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Despite its inexpensive cost, Explodemon is an explosive release that proves there is life in 2D yet...
Ah, the 1990s. A simple time where men were real men, women were real women and 2D side scrolling platformers were real 2D side scrolling platformers. Characters including Super Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog and MegaMan were the top dogs in the world of video games.
Nowadays, the 2D side scrolling platform is a rare breed within the mainstream market, with Little Big Planet 2 being the genre's ‘only recent major boxed release'. However, PlayStation 3 owners can now get a large, 2D filled nostalgia injection from Curve Studios’ PSN exclusive Explodemon.
Explodemon really does hark back to a bygone era and, for the most part, Curve Studios have done an excellent job that’ll be appreciated by hardcore fans of the 16-bit plaformer – and especially those who spent the 1990's importing games from Japan. This retro, polished feel is immediately apparent as soon as the game loads, with a title screen that could have been plucked straight from 1994. Thankfully, this charming comic-book style introduction infuses a crisp, 21st century feel with its rustic style and sets Explodemon’s scene nicely; and all in Engrish too of course. Explodemon, a rather unstable robot like chap, is Nibia’s only hope against swarms of alien invaders, which are battled in 12 levels of explosive action across three nice looking – if a little repetitive – worlds. Cue running, jumping, and a lot of exploding.
As mentioned above, our protagonist – Explodemon himself – is an unstable fellow who explodes every few seconds. Rather than this being a hindrance, it’s a core mechanic of the game. A press of the X button causes an explosion which is not only used to damage enemies, but gives our temperamental hero speed boosts and the ability to jump higher. However, Explodemon can’t fully control his ‘problem’, so going without exploding for a short period of time means he’ll explode anyway. Timing is key when it comes to Explodemon, especially when completing levels within almost insane time limits brings in a lot of points.
Yes like many 1990s platformers, Explodemon judges the player at the end of every level. There’s a standard set of grades, based upon factors such as points collected from conquered enemies and the time the level is completed in. The points collected allow the player to upgrade Explodemon, with these making our faulty hero improve his abilities. It's worth noting that imrpoving Explodemon is almost critical when it comes to attaining the elusive S-Rank for completing levels perfectly.
See, Explodemon may be a relatively short game – which an experienced 2D gamer could complete in less than a couple of hours – but the game's longitudinal appeal comes from trying to collect everything. It’s entirely possible to spend days finding every hidden route and trying to grab every single hidden collectable. Then, add the option of competing each stage under a fiendishly difficult par time and Explodemon certainly becomes an interesting investment; a must for the 2D platforming fanatic.
However, the less experienced 2D enthusiast may occasionally find Explodemon somewhat frustrating. The difficultly really ramps up in the latter stages of the game with old school staples – including spikes, falling platformers and rising acid – all there to hinder Explodemon. Coincidentally, during my game time it became a somewhat regular fact that I had to make many attempts at one section of a level – and seeing the FAIL ENDING screen multiple times - before being able to move on. As mentioned above, timing really is everything, with an emphasis on speed, and is crucial in the final stages.
Unfortunately, Explodemon is really let down by its boss battle encounters, which all center around the same antagonist, Absorbemon. As he can never be damaged directly, distinctive timing and context sensitive explosions are required to bring Absorbemon down via projectiles. Too often the player will find themselves waiting for the right moment to direct exploding boxes or missiles onto Absorbemon, only to mistime a jump and discover themselves on the end of his attacks. All of Absorbemon’s attacks heal his health while draining Explodemon’s explosion power. This can lead to tediously long boss battles which are, disappointingly, a relief to finally complete.
Despite this, Explodemon is a hugely enjoyable, nostalgia filled tribute to the 2D platformer which, at only £7.99, is sure to provide many, many hours of explosion filled fun. With the risk of sounding clichéd, it’s truly a blast.
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