Produced by 1942 developer Capcom, Exed Exes has a lot in common with its predecessor. It’s the same style of general gameplay, except they dialed up the speed to panic-inducing levels.
The gameplay itself offers few surprises. You control a small ship that fires lasers from the front. You shoot as many enemies as you can while flying through the stages, dodging their projectiles in return. The game has a simple power-up system where your shots get slightly stronger, but you still die (and lose the power-up) in one hit.
A unique feature is that the game has two types of screen-clearing options. First and foremost, players have an arsenal of bombs to throw that will remove all enemy projectiles. It’s handy in a pinch, but the enemies are still around and will just fire new ones. You can, however, also find a rare power-up that turns all on-screen enemies into fruit that gives you points. Finding one of these was always a relief.
What also sets the game apart is the maddening speed at which it plays. Compared to 1942, it feels like Exed Exes is a lot more determined to drain the coins from your pockets. Enemies pour in constantly from every angle. All of them move in odd and conflicting patterns, and most will immediately begin firing at you the moment they can. Hell, some begin firing before you can even do anything against them.
This game gets hectic real fast, so expect your first runs to be brief. There’s just so much on screen and a lot of it takes way more hits to kill than you might expect. The bigger bugs especially feel like they take more hits to kill than you can reasonably inflict before they leave the screen again. Maybe if you could concentrate fire on them for a while, but you can’t because there are 11 other things to dodge.
Masochists and arcade die-hards may savor this kind of challenge, but I quickly found that the game just didn’t speak to me. Shooters like this have never been in short supply and Exed Exes lacks some kind of selling point that makes the struggle worth it. 1942 had the World War 2 theme, as you waged exciting dogfights in the skies over the pacific sea. Environments in Exed Exes feel indistinct by comparison and its roster of enemies feels quite random.
The game seems to have a bug theme going on at first, but then also has you fight unidentifiable splotches on the ground, flying skulls, or just random shapes. Then you pick up an item and suddenly everything turns into fruit? Why fruit?
Another issue is that the game lacks variety. Every stage feels identical and mostly reuses the same sets of enemies. Each boss fight is a repeat of the last with more targets to hit. It’s the same decor from start to finish and the music already begins to kind of drone by round 2. For all its intense combat, Exed Exes bores quickly and doesn’t offer a compelling reason to keep playing. Especially after it so effortlessly drained your first few lives.