Review: Nex Machina (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PC

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Nex Machina
Format: PSN (2.16 GB)
Release Date: June 20, 2017
Publisher: Housemarque
Developer: Housemarque
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 12
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
It’s been pretty phenomenal watching the evolution of the developer Housemarque over the last few years. I spent many hours playing Super Stardust on PlayStation 3 and Resogun on PlayStation 4. Hell, I dug that gem out a few months ago to play it in 4K on the PlayStation 4 Pro.

So now the evolution of that developmental experience arrives in the form of Nex Machina. The voxel-based graphics that debuted in Resogun are now used in a top-down sci-fi twin-stick shooter. And holy hell is it a face melting experience.

The premise is pretty simple: alien invaders, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria! Once again you are tasked with defending humanity, much like in Resogun – in fact a lot like Resogun, but this time you’re taking on the nasty arachnid creatures on the foot.

One hit will kill you so there isn’t much difference between this game and your vulnerability in Resogun. The evolution I spoke of earlier comes in the absolute perfection in gameplay here.

Resogun was pretty damn perfect as far as I’m concerned. I can’t really think of a single thing to fault it for. Arcade perfection has been achieved once again here, making Nex Machina “even more perfect” if that’s even possible. It’s flashy, messy, chaotic, and the gameplay is unforgiving while still being merciful.

… that zen gameplay that feels so familiar …
One thing I immediately took note of is its true “arcade-y” feel. After defeating the first boss, I took a break and shut off the game. When I returned to it, I thought I could simply continue from the second stage. Nope, I had to start all over.

I could select the second stage in the world selection menu, but that didn’t count towards my progression. In its defense, the arcade mode’s stages are not that large, and you can get through them in about ten minutes.

Still, I would have hoped for some sort of soft save system between stages. This is an arcade game though and you always had to start over in the coin-ops so no foul here.

Like Housemarque’s previous games you begin your skirmish with a simplistic blaster. It doesn’t take long to acquire secondary weapons and multipliers for your existing blasters, including a Contra-inspired spread gun that really turns the tide.

Some secondary weapons are more useful than others depending on your play style, but they all evoke that zen gameplay that feels so familiar to Housemarque veterans. Instincts take over and you forget yourself.

Before I knew it, I was simply staying alive and feeling my way through the stages. Frustration would escalate whenever I’d lose a life, because it would break that fluidity of my high. But it was relatively simple to find myself again.

… you have quite a looker here …
I wanted to initially fault the game for how small my protagonist was. He’s tiny on my screen, and I was sitting pretty close to a 55″ 4K LCD. But my second and third playthrough had my mind changed. It became less of an issue, and more of a gameplay tactic.

I was indeed tiny, so I could squeeze through some of that bullet hell with relative simplicity. And when I couldn’t, and this brings up another mechanic, I had access to the “slide/shift” ability that makes you temporarily invincible to enemy fire.

Even this ability is upgradable to the point of being able to use it three times without needing a recharge. This little skill is crucial to surviving some serious bullet infernos.

Visuals:
Do I really need to say much in this section? I mean it’s freakin’ Housemarque. Not to kiss their ass, but in terms of flashy graphics and insane on-screen chaos, few developers can equal them. Couple that with their exponential evolution in this technique and you have quite a looker here.

It’s not that it looks better than Resogun, because that eye-bleedingly brilliant little game is a testament to visual fidelity, but the visuals here represent actual lush environments like earthy locations while still being comprised of voxels.

So while you see the initial voxels come into play when the stages “form”, they immediately settle into place and become colorful organic environments. Weapons fire is as flashy as expected. The camera swings down to an-almost third person perspective to mix things up every once in a while and it looks phenomenal.

… bring along a friend to share in the chaos …
Audio:
Again, the name Housemarque should be a descriptor in each section, one representing a couple dozen positive words. The music is as electrifying as can be expected. Effects are top notch, with the developer’s staple robotic sounds chiming in to name the upgrade every time you pick up a new weapon.

Online/Multiplayer:
Admittedly, things get a little hectic when playing with a friend, but that component of multiplayer we love – the one where you are shouting commands at each other – is ever present here, particularly if you want to survive.

I played this co-op locally and it was an absolute blast. It’s a game that can no doubt stand as a single-player experience, but bring along a friend to share in the chaos, it’s worth it!

There are also leaderboards, and how could there not be in a game like this. If Housemarque gives it love like they did with Resogun, there will be plenty of ways to compare scores with your buddies, and the world.

Conclusion:
I’ve taken pride in saving my perfect scores for only the most absolutely flawless games. It may seem easier to create the perfect game when you aren’t dealing with giant open worlds or writing incredible pieces of dialogue for memorable characters, but it’s the simplicity that makes this game perfect.

And, while it might appear easy to create perfection in an arcade game, I can almost guarantee that there are challenges that present themselves to developers when producing something like this, otherwise every modern arcade game would be perfection.

Balancing level design with enemy difficulty, empowering the player while challenging them, creating flashy beautiful graphics that don’t distract too much, and assaulting the auditory receptors while informing the player that they are using a new weapon, the combinations are realized to absolute perfection in Housemarque’s latest game, and as such, deserve the highest form of praise.

Score:
10

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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