February 16, 2011

Review – Explodemon

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — Brad Johnson @ 6:16 pm

explodemon review
I was perhaps too young to fully appreciate classic platformers like Mega Man during their heyday; I certainly played and enjoyed them, but that was a time when I didn’t have the coordination to excel (or even succeed) at them. For me, the resurgence of these games in the market marks a second opportunity to explore that classic style of game and more fully appreciate those offerings.

Explodemon, like Shadow Complex before it, seeks to revisit that place with a contemporary twist and a unique property. The player controls the eponymous Explodemon, the unstable robot creation of Dr. Light Dr. Nitrous, afflicted in such a way as to spontaneously explode at regular intervals. Sealed away to protect the world, Explodemon is accidentally freed during an alien invasion, and sets out to defeat the invaders in the way you’d expect from an exploding anime robot: by exploding them.

explodemon review
The game strives to squeeze every last drop from this explosion mechanic, employing it for locomotion, combat, and puzzles in clever, inventive ways. Explodemon can leverage his detonations to destroy enemies—satisfyingly slowing down time when you deal maximum damage—hurl himself to greater heights, sprint across dangerous acid, and even to solve puzzles. In fact, explosion is the primary tool for puzzling out solutions—perhaps, even, the only tool.

Exploding solutions into existence is surprisingly intuitive, and sees Explodemon using his power to manipulate objects in the world and maneuver around the environment. There is also a unique twist in that, understandably, explosions can be dangerous. If the player does not trigger an explosion within a certain interval, Explodemon will eventually detonate automatically. If the player is careless with his explosions, or allows Explodemon to detonate automatically, critical puzzle elements can be destroyed or tossed into inaccessible positions, rendering the puzzle unsolvable. Fortunately, care has been taken to ensure that only optional puzzles (such as those hiding secret items) can be broken by the player, ensuring that Explodemon never winds up trapped in the level with no way to move forward.

Scattered throughout the levels are explosion chargers that decrease the amount of time the player must wait between triggered explosions. These only last till the end of the current mission, meaning that locating the five carefully hidden permanent upgrades becomes advantageous reasoning for exploration.

explodemon review
The gameplay manages to blur the line between puzzling, platforming, and fighting. Nearly every environment has puzzle elements involved, with objects that can be exploited to defeat enemies or access hidden areas and items. More interestingly, later stages employ enemies as dynamic obstacles, where they factor into puzzles or must be navigated around in time-sensitive situations. It always pays to examine the level before acting— it doesn’t always serve player interests to simply destroy everything, as enemies can be manipulated to gain access to new areas and items.

Items are hidden everywhere, requiring thorough exploration to locate—and that’s only half the battle. While many items are trapped behind elaborate puzzles, many are simply positioned in awkward locations that require advanced movement techniques to reach. If you’ve done your due diligence and hunted down speed upgrades, explosions can be detonated quickly enough to propel Explodemon steadily into the air—while slower explosions can be used in combination with wall jumps to accomplish a similar feat.

Equally, a multitude of techniques can be employed in combat. Battles can quickly become frantic and unpredictable, as the variables mean it’s not always clear what Explodemon’s explosions will accomplish, and this is part of the charm. However, it’s also possible to employ careful strategy and defeat enemies by chaining together various techniques.

A significant weakness, though, is that gameplay is largely stagnant throughout the three worlds of the game. In almost any other game—certainly a game of the old school platforming set—traveling to another world would be used as an excuse to swap in a new set of enemies with new behaviors, or at least new appearances.

Explodemon, however, employs the same set of antagonists from start to finish. Later stages incorporate larger variations, or versions that feature specific resistances to player attacks or environmental hazards, but these differences largely factor into puzzle solving rather than actual combat. This doesn’t adversely affect difficulty, which in fact ramps up nicely, but there’s a fundamental lack of variety that hurts the game.

explodemon review
This problem is compounded by the repeated battles against the only boss in the game, Absorbemon. His attacks are always the same, as are the techniques for beating him. The changes in environment gradually favor him more and more, making the battles progressively more difficult—or as difficult as they can be, considering it’s nigh-impossible to actually die in these confrontations—but each battle simply feels like a repeat of the last.

It’s a testament to the exciting gameplay mechanic and exceptionally designed stages that the game doesn’t quickly become stagnant; there are always new puzzles and increasingly demanding environmental challenges, and Explodemon unlocks a series of new abilities and upgrades to complement the explosive gameplay. Also, since acquiring all the hidden items on a single run is difficult, there’s incentive to roll back and replay earlier stages with enhanced abilities.

Explodemon also leverages great art assets and design (certainly superior to the initial reveal two years ago) towards a game that looks great from top to bottom. Right down to the menus, this is a game characterized by consistent visual flair, with a clever, witty story told through a series of motion-comic style interludes.

Explodemon himself is instantly likable, with his severely broken English concealing a sharp wit and insight behind a mess of jumbled words. He poses dramatically, saluting to no one and pontificating on his desire to explode for justice , entirely unfazed that everyone around him thinks he’s even more dangerous than the aliens, and the game is littered with characters whose specific purpose seems to be to give Explodemon something hilarious to say.

The title is rendered with such genuine love for the videogames of old that it feels authentically 1992, and inflames the imagination; if Explodemon had been a SNES classic, we might have played an Explodemon 64, or an Explodemon Prime in the years since. It’s not merely a solid platforming game, but a strong property that could easily be taken beyond the realm of the platformer—and had it been released alongside the Mega Men and Metroids of the world, it probably would have been.

Curve Studios

Curve Studios

PlayStation 3 (PlayStation Network)


Release Date
February 8, 2011


*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review


  1. I wish these games didn’t look so… generic… I think it’s the HD that is at fault here. It looks like they just threw some untextured 3d objects together with some ugly vector art HUD on top of it… it has no… style. It comes off as lazy and cheap looking to me.

    Don’t mind me… I am just a negative Nancy. :)

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — February 17, 2011 @ 4:17 pm

  2. And good morning to you too!

    I’ve added the game to my list. Buying it in november at 50%!

    Comment by EdEN — February 17, 2011 @ 6:21 pm

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