“When life gives you explosions, make Explosionade!”
Before you ask, yes that is an actual line of dialogue from Explosionade DX, and yes it pretty much sums up what is going on in this game. Coming from Mommy’s Best Games, Explosionade DX is loud, brash, shooty and full of explosions and aliens to squish. So please, come with me to a considered critique of man’s place in the ecosystem of the natural world, and let’s see what we can blow up today…
The story found in Explosionade DX is the usual kind of nonsense that we have come to expect from games of this type. Colonel Bouche, the commanding officer of the army we are a part of, has taken the entire army to assault the Horronym stronghold in an attempt to end the war. The entire army, that is, except us. We have been left behind to guard the supply depot. In a rare show of initiative, we decide to open the supply depot, and happen upon a mech, fully tooled up and ready to rock, so it would be rude not to take it for a spin. From there, we find ourselves in a world of subterranean Horronyms, aliens and lots and lots of bullets. I mean, I can’t explain how many bullets. We have 60 rooms to get through, including a smattering of bosses, and many, many baddies to shoot, stomp and otherwise smush.
So, as you may have gathered from my opening, this is not a game that requires a whole lot of thought to play. Described as a “retro mech shooter” by the devs, it appears that the people there grew up on SNK shooters, as there’s more than a whiff of the classics such as Metal Slug about Explosionade and its all guns blazing approach. Thats not a criticism, by the way, as I love Metal Slug, and there’s a similar vibe here.
The game itself is set out as a series of arenas, with differing layouts and varying numbers of enemies to clear, with the gameplay itself often involving a little light platforming in order to reach the exit. Jumping is taken care of with the A button in the usual way, and there is a rocket booster built in to get you up to that last little bit of height in order to reach a platform. That said, if things are still out of reach, there is another way to gain height – the shield bounce. You see, the mech we have borrowed has a handy overshield that is deployed with a quick press of the LT button, and if we deploy after jumping straight up, just before we hit the floor, the shield will bounce us right up to the top of the screen. With timing and practice, it’s possible to bounce through a whole screen. Handily any enemies that the shield hits will immediately be squished, so it’s win-win.
Of course, bouncing about the place is only half the story, whilst the other half is firmly focused on the massive amounts of firepower. Luckily, the mech comes equipped with two shooting modes: moving the right stick turns the game into almost a twin stick shooter, as it will liberally spray bullets all over creation; something which is useful for hitting enemies who may be on the other side of the screen, or on top above you. The second way of firing is to use RT, and this shoots out a grenade that will either stick to certain walls and destroy them, or if you hold the trigger down, will bounce around for as long as you keep the trigger in. As you can imagine this is super useful when you need to deliver explosion-based justice through a narrow gap, for instance.
Shooting enemies, blowing up walls and platforms to create a path through, and then making it to the exit is basically Explosionade DX in a nutshell. You get bonus points for killing all the enemies on a stage too. You can also pick up gold which is scattered about the levels, using it to fix up your mech in the hope that it will give you more of a fighting chance in the next screen.
The enemies you will find yourself facing here are all an imaginative bunch, ranging from tiny grunts who shoot at you, up to giant rolling worms that can only be stopped by blowing up the platform or wall they are attached to. The bosses are all screen-fillingly hideous as well, pretty much defining the phrase “Bullet Sponge”. Luckily, if you’re finding it a bit much, Explosionade DX will happily let you have a second player join and help shoot the alien scum, and this works really well. There is no slowdown or lag with a second player on the screen, and the different colours of mech make it a breeze to see who is who; honestly, that’s not always a given when you take in couch co-op opportunities!
Explosionade DX all looks very nice too; the way the sprites move and have been designed is all jolly lovely. The bosses in particular are well put together, and take a great deal of bullets to take down, especially on the harder difficulties. Yes, if you look a little too closely you can see some oddities – the bigger Horronym with the laser beam can apparently shoot behind themselves by twisting their arm right round which looks weird – but overall things like this don’t ever affect the gameplay. The sounds, likewise, are very much on the explosiony end of the scale, capable of doing the job admirably.
In fact, there’s not really too much to complain about at all with what Explosionade provides – this does exactly what it says on the tin: a retro mech shooter with many explosions. Maybe it’s not the deepest game ever, but you don’t always want a massively in-depth story every time you switch on to play. Sometimes you just want to blow things up for 10 or 20 minutes, and this is a perfect fit for that style of gaming.
In all, Explosionade DX on Xbox is loud, dumb fun with the emphasis firmly on shooting and staying alive. With multiplayer built in, and online leaderboards to see how you rank up against your friends, this is a game that manages to scratch the itch that I’m sure we all feel from time to time: the urge to just blow things up. It’s not the deepest game ever, and I’m not sure that it properly stands up to repeated playthroughs, but it’s fun, and that’s what we play games for. Isn’t it?