I don't think I've seen my PS4 make these colors before.

There's a fair bit to say about Graceful Explosion Machine, but that sentiment is perhaps the most striking. It's not just that the gameplay is good, which it is. It's not just that the sound design is solid, which it also is. It's not even that the graphics are quite good on a technical level, which is true.

It's that first, bodyslam of an impression the game makes with its sheer use of color. This is obviously not the only bright, colorful game on the market, but few of them wield those colors so crisply and so boldly. The game is simply gorgeous, in a way that I rarely see on this platform, and that deserves to be commended just on its own.

But let's talk about that other stuff, too. Gameplay is important, especially here. Because Graceful Explosion Machine is an arcade-style horizontal shmup. The big schtick here is that it works something like Fantasy Zone; instead of constantly scrolling to one side, you can flip and go in either direction. This results in most of the arena-like stages looping, with only the smallest ones having hard walls on either side.

So you can flip, which is mapped to your left shoulder buttons so you can also fly backwards. There's also a boost, for slamming right past a batch of foes. You then have four weapons, each built to a different central purpose. your most basic and most commonly-used weapon, a simple medium-range autocannon, has a heat gauge to manage, where firing too long will overheat it. The other three (a 360-degree energy sword, a tightly focused sniper beam, and a powerful missile barrage) all run off your ship's power, causing a steady back and forth between them.

This is enhanced by two key factors: The first is that defeated enemies drop little charges of power, letting you get juice back faster than waiting for your ship to regenerate the stuff. The second is that every enemy killed quickly and without being hit raises a combo multiplier. So not only are you constantly managing your resources, but you're also ever-tempted to dive too deep in for that extra bit of glory.

All of this also means the game is deeply, deeply replayable. While the basic spawn patterns of each stage seem to be fixed, the AI can obviously go wild from there, and of course your specific tactics can massively change how a level plays. Whether you're aiming for a specific trophy out of the list, or to rack up a new high score, or just to survive, there's a back-and-forth to the temptations and pressures that keeps the game always interesting, and always feeling like any mistake was ultimately your fault for getting greedy.

Like I said, the sound design is also really solid here. I unfortunately can't speak more deeply on that, if only because the game doesn't do any truly crazy audio tricks. But it's well done, sells the environment and style, and helps the weapons feel right. It does its job and does it well, which is all you can really ask of a game that isn't about sound, you know?

And, well, I talked about the graphics. The game's gorgeous, and also keeps up even with some truly crazy things on screen. Get a bit deeper in and you start seeing an absurd amount of enemies at once to carve into, with plenty of effects going on, and the whole thing just keeps up, running steady and smooth. I never once detected a single hitch or any sense that the PS4 was struggling.

I'll admit there's not a lot of story, this much is true...but, I mean, this is an arcade shooter. They don't really tend to have those, in general. There are totally exceptions...but, I mean, one of the big successes in the genre that helped revitalize it, Geometry Wars, literally did not have any story or sense of actual setting. The simple fact that we have some amount of actual progression and locale here, with our heroic vessel going from planet to planet to try and keep ahead of the constantly hunting enemy, is a lot more than you sometimes get.

The thing is, I'm kind of struggling to have a huge amount to say here. And that's not of any fault of the game. It's just...It's a simple, pure game, boiled down to its absolutes. There's no weird flaws from reaching farther than they could grasp. There's no crazy stories of multiplayer systems to work. There's not even my usual woe with indies where they make mistakes from not trying their game on consoles with actual TVs.

This is a game that I keep finding myself describing as crisp. Skilled people made this. It's only VertexPop's third game, but they've found a rhythm that works very well for them. If there were any teething troubles on the console side, they clearly worked them out in their previous game.

Now if there is one interesting question to ask, it's if you buy this game, which platform to get it on? And that's a bit of a tricky thing. See, I played this on PS4, and it was great. But I can't help but imagine that the game's quick, arcadey gameplay would work really well on the Nintendo Switch. And of course, there's the question of whether you have any friends playing it. Leaderboards are great. Friend leaderboards, getting into a high-score war with your buddy, are even better. But if all your shmup-loving friends happen to be PC gamers, say, you might just have to go that route, even with how gorgeous it is on a good sized TV.

Or, I mean, you could just buy it everywhere. The game's hovering around $12 USD on the various platforms, give or take a dollar or so. That's about as much as a good but humble lunch. Not even a fancy lunch, at the kind of place where you pay after you eat.

So of course if I'm suggesting you buy this multiple times, even as kind of a joke, the question of "should you buy it at all" is kind of a given, isn't it? Yes. Yes you should buy it. This is a damn solid game that does a lot with its resources, earns its price, and is well worth your time. I try and save that coveted "Must Buy" label for games that really define the platforms they're on, and this isn't quite that high...but it's damn close. So go get it, already.