Nex Machina Review – Twin Stick Shooter Mastery?
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4
Release: 20th June 2017
When the PS4 first came out back in 2013, a little indie game was one of the first PS4 games bundled into the monthly PS Plus line-up, I´m talking of course, about Resogun. Housemarque´s PS4 exclusive little high score based game quickly sucked me into its addictive gameplay, full of bright visuals, tense Twin Stick action and challenging difficulty. Especially during the first months Resogun became one of my favourite games on the console. Now, Housemarque brings yet another one of these games to PC and PS4, called Nex Machina. However, it’s quite different in gameplay but rest assured, it’s still fantastic.
Like Resogun, the core of Nex Machina is to get the highest score possible in each world, like in the good old retro times. Every world consists of a bunch of different little arenas you´ll be thrown into one after another. In each one of them dozens of enemies will crawl upon you, either trying to kill you or steal the humans placed on the map. So, why should you care about saving some people when you can barely survive by yourself? Well, that´s where things get interesting:
While Nex Machina never forces you to save them, hence playing more aggressively, you will soon notice how important these damn humans are to actually have a chance for a noticeable high score. Every human functions as a multiplier of your current points, naturally, you soon will try to rescue all of them for these sweet sweet points. However, as soon as you died 5 times you´ll loose all your points, punishing a reckless playstyle. The more you care about points, the deeper and more challenging Nex Machina becomes, giving you the choice over pace and learning curve.
Said system is embedded in a truly great Twin Stick Shooter system, spiced up through some little additions. Not only we´re presented a very classic implementation, Housemarque also brought a dash mechanic to the table, allowing us to briefly dash through waves of enemies, in order to escape death, very needed in such a fast game. Along a handful of special weapons, like a sword or bomb, Nex Machina really has a unique feel, combined with the arena-based playstyle. Especially the upgrades we can collect from time to time possess some immense value, due to their bonuses like triple dashing or weapon spread. Since we die after one hit, if we don´t have a shield, dropping our upgrades and resetting the arena, every new item has a huge value. The more you have, the more pressure is put on you to not lose it, constantly pumping adrenaline in you, the better you want your points to be.
Additionally, Nex Machina is one of the best looking indie games I´ve seen in quite a while, due to its unique and gorgeous voxel-based graphics style. Everyone who played Resogun will immediately recognize Housemarque´s striking style here, full of flashy, amazing lightning effects, which may be a bit too much for some people. Every enemy explodes into voxels, every arena explodes into voxels, you explode into light and voxels, everything basically explodes! Surely, you might ask yourself how the hell you´re supposed to keep an overview then, luckily you somehow can. Even tho it may not look like it, as soon as you got used to it, I barely had any problems to distinguish what´s going on. Often, certain moments, where I lost my eyes completely, even were designed to lack any sense of overview, with explosions happening right after we entered the scene.
Unfortunately, similar to Resogun, Nex Machina´s biggest problem is its content, making it a rough decision for people not interested in points or high scores. At the one hand were only offered 5 stages, ~13 arenas each and a challenge mode, taking place in the exact same stages but featuring some new rules, not much content for 20 bucks. Of course, every stage features new or re-skinned enemies, new systems, some unique ideas and a great boss at the end, however, I would have loved to see some more stages here, instead of fancier skins for the same enemies. It just becomes extremely clear here, that no one except high score lovers will get their money back here, a missed chance to reach a wider audience.
As someone who loved Resogun as not only a great Twin Stick high score Shooter but also as a great way to get the adrenaline flowing for some minutes, Nex Machina is exactly what I expected. While it keeps everything what made Resogun so unique, like the humans-system or gorgeous graphics, it features enough new things and ideas to feel like something completely new.
Due to its arena based stages, special weapons and dash, it might not be the most innovative game but surely one of the few games, that manage to bring so many parts together and create one of the finest Twin Stick Shooter experiences through them, I ever had, despite the lacking content.
[A Review Code was provided by Housemarque]