If you crave big guns, huge explosions and twisted alien enemies, you need look no further than Mommy's Best Games. Nathan Fouts, the founder of the boutique developer, is a veteran weapon designer who previously worked for Insomniac Games. Resistance and Ratchet's arsenal owes everything to his (slightly worrying) imagination, but several years ago he left the triple-A developer to form his own Indie outfit. Weapon of Choice and Shoot 1UP already offer big budget thrills for a bargain price... and I'm delighted to report that Explosionade is an another excellent budget adventure that mixes retro gameplay with some fresh new mechanics.
The premise is simple and effective; told through text panels and simple animations that are reminiscent of classic 16-bit intros. A pudgy and useless soldier has been ordered to guard the supply shed rather than participate in the epic battle against the ravening Horronym... but stumbles across a prototype battlemech locked up in storage. Who wouldn't take it for a spin? Apart from the fact that it's great to see a lazy, overweight protagonist (hurray, finally!), the setup is a rich opportunity for a fair few gaffes, laffes and an amusing context for the action.
The Prototype Mech is a seriously nifty piece of kit. Its powerful machine gun can rip enemies to shreds (and can be controlled with a button press or the right stick for increased accuracy), but the MegaNades are the main event. Capable of launching in sticky or bouncing varieties, these timed explosives can be used to blow up Horronym or smash through destructible walls and ceilings. A jet booster allows the exoskeleton to hover short distances, and activating the energy shield provides a surprising dual effect: briefly protecting from enemy fire and allowing the mech to bounce off of surfaces. This clever technique is used to gain extra height and is soon pushed to extremes in later levels.
Oh, and the Prototype Mech is powered by molten gold. We like this.
Each stage is retro-small and can be completed quickly (the objective being to kill or bypass the Horronym foes and navigate your way to the exit), but also provides plenty of scope for alternate routes and time attack. Blowing up the ghoulish enemies is consistently satisfying, but half the fun lies in cleverly using the shield bounce to access vexingly-placed gold and pies for extra points. Three difficulty levels allow players of all skill levels to get involved, but bear in mind that Explosionade is as hardcore as you'd expect from any shooter. The gameplay is tight, responsive and (most importantly), fun as hell.
Meticulously-hand drawn graphics and a selection of challenge rooms add serious value to the package, with and a drop-in two player mode that lets players team up against the Horronym hordes. Plenty of little details also help to flesh things out- and in a surprisingly considerate move, commands can be individually assigned to each button (allowing us to tailor bespoke control schemes). The devil's in the details and Explosionade delivers.
Explosionade is a budget masterpiece that delivers big action, big fun and big value for 80 Microsoft Points. Seriously, don't buy that avatar gear. Don't splurge on that premium theme. Drop the points, strap into your mech and chug down a refreshing pint of Explosionade.