Explodemon – PC
Developer: Curve Studios
Publisher: Curve Digital
Release Date: November 3, 2011 (Steam)
ESRB Rating: E
Nerd Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Reviewed by Malefico
“Please be bringing it on! I reduce you into brittleness fluid!” – Explodemon
Explodemon is a fast-paced platform game with old-school action wrapped up in a modern aesthetic and a tongue-in-cheek flavor that makes it a blast to play. A product of Curve Studios, an indie games house known for producing slick titles with professional polish, Explodemon doesn’t disappoint.
Aliens known only as the Vortex have invaded, and it’s up to Explodemon to defeat them and restore peace and order. Armed with a surly attitude, cryptic communication, and the desire to do damage, Explodemon has the right stuff to get the job done, even if one can’t always interpret exactly what he’s saying.
Due to the plethora of actions that the English-challenged protagonist can perform, Explodemon’s keyboard controls utilize the directional arrows for movement, and W, A, S, and D to perform various actions. There are also separate controls for the game camera, allowing you to reveal sections of the maps (which are huge, by the way) outside the normal area of view – very useful for finding all the NPCs, power-ups, nooks, and crannies in the game world. Those who prefer to tackle games like this with a controller can take advantage of full support. In fact, this is one game that is doubtlessly more enjoyable when played with a controller – platform game controls feel more natural with console-style peripherals in my opinion.
As the game title might suggest, players’ main form of attack is an explosion. If the player chooses to explode while running, the boom can be followed by a dash attack that lays waste to enemies in its path. The explosion recharges quickly, in about a second, and if the ability is not used immediately, a timer counts down to a forced explosion. Attack and defensive power, among other things, can be upgraded after a level is complete by purchasing upgrades in a shop, and speed and other factors can be increased by collecting items hidden in each level. The currency for upgrades is called Level Credits, and is earned by picking up Credits either laying around each level, or as a reward for defeating Vortex forces.
This game makes great use of both horizontal and vertical space and gives Explodemon the tools to navigate each level. Variously, he can jump, wall-jump, explode mid-jump to catch even more air, slide down walls (complete with a shower of sparks as his suit’s claws slow the descent), and power-slide under obstacles, which are varied and incorporate puzzle elements, necessitating some planning and forethought to allow players to collect all the items squirreled away in each level, and avoid damaging sensitive equipment in certain areas.
The game makes good use of color to distinguish friend from foe, even if the palette is somewhat limited. Vortex ships and troops stand out well, and as with all the sprites active on the screen, the images are detailed and well-animated. Walls and other elements tend to be of the same color, though the background changes with each new map. The game contains a total of 12 levels scattered across three unique environments, so if you don’t like what you’re looking at, have a little patience and the scenery will change.
Graphics and animation are very well-done. Although I would say it definitely has the flavor of a 16-bit platformer (action-wise), the visuals are much sharper than anything attainable by a system limited to 16 bits. NPCs are the only interactive objects that don’t move; Explodemon, his nemesis, the Vortex, and various map elements are written to include excellent, varied animations that really add to the experience.
The soundtrack is energetic and improves the experience. Each map features its own track, and the music can be somewhat repetitive only because it takes some time to explore each level. In fact, the maps are so big enough time could be spent on each one that the mere presence of music would become tiresome. Music volume can be lowered or muted if desired.
Sound effects are a bit limited, but well-done. This is not something you really notice while you’re in the heat of battle – it only becomes apparent if you take yourself out of the game in order to concentrate on this element.
The maps themselves are well-designed, spacious (maybe overly so), and challenging. The number and types of obstacles are too numerous to cover here, but make the whole range of Explodemon‘s abilities necessary to navigate them, and task the player with using these capabilities in novel ways in order to advance. In addition to its obvious action-platformer roots, Explodemon also contains strong elements of the puzzle platformer genre.
The Bottom Line
Explodemon is a well-designed game. Difficulty scales well with respect to obstacles, enemies and bosses, and the Vortex are varied in design and attack. Players will face hostiles from the ground and air, as well as Vortex devices that crank out enemies until they themselves are destroyed. Bosses are progressively more difficult and can easily best players if they’re handled incorrectly.
In addition to fighting the Vortex, Explodemon has to contend with the game world itself. Curve has thoughtfully added checkpoints within each level, which is appreciated. Puzzles become more intricate and will no doubt force players to go back and rethink certain areas in order to successfully collect certain valuable items and advance in their quest.
Once a level is complete, players can advance to the next one or replay any completed map in order to farm more Credits (each trip through a map adds credits to the player’s total) or just roam around and explore. The utility of upgrading Explodemon’s ability in the Shop will most likely require more than one play-through for each level.
Although the mechanics are actually quite intricate, this doesn’t interfere with the fast-paced nature of the game. Fans of action platformers can certainly find a lot to like in this game – there’s more than enough fun and toned-down carnage to be enjoyed by players of all ages.
This is one game that doesn’t suffer from a lack of content. Each map is really big, in fact gigantic, and the game offers substantial replay value based on this facet alone. Although there’s a fast-track path through each level, the need for credits encourages players to explore and rewards them with hours of game play.
One of the greatest things about this game is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. From the wacky NPCs to Explodemon’s stilted speech (which seems to be both sly nod and caricature of some of the more poorly scripted import efforts over the years), there’s humor throughout, and it helps to reinforce the one immutable truth about video games – having fun is the ultimate goal, and this game delivers hours of it.
The only quibbles I have with Explodemon are the somewhat uninspired sound effects and the fact that the maps are so big… Normally this wouldn’t be an issue, but the sheer size of each level can actually become an impediment to progress. Players who love to just explore will be enchanted, but it actually became a source of frustration for me. After traversing levels repeatedly and having less than 20% of the map complete, I was left wondering how I could have missed so much, and just where the heck the remaining 80% was.
One of the downsides to the video game industry is that the market is flooded with games. Especially where independent developers are concerned, new games are literally released daily so it’s easy for truly outstanding titles like Explodemon to get lost in the shuffle. Fans of platformers like the Mega Man series and others will appreciate the fast action, great visuals and capacity for chaos inherent in this game. Puzzle platform fans will welcome the fact that it’s impossible to master the game without some strategy. And all interactive entertainment enthusiasts will enjoy the novel elements of Explodemon in these well-populated genres.
Explodemon is a polished title that looks as if it came from one of the big boys’ shops. Increasingly, top-shelf indie studios like Curve Digital are proving that the future of video games belongs to flexible, small studios. Currently available on sale at Steam for just over $3, this game is a fabulous value that will pay for itself in grins and giggles with just one session. And with its fast action, puzzles, gobs of content and replay value, gamers will certainly play through more than once.
Explodemon rates a solid 7.5 out of 10, and intrepid explorers will no doubt consider that miserly.
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