February 27, 2011
It seems my mention of indie developers finding inspiration from nostalgia could almost be a theory! I only say this with regards to the background story behind Curve Studios in the UK. Curve Studios are folks that have been inspired by the heyday of the Super Nintendo. However, they also admire modern day concepts that found in games of recent years. These give them a fusion of new and old, and the ability to make indie games that blend both aspects together. Curve Studios says that Explodemon! is a game that takes platforming aspects from games like Mario Bros. and Mega Man, yet meshes them with concepts and ideas found from games like Half Life 2 and Halo while being a love letter to the Super Nintendo era of Japanese action platforming games.
The premise behind Explodemon! is that the realm is doomed to being taken over by The Vortex and there is one more “ace in the hole” but he’s not quite the first choice pick the people would want. Why? Well… you see, Explodemon is a deity that has a terrible power that is also a curse: he is unstable and has a horrible tendency of exploding at inconvenient times. The irony is that Explodemon isn’t summoned by the people; the debris from the invasion damaged his containment unit that actually awakened him! Talk about ironic! Explodemon ends up being the unwanted, arrogant, foolish hero that the people try to cope with and who’s supported by the forgiving Dr. Nitro.
Explodemon! plays very much like the vintage Mega Man series games with the exception of one point: Explodemon’s only attack is to detonate enemies within explosive proximity because he has no projectiles. Exploration is highly encouraged and even rewarded from hidden power ups and Explodicons. The enemies are destroyed by explosions, but there is a golden rule that the closer they are, the more damage you will incur to them which makes sense. Explodemon can also purchase upgrades from the store for enhancing his damage, explosion radius, stability, armor, and explosion recharge times at the end of each stage. Also to poke fun and make some of us remember the old days of gaming, Explodemon’s dialogue is a bit on the “Engrish” side of things as a joke to when Japanese games were poorly translated for the English speaking audience. While it’s a fun joke, at times it does get a little old in my opinion. All of these things do very well to play on the nostalgia of the gamers who grew up during the heyday of the Super Nintendo. But what’s in it for the modern day gamer?
If you’re a completionist, you will definitely have some exploring to do as many of the valuable power-ups and Explodicons are hidden either in secret walls and passages or they are buried within a puzzle. By the way, some of the puzzles are not always easy and may even require you to plan things out before you attempt them. If you want to be able to breeze through the game, you may end up having to replay levels several times anyhow to collect credits in order to buy Explodemon some power-ups. Some of the trophies for the trophy collectors out there do take some serious effort and planning just to knock out.
Even though Explodemon is quite fun it isn’t without its shortfalls. The game is pretty short; it spans 3 planets with 4 levels each for a grand total of 12 levels. For those trying to get S-Rank grades for each level and completely explore them for every Explodicon, farm enemies for the most credits possible, etc; that can take roughly 20 minutes or so per level. This means the game can be completed for S-Rank and story purposes within 4 hours give or take a few for things like fully powering up Explodemon and hunting for Gold Speedchargers. At the price of $9.99 USD, some gamers may find that to be a little much for 4+ hours of gaming and remixed nostalgia. There is a minor gripe from me personally that the game only allows you to control Explodemon’s movement via the left analogue stick rather than allow the use of both the d-pad and analogue stick. I mention this because the default location of the PS3 DualShock 3 left analogue stick is not in the most comfortable position and a good portion of my play time was more comfortable with Power A’s Pro EX controller sporting the Xbox 360 swapped positions for the d-pad and left analogue stick.
Explodemon! will unfortunately be lost to those who may not quite get vintage games like Mega Man and the “Engrish” style dialogue that Explodemon recites. I commend Curve Studios for revisiting an era from my youth and encourage them to explore that era in their future games. However, as far as recommending Explodemon to gamers… It will unfortunately be a game I can only recommend to a limited scope of gamers. If you grew up with Mega Man in your childhood (NOT Mega Man Zero, Battle Network, and some of the other off shoots), then you may find a great time with Explodemon at the price of $9.99 USD on the PlayStation Network Store.
Out Of 5
The 3D environment with the game in a 2D plane is pretty good. It definitely has the influence of a Mega Man series game and looks nice. The effects from shattering glass doors is really fun to see the shards just go flying. The animated comic story scenes are a nice touch to the presentation. While the graphics are not the best, they are great looking and appropriate for the game's tribute to the past with a remix from the present era.
The sounds are a little bit on the generic side but they do have a science fiction feel to them. The soundtrack to the levels don't really stand out too much that you may forget that there is music in the background.
The controls are pretty solid and make sense for how you maneuver and use Explodemon. The half-point deduction is on my personal gripe that the player should have preference if they wish to use a d-pad or an analogue stick to move Explodemon around the game.
Between the platforming, puzzle solving, and fighting, Explodemon! provides a great experience that really hits home to the days when I was playing on a friend's Super Nintendo. The analogue stick for Explodemon's movement made some precision moves a little bit clumsy for me, but it may/may not affect everyone's experiences.
I have found myself often trying to solve puzzles for Explodicons and Speedchargers or exploring levels just to find as much as I can possibly find. This reminded me of what made games like Mega Man X so much fun. A nostalgic gamer will definitely have a blast (no pun intended) with Explodemon!