather dull and not memorable, it’s one area I would have liked to see an improvement in. But the sound effects are great. The “HD” rumble features were bragged about by the developer, but I personally didn’t feel a difference between this and any other “rumble” in any other controller.

Overall Vortex Pop has a fun game on its hands. Graceful Explosion Machine has very satisfying fast paced gameplay that is a great mix of challenging and fun. It doesn’t have difficulty that seems unfair or over the top. But it gets more challenging by each level, and it paces itself in a way that by the third world the difficulty seems insane yet totally doable and incredibly gratifying. Graceful Explosion Machine is simplistically pretty and satisfying to the eye. It’s not deep when it comes to modes or replayability and the music is dull. But the second to second gameplay trumps all and it’s a game I recommend if you like frantic fast paced fun.

PROS:
1) Fantastic Fluid Gameplay
2) Simple pretty art-style
3) No frame-rate issues

CONS:
1) Little varity in game modes
2) Bland music

7.3
Good