Graceful Explosion Machine

Evoking memories of games such as Galaga, Defender, Geometry Wars and Resogun; Graceful Explosion Machine is Vertex Pop’s welcome take on the side-scrolling arcade shooter.

You play at the controls of a cutesy spaceship, tasked with having to take down a variety of vivid extraterrestrial baddies — each with their own unique patterns and movements. To do this, you’re quickly given an arsenal of four unique weapons and set on your way.

Here’s what you’re given to dish out damage: a go-to basic blaster, a handy rotating energy beam, clunky lock-on missiles, and a powerful, broad sniper shot.

Beyond some quick manoeuvring abilities, you don’t get any extra tools or upgrades as you journey through the games 36 vibrant stages.

Due to this limited ability/weapon set, getting to grips with Graceful Explosion Machine is remarkably straightforward. Within the opening few minutes you’re introduced to all of the main mechanics that this bright and colourful 2D shooter has to offer.

This straightforwardness seems very deliberate. You can quickly get familiar with what’s required of you, and effortlessly jump into the action. After playing a few tutorial levels you’ll be plowing through levels with confidence, racking up points and dispatching enemies with finesse.

Levels are set across four worlds, each with their own minor, subtle differences. Each shiny level sees you take on three waves of numerous foes (most of which are easy-to-kill fodder). The majority of the stages are set on continuous loops that you’ll fly around until each wave of enemy is wiped out. Surviving each wave, and beating each level, ramps-up in difficulty at an enjoyable pace, as you work your way from one world to the next.

It’s here that the modest joy of Graceful Explosion Machine lies. The game is incredibly easy to pick up — offering quick, accessible arcade action that is somewhat satisfying in its simplicity. The curve of the challenge is middling, but not far off striking the right balance. It’s never overly frustrating, but never enragingly difficult either.

Although the simplicity on offer is clearly an asset for those quick on-the-go play sessions that the Switch allows for, it’s this same bare-bones gameplay that results in something that doesn’t leave any real lasting impression. Once you’ve beaten the games three dozen levels (which can be done in a few hours) you’re left with something that although enjoyable, won’t see you clamouring for much more of.

Graceful Explosion Machine currently fills a niche in the Switch’s early library of games. It’s fun, and fast-paced, with bright visuals — at $12.99 (£9.99) it’s priced right for what amounts to an enjoyable distraction.

The detonation offered by Graceful Explosion Machine is dazzling, but quickly fizzles.