's</a> dewy-eyed regard for the 16-bit era is charming, but not endearing enough to subsidise the game's predictable level design and mundane boss battles.
It's a miracle we got to review Explodemon! at all. The game's status in development limbo has long been depicted by the platform-hopping drama that's surrounded it since its inception. Available now from the PlayStation Store, Explodemon! is a lovingly crafted two-dimensional platformer with a telling nod toward 16-bit video game culture.
Depicted from the angle of unstable lead Explodemon, the detonating mechanical man is sent on an adventure across three worlds (12 levels) in pursuit of his foe, Absorbemon. While Explodemon's volatile tendencies appear to render him useless, the propane-powered protagonist can use his self-destructive tendencies to jump, attack and sprint through the game's simplistic platform stages. The explosion mechanics work well, allowing you to, for example, reach higher ledges by detonating mid-jump, or attack enemies with deft combustion in their vicinity. Unfortunately, a rather slow recharge meter hinders the fluidity of the mechanic, juxtaposing some of the Sonic The Hedgehog-inspired level design.
While ostensibly a platformer, Explodemon! incorporates puzzle and combat components to keep the gameplay feeling fresh. Puzzles usually require the manipulation of blocks and batteries to open-up new paths, and can be require a mix of brain-power and astute observation to overcome. Completionists will really revel in the replay value here, urging themselves to find every hidden collectable on offer. Other players will find themselves bombing past the peripheral goodies, looking to find a critical path towards the end of the level. The game rewards both flavours of play-style — providing a final grade at the conclusion of each stage based on time effectivity and completionism. While Explodemon!'s campaign can be seen off over the length of one particularly lazy afternoon, it will take you significantly longer to collect everything at an optimal pace.
The game furthers its self-referential motive by providing some comical, adept dialogue. Explodemon himself is voiced by mistranslated English. "I am have self-destruct," he often declares. It's silly but it's funny, especially if you're the type of person that's dreamed of sampling "all your base are belong to us" in a techno hit. The personality carries into the audio design, providing some repetitive but perfectly fitting syncopated drum machines set to squealing synthesizers.
Unfortunately, for as much love has clearly gone into Explodemon!, there are some gaping down-sides. The level design is largely predictable and uninspired, filling corridors with the same types of enemies on a moment-to-moment basis. The art-style is also restricted by some achingly bland back-drops, that while suitable to the tone, get stagnant after a couple of hours with the game. Perhaps most self-harming though, is the game's emphasis on the same repetitive boss-encounter from level to level. Absorbemon is not a fun boss to fight, and yet you encounter him multiple times throughout Explodemon!'s campaign, causing us to put the controller down and walk away on numerous occasions. It's not that the conflict is frustrating, it's just boring — relying on repetitive patterns and an irritating emphasis on the game's rubbish aiming mechanics.
If you have fond memories of pizza-encrusted Super Nintendo cartridges, you'll get a kick out of Explodemon!'s cute and quirky sense of humour. Some repetitive enemy encounters and stagnated level design restrict the title from reaching "must own" status, but it's still worth a punt if you're in need of something nostalgic one rainy weekend.