There’s one word that can be used to describe Housemarque’s latest release, Nex Machina. That word is fun. Undeniably the best developer around when it comes to twin-stick shooters, Housemarque has made a name for themselves in the industry with fantastic games such as Resogun and Super Stardust. It should come as no surprise then that this one is also another home run for the studio, and has reaffirmed my love for this genre. Read on for our full Nex Machina review.
Title: Nex Machina
Available On: PlayStation 4, PC
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4 Pro
Release Date: June 20, 2017
Review Game Supplied by Developer
Nex Machina is a collaboration with Eugene Jarvis, an American game designer and programmer famous for the Defender and Robotron: 2084 games in the 1980’s, and for the Cruis’n series of racing games in the 1990’s. Teaming up with a studio that has perfected the genre was unquestionably going to be a recipe for success. You control a space pilot as he moves between different rooms, wiping out the approaching waves of robots and saving the last humans.
Nex Machina tells a tale that takes place somewhere in our future. Humans have become so dependent on technology, that when artificial lifeforms become sentient and start to take over the world, there’s literally nothing they can do about it. They cower in fear and hide behind objects, hoping to be saved before ultimately getting harvested and destroyed by the robotic enemies.
Playing as the protagonist in the game, it’s your job to completely eliminate the enemies in each area, while saving as many of the humans that you possibly can. They run around the stages, and can be seen as they glow green, while the enemies all glow red. There are also hidden humans which can be discovered and saved by destroying objects and finding secret areas.
Sitting down to play Nex Machina, I was instantly hooked. I kid you not, I didn’t set the controller down until after I had completely finished the Arcade mode. Twice. It doesn’t take a long time to get through the handful of stages present in the game, with my playtime for one run clocking in at just shy of two hours. This isn’t about the story though and having a game that you can spend a lot of time with a campaign. The meat and potatoes is to keep replaying the game, finding new secrets, beating high scores, and cranking up the difficulty to see how well you are performing.
You control the space pilot with the left stick, and the gun at your disposal is controlled and aimed with the right stick. Simply pressing the right stick in any direction will unleash a hailstorm of bullets toward your enemy, but watch out. They also do the same to you. These types of games are all about precision and skill, dodging enemy fire while unleashing massive damage on your own.
Each stage culminates in a boss fight that, on higher difficulties, will take some practice in order to overcome. Nex Machina recommends that you start out on the easiest, base difficulty, just to get a feel for the levels and the mechanics you’ll be dealing with. I did just that, and I’m glad I did. It allowed me to enjoy the game for what it was, without having to stress about dying all the time or losing a power-up. Once I finished the game, I immediately went back in on the next difficulty up, and I felt like my time spent during the initial run better prepared me for what was in store as the difficulty continues to increase.
Speaking of power-ups, the more areas you make it through without dying, the more powerful you’ll be when you reach the end of a section and battle the final boss. You’ll want to have as many items and be as upgraded as possible, because the end bosses are not a joke in the slightest. It is possible to defeat them with just a basic weapon and no power-ups, but it’s a challenge. Trust me… I ended up having to do this once because I died one too many times at the end.
The graphics Housemarque has pulled off with Nex Machina are absolutely stunning. Colorful environments, varied landscapes, and an insane amount of particles and effects all happening at the same time on screen is a sight to behold. There is a level of beauty within the game that can only be achieved with this style, and it speaks to how fun games can be without the necessity for cutting edge graphics and everything be realistic. The soundtrack also deserves a shout out, mixing synth beats with an 80’s vibe that had me smiling from ear to ear.
There’s so many reasons to keep returning to Nex Machina, but perhaps one of the best reasons it’s the inclusion of a couch co-op mode. A staple in gaming that seems to be returning somewhat, it’s nice to be able to sit down next to a friend or loved one on the couch and blast away robots while saving the world. An Arena mode also allows for levels to be completed with different twists on them, such as Time Attack. Even though you’ll finish the Arcade mode once in under two hours, you won’t want to stop playing, and could easily get dozens upon dozens of hours out of this release.
Nex Machina is a gem, and one that deserves to be experienced and enjoyed by as many gamers as possible. I highly recommend this to anyone, but especially fans of twin-stick shooters and those that have been following Housemarque for years. This is definitely some of the most pure fun I’ve had with gaming this year, and that’s saying a lot!