Look, I told you that my opinion of Nex Machina might be slightly biased. There is no hiding the love I have of Housemarque products but at least you can say that I have been completely honest with you. Nex Machina is available on PC and PS4 and we will be using the PS4 version for our review.
- Genre: Arcade/Shooter
- Developer: Housemarque
- Release Date: 20 June, 2017
- Storage – 1GB
- Metacritic PS4 88% & PC 84%
- Available via Steam £14.99 & PS4 £15.99
Who is Eugene Jarvis?
Before we get into the meat of the review; for the development of Nex Machina, the team at Housemarque teamed up with a very special old-school developer by the name of Eugene Jarvis, although details of his actual involvement in the project is unclear. If you ever wanted to look for one of the founding fathers of arcade games, then you need to look to Eugene Javis being one of them. He certainly had a big influence in the early days of the games industry and no doubt still has significance today. Eugene was a successful game designer and programmer that started life as a programmer on Pinball machines for Williams in the late 1970’s. His major successes speak for themselves when you take the likes of Defender and one of the original arcade shooters named Robotron 2084.
Gameplay, Audio & Visual
You can play Nex Machina in a number of ways, first and foremost is the single-player game (Arcade), select your difficulty and then off you go. With this single player experience depending on the difficulty that you choose you also get 99 continues, you’re going to need them, you’re going to die, a lot. The Online option is a score attack, you attempt to get the most points you can on a level which is then compared to others online, joining this is the time you took and the number of humans you managed to save. Then there is Local Co-op, something I have yet to try, it will be interesting to see if they increase the number of enemies based on the entire extra player.
I think the first words to come out of my mouth when I sat down to play Nex Machina was “Oh gosh that’s pretty..” After playing it for a few days I think one word comes to mind, pure. There really is no need to read what the controls are just pick up and play. One stick moves your character and the other controls your direction of fire, the L1 & L2 buttons activates a dash, meanwhile, R1 and R2 is a secondary weapon. The Dash move makes you invulnerable to enemies during the frames of the animation, it’s short enough to get you out of trouble and learning to use it will generally be the second thing you learn. It does not take a rocket scientist to realise that the main task is to shoot all the things. It’s not exactly deep gameplay when you look at it from that angle but this is a Housemarque product we are talking about and there is a lot of gameplay that comes from finding where the multipliers are but during your first few goes you’ll be worrying about survival. Once you have the basics down and you have probably got passed the first boss, you can then begin to think about everything else. Multipliers increase by saving humans, you begin to notice that some of the scenery is breakable and provides you with various bonuses, and then there are the secret humans, bonus levels and all sorts.
I’m happy to challenge anyone that calls Nex Machina an ugly game. There is a lot going on at any given time so it can look chaotic and busy like any decent bullet hell. I personally really appreciate the art style but it might take your eyes a bit to adjust what is going on. It’s certainly one of those games that looks more chaotic but playing it seems easier somehow. The fun part is that it runs all this at a solid pace, I have no idea if it is 60FPS but it certainly feels like it. The colours are highly contrasted and the voxel engine does a beautiful job, I challenge you to not be amazed by what it can do. Take a look for yourself, during development, Housemarque put out this animated gif of the voxel engine in full swing.
Sound wise the game is also suitably busy, and I will say that the soundtrack surprised me a bit. They chose to go with what I would call a revised 80’s midi theme. I was quite surprised by the sound of it, and having listened to the full thing on Spotify without the game I really enjoyed it, it certainly fits the game and gives such a modern game an old-school feel.
And this is where I hand you over to Timlah…
An independent opinion
I’ve not played a huge amount of Nex Machina, as I wanted to get an idea, without being an expert on the game. I wanted to get to understand the title and why Chris enjoyed the title so much, but I didn’t want to overstay it. Instead, I wanted to act as a complete outsider to get an understanding of the game.
Now, the game is relatively self-explanatory when you’re dropped into the world. I didn’t know what the controls were, so when I pressed down X and my character was shooting downwards, as opposed to the direction I was running, I quickly figured this was a Twin Stick Shooter. There wasn’t anything on the cover or any form of warning about this, so if you go in blind, you may be surprised by this at first. This was the first Twin Stick I’ve played since The Binding of Isaac, so my experiences are a little bit different.
I found the level designs compelling, yet tricky. I found the art direction to be smooth and colourful, which is something missing from a lot of modern AAA titles. The music was intense, yet non-distracting – But the most important point comes in the form of the gameplay. It plays exactly as a Twin Stick Shooter should; you move with the left analogue stick, you fire in whatever direction you want with the right analogue stick. However, when you first go into the world, a small bit of warning about it being a Twin Stick wouldn’t go amiss. Still, the levels were tricky and in some cases, near unforgiving. It didn’t stop them being understandable and well designed (even if there was no control warning). I do think this is a tiny misstep, however, as the overall core experience was great fun.
Plus, my time with titles such as Steredenn has given me a lot of experience in bullethells – As I managed to beat the first boss on my very first attempt! Go me! Oh and as ever – Check out our gallery:
If you like your shooters beautiful, with plenty of bullet hell elements without being overly ridiculous, then I would highly recommend Nex Machina. For the price, you get a lot of game and one that comes with an interesting learning curve; one that you can master, with the satisfaction of quick restarts and some punishment for good measure. It’s a game that teaches you how to play it without all those overly heavy tutorials, and continues to teach you even after you have grasped the basics. I found myself at times actually holding my breath to get past a level. It’s a shame that this will be the last arcade-style game that Housemarque makes, but what a game to go out on! It lets you get on with the serious business of playing and forces you to just “git gud”.
If you have played Nex Machina then do let us know what you thought of it. If you are one of the people that have looked at the game and said “nope, not for me” we would be interested to know why. Get in touch with us via the comments section, Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.
Love and plenty of pew-pews