An eclectic mix of platforming and combat mechanics help compensate for Explodemon's mundane inclinations.
- Exploding can be used in a number of useful ways
- Witty cutscenes and dialogue
- It's fun to string various moves together.
- Repetitive, uninspired boss battles
- Predictable levels and enemies.
Explodemon isn't just the name of a platformer currently available on the PlayStation Network: It's also the name of its likable, and volatile, hero. This mechanical leading man is all too happy to help save the game's three worlds from imminent destruction by using his own propensity to spontaneously detonate. He's a good-natured soul who speaks in the broken English many affectionately refer to as "Engrish," and his tale is told through a series of colorful anime-style images and amusingly written dialogue. The surrounding game isn't as clever as these bright facets suggest; repetitive boss fights and routine level design put a damper on the simple joys of jumping and battling. All the same, Explodemon is a fun action platformer with a humorous attitude, granting an afternoon's worth of old-fashioned entertainment for a decent $9.99 price.
Explodemon's central conceit is that you don't just jump your way through its network of corridors and platforms--you explode through them. Explosions harm enemies within your blast radius, and by exploding midjump, you propel yourself to higher platforms. This isn't Explodemon's only skill, however. You can crouch and slide forward, skimming underneath enemies and popping them upward. You can string together combos by timing your explosions based on indicators that appear over an enemy's head. You can slide down walls, sprint forward for a short time, and charge with hotheaded glee through processions of robots. New abilities come at a good clip, imparting a nice sense of progress, but there aren't so many to make the controls cumbersome.
These moves are useful on their own, but when you get to string them together, Explodemon starts to gel. Dropships appear in certain levels, spewing out robots intent on harming you with their laser pellets. There are a few variations on each enemy, but there is little diversity among the foes you encounter. Fortunately, there are enough of them at a given time to allow you to jump, explode, and slide your way around, avoiding attacks while dishing out some pain of your own. The fact that you don't get free use of your exploding mechanic means that you can't detonate your way through your attackers. Instead, you might slide underneath a line of bots as they trudge toward you, only to turn around and burst through them--a move made all the more exciting by the dramatic pause that occurs when you make contact with enemies. Or you might charge across a pool of acid, leap at a ceiling turret, and hammer the explosion button to destroy it. Enemies expel triangular tablets when they rupture, which is a nice visual reward for a job well done. In turn, you collect those tablets and spend them between levels to enhance your moves.
If you stick to Explodemon's main path, you might not get much use out of some abilities. Wall sliding is rarely a necessity until you reach a clever sequence in the final stages where you need to activate certain triggers to move forward. The nonexplosive dash is similarly underutilized because ground slides and explosive charges are perfectly effective alternatives. If you're anxious to obtain all the secret items and earn the highest ranks on the online leaderboards, however, you will find some of these moves more useful. Energy fields and hopping dots of goo that inhibit your ability to explode, as well as puzzles that require you to blast blocks into specific locations, complicate your aspirations to greatness. Finding all the switches to open up new paths, avoiding treacherous spikes, and deflecting homing missiles with a well-timed explosion are all gratifying events that make it worth exploring each level to the fullest.
Nevertheless, Explodemon doesn't possess the spark that distinguishes its downloadable peers, such as Bionic Commando Rearmed and Mega Man 10. On one hand, nodes that rocket you upward or forward, along with other touches, give the jumping additional oomph, and the final stages introduce rising levels of acid, which imparts a welcome sense of urgency. On the other, most levels are laid out predictably--an aspect further emphasized by the uninspired visual design, which features a murky color palette and unimaginative backgrounds that eventually blend into each other. Unless you're motivated to climb up the leaderboards, you will rarely feel challenged, or need to apply impeccable timing, until you near the conclusion. Making it through the final sequences is a rush, and the need to wait for your explosion meter to recharge before you can reach higher levels enhances the intensity. Unfortunately, to arrive at the finale, you must duke it out with your archenemy, Absorbemon, several times over. These battles are Explodemon's low point. Absorbemon's abilities are always the same, and while the level layout changes each time, you use the same few techniques to win. It's highly unlikely you will die during these clashes, so you aren't apt to emerge feeling victorious--just happy to move on.
Fortunately, the boss battles don't fully taint this enjoyable romp in which the badly translated dialogue of games past is celebrated in all its charming awkwardness. Explodemon's titular hero is an appealing new character that deserves a chance to grace television screens again, hopefully in a game that puts his good array of talents to better use. But even though Explodemon is not the modern 2D classic it could have been, a number of cool mechanics fit together with aplomb, spicing up its combat and platforming with a fiery touch. Even better, it stars an upstanding protagonist all too happy to exclaim, "I am have destruct!"