Maybe I'm just a cranky old man, but I've become wary of the sheer volume of retro-inspired games being released these days. My more cynical side suspects they're designed so the word "retro" can be plastered on the box somewhere, a Pavlovian buzzword meant to make grizzled oldsters start salivating. The long-gestating side-scrolling platformer Explodemon scores major points by hearkening back to the SNES - specifically Yoshi's Island and Mega Man X - with a healthy dose of Engrish to boot.
The story centres on Explodemon, an automaton that's been rightfully locked away due to his pesky habit of exploding uncontrollably. When evil forces suddenly attack the peace-loving planet Nibia, the invasion sets Explodemon and his archenemy Absorbemon free. Though everyone he runs across feels this is hardly good news, Explodemon spouts well-meaning, (deliberately) poorly translated clunkers like, "Explodemon is of assisting with boom!"
As amusing as the dialog is, Explodemon lacks a noticeable spark in its level design - a problem that only intensifies the further you progress. True to the games that inspired it, you're thrown in without a tutorial or an explanation of your abilities, armed only with a fuse that's perpetually ticking down and then resetting.
Though it will inevitably draw comparisons to 'Splosion Man, this is far less frantic. Explodemon's internal clock makes for a more methodical stop-start approach to platforming, meaning you'll need to time your hops in the air, grinding on the walls, and bursting once airborne with more thought than other games that arm you only with a "jump" button.
Eventually, "puzzles" work their way into the levels, though their solutions generally involve decimating power sources for doors or redirecting the trajectory of homing missiles to hit switches. Both aspects get more wrinkles to them when you buy more upgrades to, say, increase the power of your explosions or the amount of time on the clock.
The more time I spent on Explodemon and its 12 short stages, the more repetitive it became. However, things slow to an absolute crawl against Explodemon's nemesis, Absorbemon. He'll quickly sop up your health to supplement his own, and your upgrades prove to be liabilities rather than assets. There were a couple of times I wanted to hurl my controller out of the window: not because of the difficulty, but because Explodemon confuses cheating with being cheap.
Still, it isn't all bad. Explodemon has a lot of heart and some interesting ideas at play, but it manages to wear thin in a relatively short space of time. There are leaderboards and lots of collectibles to uncover, but once you've played the first two levels you've seen it all.
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