Explodemon or: How I learned I should try demos first

Explodemon looks great on the outside. They put out this trailer which makes the game look pretty damn fun. Do not be fooled. This game has several very questionable design decisions.
 
The Controls


First of all, Explodemon is part an annoying trend in recent games of having non-configurable controls. This wouldn't be a problem if the control setup hadn't apparently been designed by someone who had never played a video game before. You jump with X, explode with circle, dash with triangle, and square is used to talk to people. I'm gonna say that again, for emphasis. Square is your 'talk' button. That's all it does. Why the hell would you use the second easiest to press button on the controller for such a non-essential function? It's mind boggling.
 
Explodemon has apparently been in development for five years. In five years, no one thought maybe they should put the thing you do all the fucking time on square and the thing you almost never do on triangle? Five years wasn't long enough to program customizable controls into the game? You can't even move with the D-Pad! What the fuck?
 
The Combat
 
There are exactly three enemy types in Explodemon: Little guys that go from side to side, bigger guys that go from side to side and shoot at you, and flying things that hover annoyingly out of reach. Several times per level, you'll enter an area where the only way to progress is to kill all the enemies, which magically unlocks the door to continue. I guess this wouldn't be so bad if the combat weren't an absolute chore. Since your only method of attack is exploding, and you can only explode once every second or so, any given encounter winds up taking longer than it feels like it should. Most of the enemies are tiny and nondescript, and the bigger enemies are just scaled up versions of the small ones. The blandness of the enemies and the frequency with which you are required to destroy a bunch of them to progress makes it all very tedious.
 
The boss
 
Note the singular. I haven't beaten this game yet, (mostly because I don't really want to anymore) but I'm 2/3s of the way through and so far I have fought the boss four or five times now. Each fight has been exactly the same. He has two attacks and he teleports around the room randomly. When you get hit by him, he regenerates his health. So yeah, that's awesome. Everyone loves bosses that regenerate health, right?
 
The unlocking
 
Because every game needs to have you unlock stuff as you progress now, this game does too. But the order in which you unlock things is a little weird. The first thing you get is a double jump, which sounds great on paper but has a limitation that makes it worthless: You can only activate after exploding in midair, which probably got you enough height to get where you wanted to go already. It might actually be useful to kill the hovering enemies if it weren't for this odd decision. After that, you get an 'aim mode' which lets you see where objects you blow up will fly to. This gets used about twice right after you get it and is then completely forgotten. Much later, you unlock something that lets you combo explosions if you hit enemies with them, which you probably should start the game with because it almost makes combat bearable. After that you get a dash move which also would have been nice to start with.
 
Now my question here is, why the hell does it take so long to get this stuff? You don't get combo thing and the dash move until the end of the second world. Since there are three worlds, you go more than half the game missing stuff that really should be standard equipment. It's not like this is a Metroid-style game where you're going back and opening up new areas or anything, and it's not like the the mechanics are complex enough for it to be necessary to roll this stuff out slowly. It appears to have been done for no reason at all.
 
In conclusion
 
It's a real shame to see how poor this game turned out to be. It's just not fun. Wost ten bucks I've spent on PSN.

5 Comments
6 Comments
Posted by SuperfluousMoniker

Explodemon looks great on the outside. They put out this trailer which makes the game look pretty damn fun. Do not be fooled. This game has several very questionable design decisions.
 
The Controls


First of all, Explodemon is part an annoying trend in recent games of having non-configurable controls. This wouldn't be a problem if the control setup hadn't apparently been designed by someone who had never played a video game before. You jump with X, explode with circle, dash with triangle, and square is used to talk to people. I'm gonna say that again, for emphasis. Square is your 'talk' button. That's all it does. Why the hell would you use the second easiest to press button on the controller for such a non-essential function? It's mind boggling.
 
Explodemon has apparently been in development for five years. In five years, no one thought maybe they should put the thing you do all the fucking time on square and the thing you almost never do on triangle? Five years wasn't long enough to program customizable controls into the game? You can't even move with the D-Pad! What the fuck?
 
