Nex Machina is a competitive arcade shooter from Finnish developer Housemarque. Having created previous titles such as Resogun and Super Stardust HD you know before playing that the developer excels at this particular genre. Even more exciting here is that they have collaborated with Eugene Jarvis, the creator of classics such as Smash TV and Robotron 2048.
There’s a simple backstory to the game to try and explain what is going on. Basically it’s the future and humans have become totally addicted to their technology. Meanwhile, machines have reached consciousness and surpassed human intelligence. The machines have had enough of being mere servants and see themselves as the superior lifeforms so have decided to eradicate all human life. Obviously your job is to stop them.
Nex Machina is a twin-stick shooter where the action is mostly viewed from above. Players control a soldier with the left stick and shoot with the right stick. Left Trigger performs a dash move which can be used to evade enemies and cross laser barriers. Right Trigger activates your secondary weapon which constantly changes as you pick new ones up.
Watch the Nex Machina announcement trailer:
There’s a large variety of secondary weapons on offer. These include a rocket launcher, explosive dash, smart bomb, multi-shot, laser and even a sword. Some are more useful than others and you quickly find your favourites. I particularly like the laser and smart bomb for getting out of trouble.
If you’re familiar with Robotron and Smash TV then you’ll recognise the influences that those games have had here. Each level is short and spawns a set number of enemies. These mostly rush the player who needs to move quickly and make split-second decisions to stay alive. At set points throughout the game you also come up against big boss enemies that have large health bars and multiple phases to overcome.
Constant movement and shooting is absolutely essential. If there was only the enemies to worry about it wouldn’t be so tough. However, most levels feature multiple humans to rescue. These wander around and are targeted by certain enemies. Touching them is enough to save them but you often need to decide which to save first. If one comes under attack you need to be quick or they die.
Saving the humans is essential to building a large score. They are also one of the biggest reasons that you die. It’s always so tempting to rush in and save them, especially when they are under attack. Doing so without thinking will get you killed if you’re not careful.
If you do die, and have lives left, then the level instantly resets everything for you to try again. If you run out of lives then you have an option of using a continue. If you want to get the biggest scores you need to stay alive to keep your multiplier high.
The game is built on a brilliant voxel engine making almost everything destructible. It’s worth shooting everything as many objects hide secrets such as extra lives, secret humans and hidden paths to different levels. As soon as you kill the last enemy on a level, the world rotates and you jump straight to the next one. Due to this it’s important to shoot all the other things you want before killing the last enemy.
Graphically the game is an absolute treat with plenty of wonderful visual effects. The action is incredibly fast and things get even more hectic on the higher difficulty levels. The screen is completely rammed with robotic enemies, lasers, bullets and explosions.
Amazingly with so much going on it’s always clear to see what is happening and you know when you die it’s completely your fault. After a few attempts you can feel yourself getting into the zone and it becomes hard to stop playing.
Getting good at the game takes patience and a lot of practice. One of the best ways to learn is using the built in spectator mode to watch how other players got their highscores. These replays provide valuable tips as well as letting you see where some of the secrets are hidden that you may have missed.
The main aim of the game is to get the highest score and there are a variety of leaderboards available. The game has a main campaign to play through solo but also local co-op. There’s also an Arena mode and a huge assortment of challenges to beat. It’s a game that will keep you busy for a very long time indeed.
Nex Machina is wonderfully addictive and the sort of game that works both in short bursts and long play sessions. It’s difficult but so much fun that you just can’t stop coming back for more. If you enjoy twin-stick shooters then this is one of the best around. Highly recommended.
Nex Machina was reviewed using a digital code supplied by the developer.
Publisher: Housemarque Developer: Housemarque Release Date: June 20, 2017 Reviewed On: PS4