Explodemon! is a PSN-exclusive puzzle-platformer that is the result of a seemingly late birthing of the 16 and 8-bit adventures from years’ past that have mostly been left meandering in the pits of nostalgia since the headshot’s rapid growth in popularity. Despite the fact that Curve Stuidos’ long over-due love letter to these games cribs its ideas from seminal franchises like Mega Man and Metroid, it’s easy to forgive its lack of originality by virtue of it simply being a well-made and charming romp that feels as if it was made to pay genuine homage to its inspirations as opposed to haphazardly ripping them off.
Playing as the game’s titular hero Explodemon, you’ll traverse through maze-like sequences that combine traditional puzzle and platforming elements with a decent haul of collectible goodies to seek out along the way. Amusingly written dialogue spoken by the game’s cute if forgettable characters help to carry along an expectedly light story; and whilst it is far from being a technical marvel, the journey is carried along by an enjoyable animated art style throughout.
Explodemon! is admittedly rife with elements taken from other games of the era that celebrated these types of experiences. But the game largely benefits by depositing a wide range of source material into its own context and not just lazily replicating one particular game. Twisted Pixel’s delightful ‘Splosion Man is certainly the most recent (and best) comparison to draw here, although only in the sense that everything done to progress through each level revolves around triggering explosions to manipulate specific parts of the environment and so on.
The game throws in plenty of new enemies to deal with as the invasion of alien-something-or-others continues to swell, and Explodemon himself can be equipped with shinier and more proficient upgrades to his fancy metal suit as more currency is accrued on your explosive travels. These upgrades are purchases in-between finished each level, so buying whatever is immediately available each time you visit the shop is a viable way to lessen the resistance’s impact on Explodemon. It’s by no means deep, but neither is it prohibitive to making progress too easy, which is nice.
Your first play-through will probably last no more than 4-5 hours as the game is never really challenging until the last hour or so; and unfortunately the boss battles felt sloppy and predictable in comparison to some of the more inventive scenarios put forward in the main stages. That said, whilst it is short enough to encourage getting to the very end, Explodemon!’s conceit begins to wear a little thin by the third world and doesn’t quite live up to its own expectations of maintaining a simple concept within cleverly designed levels.
There are online leaderboards included for those looking to compare and collect in the name of online competition, although there are no actual adversarial or co-operative modes to speak of, which is a shame. Though seeing as how overall completion is tracked per world, the prospect of repeated playthroughs is very much encouraged.
As the case should be given its influences, Explodemon! is also layered with some pretty excellent music that is wholly reminiscent of classic NES soundtracks. It’s upon first hearing the main menu music that the Mega Man vibes begin to surface. The same goes for the audio in general –the techno-futuristic motif of Capcom’s revered series is well represented with every bloop and bang made along the way. Suitably, this notion serves as a separate allegory for Explodemon! as a whole — a very loving homage to its 8-bit heritage that modernizes the now ‘retro’ design approach for both the right cost and length.
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