The Combat
 
There are exactly three enemy types in Explodemon: Little guys that go from side to side, bigger guys that go from side to side and shoot at you, and flying things that hover annoyingly out of reach. Several times per level, you'll enter an area where the only way to progress is to kill all the enemies, which magically unlocks the door to continue. I guess this wouldn't be so bad if the combat weren't an absolute chore. Since your only method of attack is exploding, and you can only explode once every second or so, any given encounter winds up taking longer than it feels like it should. Most of the enemies are tiny and nondescript, and the bigger enemies are just scaled up versions of the small ones. The blandness of the enemies and the frequency with which you are required to destroy a bunch of them to progress makes it all very tedious.
 
The boss
 
Note the singular. I haven't beaten this game yet, (mostly because I don't really want to anymore) but I'm 2/3s of the way through and so far I have fought the boss four or five times now. Each fight has been exactly the same. He has two attacks and he teleports around the room randomly. When you get hit by him, he regenerates his health. So yeah, that's awesome. Everyone loves bosses that regenerate health, right?
 
The unlocking
 
Because every game needs to have you unlock stuff as you progress now, this game does too. But the order in which you unlock things is a little weird. The first thing you get is a double jump, which sounds great on paper but has a limitation that makes it worthless: You can only activate after exploding in midair, which probably got you enough height to get where you wanted to go already. It might actually be useful to kill the hovering enemies if it weren't for this odd decision. After that, you get an 'aim mode' which lets you see where objects you blow up will fly to. This gets used about twice right after you get it and is then completely forgotten. Much later, you unlock something that lets you combo explosions if you hit enemies with them, which you probably should start the game with because it almost makes combat bearable. After that you get a dash move which also would have been nice to start with.
 
Now my question here is, why the hell does it take so long to get this stuff? You don't get combo thing and the dash move until the end of the second world. Since there are three worlds, you go more than half the game missing stuff that really should be standard equipment. It's not like this is a Metroid-style game where you're going back and opening up new areas or anything, and it's not like the the mechanics are complex enough for it to be necessary to roll this stuff out slowly. It appears to have been done for no reason at all.
 
In conclusion
 
It's a real shame to see how poor this game turned out to be. It's just not fun. Wost ten bucks I've spent on PSN.

Edited by AjaxPliskin

 Hi,
 
I'm one of the designers on Explodemon. I thought I'd answer some of your questions as I appreciate it that you had enough faith in our project to buy it, and think you might enjoy the game a little more than you have done so far if I explain some of the design choices that you've mentioned in your post.
 
The Circle button was used primarily because it's easier to chain Explosions with Jumping. The sooner you press the Explosion button after Jumping, the more increased the height of your Jump. The ideal technique for doing this is to simply slide your thumb over X and then Circle in one, quick gesture. I think if you go about performing Explosion Jumps this way you'll appreciate that it's Circle and not Square, as sliding your thumb inward towards the center of the controller would move your thumb too far away from both Circle and Triangle.
 
The reason you can't use the D-Pad is because the player relies on Analog control for the Aim-Mode that you unlock early in the game. The player needs this degree of control to quickly and accurately use the Aim-Mode to complete many of the puzzles, as well as to quickly Aim Explosive Crate's at Enemies. Analog also gives the player complete freedom to move at varying speeds and in different directions with greater precision. You can also use the right Analog stick to move the game camera up and down to explore your immediate environment (useful for finding secret areas).

The Double Jump is an invaluable upgrade to your character. Each level contains five Green Recharge Enhancers. These make your Explosion Gauge refill at a much faster rate for the rest of that level. The Double Jump allows you to repeatedly Explode Jump in mid air, so if you get a few Green Recharge Enhancers you'll be able to make Explodemon essentially fly. Try doing this with the sliding thumb Explode Jump technique I mentioned above and you'll enjoy these upgrades more.

The Phase Dash is also a very useful Upgrade. The reason why it's introduced towards the end of Arbor is because the games difficulty ramps up considerably for the last episode. It allows you to temporarily Phase through Enemies and Projectiles without being harmed, and to quickly move in either direction. The game also does have multiple pickups (10 Explodicons per level that go towards you Rank) and secret areas throughout the early and late stages of the game that you can only reach with these upgrades. I have to encourage you to go back and explore with these new Abilties!

It's true that the Enemies are similar, but there are many varieties based on six primary Enemy types, which are Grunts, Soldiers, Sentries, Rhinos, Stickies and Turrets.

