Explosive Candy World: sometimes simple is best

I’ve been playing Explosive Candy World all afternoon. I have been growling and yelling obscenities at it so much that my wife has come in twice to see if I’m “all right”. And yet, despite how much this game clearly loathes me and wants me to feel pain, suffering and a general sense of inadequacy, I can’t stop playing. Is this awakening a new kink in me… or is it just a genuinely fun game?

Brought to us through a collaborative effort between Marcos Game Dev, Ratalaika Games and eastasiasoft, Explosive Candy World is a simple, straightforward physics puzzle game that would have been right at home on mobile phones and tablets before excessive monetisation entered the picture. It demands nothing more of the player than to learn its mechanics, master them and progress as far as they are able — then perhaps set it aside for a while and come back to it whenever the mood strikes them.

Explosive Candy World

Explosive Candy World doesn’t have a story. Hell, it doesn’t even have a title screen when you boot it up; it takes you straight to its main menu, inviting you to get started right away. And once you do start, it’ll take you a little while to figure out what it’s expecting you to do — but once you do, you’ll be well away.

Your aim in each level is to get your “candy man” from the start point to the finish. The twist is that you can’t move him directly; instead, using the left analogue stick, you can aim all around you, then a squeeze of the right trigger throws an exploding candy in that direction. If Candy Man is caught in the blast, he’ll be catapulted through the air accordingly, and by making use of this simple, straightforward mechanic you’ll need to solve a range of puzzles.

Honestly, I feel like the highest compliment I can pay Explosive Candy World is that it feels like a game Nintendo could have made. By that I mean that it’s excellently designed and paced in such a way that the player can learn its intricacies without the game ever having to “speak” a word.

Explosive Candy World

There are no tutorials aside from a button prompt on the first level; aside from this, the game teaches you everything you need to know by gradually introducing new mechanics one by one, providing you with a relatively safe environment in which to try them out and understand how they work. After this, the game provides you with a series of different challenges that make use of the mechanics you’ve just learned — perhaps in combination with some previously learned systems — and expects you to just get on with it. This is precisely how Nintendo has been designing Mario games in particular for decades.

Initially, the game just tasks you with getting from start to finish, but as you proceed you’ll discover that many levels will require you to collect things before the exit opens. Then you’ll find that certain collectible items are “shielded” until you hit a particular “switch” item, so you’ll need to find a way to hit that with your exploding candies as well as reaching the tasty treats.

The further you go, the more complex things get. Fragile walls and floors demand that you plan your route carefully — and take potential debris into account. Platforms that switch between corporeal and incorporeal every time you hit them with a candy demand careful planning. And sometimes a seemingly impossible level rewards a sense of exploration and creativity, revealing hidden items necessary to progress as a reward for being inquisitive.

Explosive Candy World

The whole thing is presented in a pleasing pixel art style with some catchy (albeit repetitive) chiptune-style music playing in the background, with a new musical theme playing for each of the game’s “worlds”. This is perhaps the main criticism I’d level at Explosive Candy World: each “world” feels like it’s a bit too long, leaving you hearing the same music and seeing the same visuals for level after level, potentially inducing fatigue in the audience.

But then, by the same token, Explosive Candy World is not necessarily a game intended to be binged; it’s a simple, casual game that, as noted above, would have been right at home on mobile platforms in the era before in-app purchases ruined everything. It’s a game to pick up and play when you have a few minutes to spare and you want to play something, but you don’t have the time and/or inclination to devote to the Atelier Sophie 2s and the Full Metal Daemon Muramasas of the world.

It’s simple, straightforward, and most importantly, damned fun — so if that’s what you’re after from your games, this is absolutely a worthwhile pickup.

Explosive Candy World is available now for Nintendo Switch, Xbox everything and PS4/5.

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Pete Davison
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