Explodemon review: A blast from the past

"I am have destruct!!! Always be prepare!" - Explodemon

The titular character of Curve Studios' long-in-development platformer is a little ... special. Like its hero, Explodemon isn't the smartest game around. It isn't the prettiest, nor is it the most polished either. But, it does have one thing to spare: heart.

Design director Jonathan Biddle has described Explodemon as "a loving homage to SNES-era Japanese action games" -- and it nails the vibe, Engrish included. Within seconds of loading the game, you'll be transported to the '90s, with B-quality dialogue juxtaposed atop manga-styled panels. This will not be everyone's cup of tea; to some, it may even look and feel a little cheap. But anyone that's spent a bit too much time importing Japanese games from the 16-bit era will feel right at home.%Gallery-115980%
The game's inspirations are an eclectic mix, ranging from Half-Life 2 to Bangai-O, but Explodemon remains impressively cohesive. Within the first level, you'll learn how to use your self-detonating powers in a variety of ways: whether it's dashing at high-speed, throwing objects or chaining complex wall jumps. As in the retro games it aspires to be, there's no "tutorial" that holds your hand. Instead, you'll have to experiment, learning how to time jumps and explosions on the fly. The overall design may welcome comparisons to XBLA's Splosion Man, but the execution is totally different.

Before long, you'll figure out how to wall jump, explode, double jump, explode into an enemy and start a combo. It's immensely satisfying once you really start digging into the depth of the game's core mechanics. You'll need to master these moves quickly, too, as the game quickly introduces some elaborate puzzles that challenge your reflexes.

If you're a looter, then Explodemon offers a refreshing amount of depth. Hidden within each level are 10 Explodicons and power-ups to collect and while most of these collectibles don't increase your core stats, they do affect your end-level judgment. Yes, like in most old-school arcade games, you'll be graded at the end of each level, based on your speed, the number of enemies you've destroyed and the collectibles you've found. You can (and should) be proud of getting an A -- but will you you have the grit required for that elusive S rank?

Unfortunately, if you're not a score-chaser, you'll find Explodemon's 12 levels much too easy to blast through. This is truly meant for the gamer that wants to achieve a perfect run on every level and pursue the game's 20 Trophies. What would otherwise be a three hour game suddenly turns into a days-long affair -- and were it not for the guide that Curve included with my review code, I may have never found some of the most elusive Explodicons.


Ultimately, Explodemon doesn't coalesce into a product that's as refined or as beautiful as the Treasure classics that inspired it. But thought it may be a bit rough around the edges, it's also precisely the kind of game I would've bought used from a Japanese import store -- so, in that sense, it's still something of a gem.

This review is based on review code of Explodemon provided by Curve Studios. Explodemon is available now on the PlayStation Store.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.