The different colours; Green, Purple, Yellow, Blue and Silver, determine the behaviour and attributes of those Enemies in terms of Strength, Weapon type, Speed etc. With the abilities you've unlocked so far, Combo-ing and the using the Phase Dash against the hovering Sentries should become far easier and satisfying to play.

The idea behind Absorbemon is that he was a similar boss scheme to Dr Robonik, in that each time you battle him, it's the same guy but pulling different tricks. Each time you battle him, he has a new or improved ability, or you have to defeat him using a different technique.

Finally, the Explode Boost, Phase Dash, Double Jump / Explode Jumping, Combos, Recharge Enhancers and the other upgrades obtainable in the Shop, when combined, really speed up the platforming and combat to the pace you see in the trailers. These will help players get much faster completion times on levels, which get entered on to the Global Speedrun Leaderboards. Some levels can be completed in just 2 minutes with these Upgrades & Abilities.

There are also five Golden Recharge Enhancers throughout the entire game. These work in the same way as the Green Recharge Enhancers, except for that these are permanent. If you can find them, these will forever increase you Explosion Recharge Speed, so every time you start a level you'll have a very fast recharge rate  which allows you to Explode very rapidly.

We tried to put a lot of replay value into this game for the price that we were selling it for and certainly encourage you to stick at it. I'm very grateful that you had the confidence in our game to buy it straight off on the back of the trailers. I'm as confident as you were, that when you fully upgrade your character and experience just how fluid the control system can be, it will become a much more rewarding experience and fun game to play. Please come back and put some times on the Leaderboards!

Posted by xyzygy

lmao. Apparently an explanation as to why the game is bad makes the game easier to enjoy.

Posted by SuperfluousMoniker
@AjaxPliskin said:
The Circle button was used primarily because it's easier to chain Explosions with Jumping. The sooner you press the Explosion button after Jumping, the more increased the height of your Jump. The ideal technique for doing this is to simply slide your thumb over X and then Circle in one, quick gesture. I think if you go about performing Explosion Jumps this way you'll appreciate that it's Circle and not Square, as sliding your thumb inward towards the center of the controller would move your thumb too far away from both Circle and Triangle.
Wow, I wasn't expecting a response from one of the developers! I want to elaborate this control thing a little more. I've played a lot of 2d games, and have been trained by countless games like Super Mario World and Contra 3 to be very comfortable pressing Square and X at the same time. Circle is usually for auxiliary stuff, and Triangle for even more auxiliary stuff. Pick any SNES or PSX game and it'll probably have a similar setup. Look at Zelda 3, or Symphony of the Night, or Sparkster, or Crash Bandicoot... There are a few oddballs like Super Metroid, but the vast majority are going to have the bottom and leftmost face buttons mapped to the most important functions. Many are customizable too!
 
If Explodemon had customizable controls, I'd also set L1 button to dash. That's how I play games in the Mega Man X series and it works great!
 
I guess my point is that everyone is going to prefer a different control scheme based on what they've gotten used to before in their gaming careers, so not having customizable controls can be very annoying. The game doesn't feel right to me because my muscle memory is off.
Posted by AjaxPliskin

  xyzygy , my post is an explanation of  why certain design decisions were made. I love the game we've made and whilst I obviously won't claim it's perfect, I don't think it's bad at all.
 
  SuperfluousMoniker , many of the games you've listed are our favourite games. You're right that everyone is going to prefer a different control scheme, and it's a shame that we didn't have time to implement custom control options. Almost all games that are ever released are not actually finished, only abandoned. Towards the end of this project we were focusing mainly on making sure the game's physics and entities worked correctly. I hope that with a little practice you'll become more accustomed to the controls we've mapped out. All your feedback is valid and I feel that it's honest. It's this kind of feedback that helps us consider what changes we'd make in the future. It is possible that we could patch the game to have custom control options and that may be an avenue we'll go down, but this kind of thing essentially comes down to time and money. It's certainly something we'd consider implementing for our future games. 
 
I do hope you give it another go because even though the Abilities and Upgrades may be somewhat staggered, I believe that you'll find the game that you saw in the trailers after experiencing it a bit more, especially now as you've already got the Combo, Phase Dash and Double Jump Abilities.

Posted by McGhee
@AjaxPliskin:  
Well this is just awkward.