To summarize G.E.M (which is one hell of a great acronym by the way) would be to say it’s a side-scrolling shooter, played out in a continuously scrolling environment where the goal is to take down the on-screen enemies before they take you down. This however would be selling G.E.M short as it does this with a finesse you don’t always see in games of this genre.
At first, I thought a good comparison would be Fantasy Zone, a Sega classic with a similar gameplay style, in reality G.E.M probably has more in common with the Arcade classic Defender, albeit functioning on a completely different level.
The layers of strategy at play here, coupled with precise and responsive controls result in nothing short of pure Arcade-style gameplay bliss.
Rather than just doing away with your enemies with just a simple laser, G.E.M provides you with a range of different offensive options and depending on the situation, or enemy type, you’ll want to vary your strategy accordingly.
Weaker enemies can be done away with quickly just by using the standard laser. If they swarm you however there is no need to despair, as you have your Energy Sword, which can provide a swift swipe around the vicinity of your ship to keep the marauders at bay. A stronger foe giving you trouble from afar? Fear not, as you can always rely on your Sniper Beam to take them out from a safe distance. There’s also a barrage of missiles at your disposal, if things get a little too hairy.
In the midst of battle be mindful however, as your standard laser can be prone to overheating if you get a little too trigger happy, in which case, be sure to switch to another weapon in your arsenal to keep providing the firepower, if you have enough gems to power the weapon that is. As an enemy is destroyed it will leave behind a yellow gem, once collected these will provide the fuel for your additional weapons. This is where G.E.M’s strategic side comes into play.
Another tool which goes hand in hand with gem collecting is the ‘dash’ move. While dashing your ship becomes invulnerable and you can easily dash through waves of enemies in order to create distance between you and them or just simply to collect those precious yellow gems that have been dispersed from fallen foes. When your special weapons have run out of juice, collecting these gems is imperative.
When I worked out how to balance these different aspects everything about G.E.M fell into place and I began to ‘feel’ the game as opposed to having to spend too much time ‘thinking’ and thinking is a luxury you simply won’t have when challenged with the amount of on screen enemies G.E.M delights in throwing at you after you’ve enjoyed the honeymoon period provided by the game’s first few stages.
There are 4 worlds in total with 9 stages in each world, which will keep you busy for quite some time, with a new world opening up upon completing a predefined number of stages. The game’s difficulty curve is welcoming to players not familiar with this type of game and coupled with its eye catching visual style, G.E.M is a very inviting experience for casual players. While I played the PS4 version, I can see the game being a great fit for the Switch audience in-particular and also one that works well in short bursts making it well suited for a portable platform, however I wouldn’t like to play it on a screen any smaller than that of the Switch due to the size of the objects on screen and the frantic nature of the gameplay.
The game also boasts a ranking system and gives you the option to upload your score to a leaderboard at the end of each stage. The ranking system will give you a rating based on several performance criteria, such as time completed, combos acquired and also reward you for the style you’ve displayed during the battle. It’s a great extra incentive for giving stages another go especially since your skills will develop the more you play.
My first impression of this game was of a well-executed arcade style shooter with it’s own unique ideas, I initially saw it as nothing more than good simple fun but felt is was lacking that must-play factor. The more I played however, the more I appreciated the subtleties of the gameplay and quickly found myself entering a state where I became enveloped in the action, suddenly I could take down the waves of enemies with Grace and Purpose, knowing exactly what to do in often hectic the situations. It was at this point everything ‘clicked’, I’d become hooked and found it very difficult to stop playing.
For those who try this game once and walk away thinking ‘that was good…but, something is lacking’, I’d urge you to stick with it a little longer, take the time to learn the mechanics of the game and before long you’ll really appreciate what a blissful experience Graceful Explosion Machine really is and how it is one of the best examples of Pure Gameplay around at the moment on any system.
In summery, Graceful Explosion Machine is a finely tuned and addictive beast of game, if you enjoy shooters, especially those with a strategic edge then this game is a must-have. I’d also say even if you’re new to the genre, G.E.M is just a great Arcade style experience where the more you play, the more you’ll ultimately get out of the experience and like any great arcade game you may just have a hard time deciding when it’s time stop playing…
Graceful Explosion Machine for the Playstation 4 was provided to us for an honest review and is available now, as is a Nintendo Switch and PC version of the game. For more information on the game and and where to buy it from, head over here.
- Tom Parry