Graceful Explosion Machine is a fun shmup on the Nintendo Switch that makes good use of 🙏 and 💪 and 👍. Who knew this would be a good idea?

The game is a throwback. It’s an arcade-style shooter that give players four beam weapons, a dash move, and a quick-turnaround option all in scrolling levels that people old enough to be confused by emojis will remember from Defender. You shoot lots of stuff and go for high scores.

If you’re doing well, you might get a thumbs up…

… or an ok…

… or even a flex…

If you’re doing badly?

Maybe some tears...

If you’ve come upon a new item?

This one, of course…

And when you’ve found a health-restoring power-up? Praise be.

None of these emojis tell you something you shouldn’t already know. If you’re doing well in Graceful Explosion Machine, the explosions of your enemies will clue you in. If you’re doing badly, you won’t need a poop emoji to tell you you are getting shot to bits (sadly, they don’t seem to use that emoji in the game). The emojis simply help amplify what you’re feeling and confirm what is happening.

Update, 12:35pm:

End update.

Tonally, emojis wouldn’t fit in a lot of games. No one playing Zelda or Star Wars Battlefront or Uncharted 4 probably wants to see an emoji pop up in the corner of the screen when they kill a moblin, crash an X-Wing or climb ancient ruins. But, over the last several years, we’ve all been learning this picture language one text message at a time. This is a system many of us know. It’s a system that can convey praise or criticism or encouragement or pictures of rocket ships, pizza, eggplants and peaches. If it would work for some developers to deploy those as a way to teach players their games, then, sure, they might as well give it a shot.

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The emojis certainly work in Graceful Explosion Machine and don’t detract from how lovely the game looks, not one bit: