Finnish studio Housemarque has put out some excellent niche title over the years – Super Stardust HD, Outland and Resogun among them. Its latest offering doesn’t snap this winning streak.
Nex Machina is the result of Housemarque teaming up with Eugene Jarvis, the developer most well known for the genre defining Robotron 2084. With the man behind the “twin-stick shooter” collaborating on the project, Nex Machina delivers a classic arcade challenge with an ultra-modern voxel aesthetic.
The story behind Nex Machina is as simple as it gets. After loading up the Arcade mode, players will see their character ride in on a Tron-esque motorcycle and immediately get thrown right into the action. Menacing machinery will march towards you and yes, you guessed it, you have to fight back. Man versus machine is the crux of the game and that’s about as deep as it gets.
As the futuristic hero, players will have to destroy waves of death machines and save humans while progressing through the game’s various levels. Completing levels will reward players with tokens that they can use to unlock character cosmetics or different variations of the game’s levels. Modifiers that alter enemy speed or that change the way you rack up high scores will come into play eventually and provide even more of a challenge.
Nex Machina features 6 game worlds that are easily discernible and follow a recognisable theme. The “Techno Forest” world for example features lush greenery interspersed with high tech objects while the “Fire Cavern” has red hot lava flowing through it. Each world is broken up into smaller sections, separated by slick transitions. Secrets and shortcuts abound in the levels but it’ll take repeated plays for you to find them all.
Nex Machina is a “Bullet Hell” twin-stick shooter in which players control their character with the left analog stick and shoot with the right while the shoulder trigger buttons are reserved for dashing and using special weapons.
These weapons arrive as upgrades that drop from downed enemies or from destructible objects. They’re indispensable in surviving against the machine horde since they augment firepower substantially. Upgrades such as the Rocket Launcher and Laser are standard fare but each weapon available clearly has strengths and weaknesses that players will have to learn to adapt to. Oh and there’s even a sword for those crazy enough to bring a knife to a gunfight.
Enemies will spawn en-masse and try to end your life in a variety of ways and while the game may not have a deeply engrossing storyline, it doesn’t need one to be successful. Nex Machina’s fast-paced action and frantic firefights will get your adrenaline pumping even on the easiest difficulty level.
The true beauty of the game lies in how it pushes you to do better. To be faster and play smarter. Racking up a high score isn’t as easy as it seems and the more you play the game, the better you’ll get at reading enemy patterns, dodging their projectiles and rescuing humans. It might seem formulaic but the game’s fast paced high intensity action is something that never gets old.
Nex Machina doesn’t skimp on special effects and the sheer number of voxel cubes generated when enemies are blown up is enough to make graphics processors everywhere shudder.
Amazingly though, the game doesn’t suffer from any slowdown or frame rate drops at all. Housemarque have created a title that’s ultra refined and runs so smooth on the PS4 that it’s quite unbelievable given how busy the action gets. The game’s launch trailer does a great job of showing off just how chaotic things can get.
Nex Machina – Verdict
Housemarque’s collaboration with Eugene Jarvis has taken the best of the “twin-stick shooter” genre and fused it with visually stunning voxel graphics. Nex Machina’s “Bullet Hell” is a bullet heaven for those that want a buttery smooth arcade shooter. The high-score leaderboards, unlockables and copious amounts of replayability round off the title and make it one of this year’s finest shoot-em-up’s yet.
- Nex Machina was reviewed on PS4. A Review Code was provided by the Publisher.