Explodemon! is a sidescrolling platformer whose main twist is its unstable protagonist. The game begins with an attack on the planet Nibia by an evil force known as The Vortex. Of the Guardians who are in charge of defending the planet, only two remain: Absorbemon, who has been possessed by The Vortex and acts as the main villain in the game, and Explodemon, a Guardian so dangerous that the ruler of Nibia would rather surrender than awaken him from his stasis. A stray attack blasts open the container in which Explodemon is being held, awakening him and casting him as Nibia’s only hope for survival. Cue: Level one, City Rooftops.
Before you can really get a grip on how Explodemon controls, Dr. Nitrous, the Guardian’s creator, explains a few things. Explodemon is unstable, so he must blow up once every ten seconds or so. The swirly circle at the bottom right of your screen is your explosion meter. There is a countdown above the meter that lets you know when you’re going to blow, but you can also trigger your own explosions by pressing the ‘O’ button. Exploding drains the meter, and you have to wait until the meter refills before you can blow up again. Your health bar, located on the left side of the screen, also determines how powerful your explosions are. All of the game’s unique twists revolve around exploding. For instance, you can perform a chain jump by pressing ‘O’ after jumping; the sooner you explode after jumping, the higher the blast sends you. If you explode while running, you’re sent into a speedy boost that can be used to run through enemies, damaging them in your wake. You’re other main mode of attack is to explode while near an enemy; the closer you are upon ignition, the more damage you do. Fallen enemies leave tokens behind, which can be used to upgrade different stats. Now, let’s have a look at the game, shall we?
Explodemon! is a blast. The dialogue was a bit jarring at first; I thought that it hadn’t been properly localized. You see, Explodemon speaks in extremely broken English. As soon as I recognized that fact, most of his quips became very humorous. My favorite quote in the game would have to be Explodemon’s shot at James Cameron’s Avatar, a movie I found to be extremely overrated and… is there a nice way to say stupid? An NPC makes a cliché story remark, to which Explodemon replies, “Unobtanium macguffin detected! Narrative structure weakening!” There’s also a jab at the whole vampire teenage girl fad later on, but I’ll let you find that one for yourselves. My point is when the dialogue in a game promises to be funny, you want to talk to all of the NPCs. The tutorials seem less preachy and the game as a whole is a much funner experience. When I first became in control of Explodemon, I thought the game was floaty, which, for a platformer, is an awful, tragic, unfortunate, dissapointing thing (see: Blade Kitten). I’ll admit that controlling Explodemon takes a bit of time to get used to. The chain jumping isn’t quite intuitive and the wall jump is a bit delayed, but after playing through a few levels you should get the hang of it. It’s apparent from the first level that this game encourages exploration. Each level contains 10 Explodicons and 5 speed boosts to be collected. The Explodicons count toward your completion percentage, and the speed boosts cut the time it takes for your explosion meter to recharge within the level. There are also four golden speed boosters hidden throughout the game that permanently shorten your explosion meter’s recharge time. It takes some quick and crafty combinations of jumps to get to the hard-to-reach hiding places.
Explodemon! is set up in a way that it’s best to play it more than once. There are three worlds, each with four levels, and that’s exactly enough content. The first time I played through the game, I focused on exploring and finding all of the Explodicons. Of course, I didn’t. There are a few reasons for this. First, the levels get increasingly large and complex to the point where you’ll be hard-pressed to explore every nook and cranny, no matter how long you spend ‘sploding around. Second, some of the Explodicons aren’t accessible without the use of the upgrades you acquire from boss fights. Yes, there are boss fights; I’ll get to that in a bit. Finally, many of the Explodicons are wrapped up in puzzles. The game is filled with puzzles, and a lot of them take a bit of thinking to solve. Most of them require you to move boxes onto scales in order to open up doors or redirect rockets to disable power to forcefields, opening up passageways. The problem here is that your only means of moving/redirecting is exploding. There’s an ability that you later unlock that allows you to aim where a box will be blasted, but it’s a somewhat slow, tedious affair to stand next to a box, hold down a shoulder button, and maneuver the analogue stick until the trajectory is just right. There’s no way to aim where a rocket is being redirected, which means the whole mechanic relies on your ability to estimate angle changes. That’s actually pretty cool. However, I often found that my explosion would simply blow the rocket up as opposed to redirecting it. It’s not a game killer, but it’s a bit frustrating when you kite a homing missile around a few tight corners and set up your angle, only to have the missile explode instead of bounce off of your blast.
There are a couple of boss fights on each planet, and each unlocks a new ability. As I mentioned before, you’ll need these abilities to go back and obtain previously inaccessible Explodicons and speed boosters. My main problem with the boss fights is that there’s only one boss. You follow Absorbemon from planet to planet and battle him under different conditions, but his attacks remain the same in each battle, making the strategy to defeat him from fight to fight indistinguishable. On one hand it puts more behind the characters’ relationship, but on the other, less story-driven side, it’s a missed opportunity to have various Guardians and thus various boss battles. After beating the game, I immediately revisited earlier levels to find Explodicons and work on my speedruns. Each level has a par time that is extremely low. For example, it took me 25 minutes to complete a level whose par time is 2:25. That’s fast. There’s full leaderboard support for single-level speedruns and total game score. If you have a good understanding of how Explodemon controls and you know a level’s layout, you can give Sonic a run for his rings.
Explodemon! is the bomb. It’s all that and a bag of chips, and I use these terms because the game harkens back to the good ol’ days of solid 2D platforming (and mid-90s slang). The graphics, the music, and the gameplay are all a mix between old and new, and the result is an absolutely fresh experience. I wasn’t thrilled with the fact that I couldn’t speedrun from the getgo, but I later realized that it didn’t matter since I wanted to play more of the game after the final cutscene. It’s a nice way to encourage replayability since the second time around will feel completely different depending on how you choose to play it. I suggest you play through once, finding what you can but not stressing over a missed Explodicon here or there, then replaying it to clean up what you’ve missed. Procuring the gold boosters reminded me of seeking out the upgrade capsules in the Mega Man X series. The extra exploration pays off, though, as it’s nearly impossible to get some of the par times without some permanent speed boosts. If ever you get tired of searching for stuff, zoom through a few levels to blow off some steam. Who knows, maybe I’ll even see you on the leaderboards.
For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
What I Like:
- Jump chaining
- Hilarious dialogue
- Strong puzzle elements
- Caters to both speedrunners and completionists
What I Dislike:
- One boss
- Moving boxes/redirecting rockets is imprecise