Grand adventures in the fields of Hyrule and high-octane races among many go-kart tracks may await you on the Switch, but sometimes it’s nice to instead settle for an experience that can be knocked out in a matter of minutes. Vertex Pop has you covered in that situation with Graceful Explosion Machine, a beautiful space shooter in the vein of Defender or Resogun. Of course, even though a stage may last just a few minutes, the game actually becomes rather addictive, instilling that desire to have “just one more” chance to clear a level.

4 worlds are divided into stages that loop from left to right. In each stage there are waves of progressively more numerous and more powerful enemies for your spunky little rocket to destroy. There’s no time to sit and ponder how to go about killing, though. As a typical score-chasing shooter, you’re tasked with killing anything and everything as fast possible, building up a score multiplier all the while. Taking a single hit will end you’re streak, so it’s up to quick thinking and reflexes to save the day. Certain stages include extra hazards like laser projectors that will serve as impassable walls, making the challenge that much more severe.

Just fire everything already!

Just fire everything already!

Gameplay starts out relatively simple – fly around with one stick, get a quick boost with one shoulder button, perform a quick turn with the other, and use any of the face buttons to fire one of your weapons. The arsenal is the true star of the show, and utilizing it effectively is the challenge in each stage. For example, the standard blaster will deal with most threats just fine, but it overheats quickly, so reckless firing could leave you stuck waiting for a cooldown. There’s also a powerful sniper beam, a short-range energy beam that circles the ship, and a burst of homing missiles.

Of course, that’s just on the surface. There are still some deeper mechanics involved. For example, your standard blaster can only fire at what’s in front of the ship. Given that enemies can come in from all directions, this means an enemy coming in from above can be hard to hit. A quick turn gives you a quick arc, allowing you to hit the sneak without having to waste energy on a weapon that can be directed. Of course, if you’re about to overheat or simply need to get some breathing room, the missiles and energy blade will do fine. It’s important to keep moving forward, though, as destroyed enemies will drop energy crystals to repower the weapons, but if you’re in a constant game of firing while retreating, they’ll fade away very quickly.

With only a few dozen stages, GEM doesn’t take long at all to “complete”. Enemy variety is somewhat limited as well, but the game steadily drips out new baddies in each world, with some offering interesting challenges like the jellyfish-like blob that, when destroyed, creates a large explosion that can still hurt the ship. Should combat prove too much, it’s fortunate that death isn’t much of a setback, as the game allows you to simply restart the wave that proved too difficult. Doing so, however, will reset the score to zero. Of course, that’s only a big deal to score chasers. The pursuit of points is the ultimate goal, with leaderboards matching up your performance to the global community.

So many satisfying pops.

So many satisfying pops.

If high scores aren’t the only thing you’re after, there’s still the great visuals to fall back on. Enemies make pleasing pops when destroyed, and since you’ll be cleaving entire swaths in relatively short order, those bursts they make serve as a nice light show. Each of the stages has a bold, vibrant color scheme and a great electronic music backdrop just pulls it all together so well. It’s well worth the modest fee to get your hands on this space shooter.

KAIJU VERDICT

2/4 Pops: Decent  There might be problems that mount up and prevent it from being a top tier game, or it might not do enough to quite make it stand out, but a 2 can still be an enjoyable experience that the curious should try.

Review based on a digital copy of the game played on the Nintendo Switch

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