Review: Matterfall (PS4)

Review: Matterfall (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Matterfall
Format: PSN (4.1 GB)
Release Date: August 15, 2017
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Housemarque
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
PEGI: 12
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Housemarque, the studio behind Matterfall, is responsible for some master class twin stick shooters such as Resogun and the Stardust series. Through tight controls and impressive physics, they give the player an authoritative grasp over the plane and the mechanics are never to blame for any failures.

The addictive gameplay loops and score chasing motivations have breached other genres, making an appearance in the isometric third-person shooter space with Dead Nation while Matterfall conjoins these signature characteristics with the 2D platformer.

Gameplay:
The game begins with a short cutscene giving you some backstory and purpose for your Samus-like protagonist Avalon Darrow. The alien technology this society has embraced and incorporated into their world is on the fritz and she’s been hired to eradicate the problem.

Folding the twin stick shooting mechanics into a side scrolling, 2D platformer works surprisingly well here. Controlling your character with the left stick, shooting in any direction with the right, and using only the shoulder buttons for almost everything else, including jumping, seemed wonky at first but soon grew on me.

Before you realize it, the game can turn you into the Mozart of the DualShock 4 as you fiercely but accurately pound upon the shoulder buttons and triggers with an unbridled rhythmic precision.

Without having acquainted yourself with the game first, watching someone play through it may prove perplexing. How the hell can anyone make sense of the on screen chaos? Dozens of enemies are spawning out of thin air, every single inanimate object is firing at a turret’s rate, matter bubbles are appearing and exploding in response to the split-second weapon switching, and it’s all happening amidst the player’s return fire and invincibility dashes.

Getting into the gameplay groove is possibly the most rewarding part of Matterfall. When you begin to chain perfectly timed double jumps with enemy stunning airstrikes and finish by detonating a matter bomb to clear the area, it’s pretty satisfying.

Just as you begin to build confidence in your skills and gain control over the mayhem, the game finds creative new ways to employ that pesky red matter. This indestructible, blood-colored stuff is harmful upon contact, invulnerable to dashes, and takes many forms. Sometimes it’s hurled at you like a lava tornado but it’s more commonly used as the shields of your enemies.

PR or marketing might sell this game as “Metroid meets Resogun” if they could and I’d agree with that description, especially when considering the augmentations. Each level has hidden civilians to save, some of which award you with a new weapon or power up. It’s certainly worth the time searching for these people as the game quickly ramps up to a brutal difficulty even on the easier modes.

Up to three augmentations can be equipped at once and they range from a stronger primary weapon to an added grenade launcher or homing device. Finding the combination that’s right for you is crucial to your success and while you may benefit from the upgrades, the game remains balanced.

Because there’s such a focus on beating the high scores of your friends and your own best run, the game features only twelve levels, three of which are just a boss fight. While the variety may seem inadequate for the average platformer, it’s an abundance of content for an arcade score chaser.

Rather than just getting from point A to point B, travelling left to right in a straight line to finish a level, the game challenges players to search for upgrades, save civilians, defeat enemies, and hold onto a score multiplier while navigating environments with their fair share of verticality. Replayability is prioritized above overall length since part of the draw comes from redoing each level to improve your score.

Try the game on the higher difficulty settings if you dare. Your score multiplier will benefit greatly but you’ll have less health and the enemies become adversely stronger.

Visuals:
Beside the familiar gameplay, Housemarque games also have an identifiable visual flare. Characterized by neon colors and fireworks-inspired explosions, thousands of tiny voxels litter the area when your enemies are blown to smithereens.

With the gameplay dialed up to eleven, it makes sense that the visuals match. The overstated impact on your surroundings provides a tantalizing visual feast to capture your gaze.

The phenomena of scope and scale are best conveyed through the epic boss fights which almost made me feel like I did when taking down the gargantuan beasts as Kratos in the God of War series. The zero gravity sections of the game, indicated by a translucent, neon purple honeycomb patterned backdrop, tell the player that it’s possible to fly in that area.

Audio:
You may recognize the familiar, robotic female voice if you’re a Housemarque fan. She’s back again with some helpful audial indicators about the status of your multiplier, overcharge super weapon, and remaining health. She speaks to you through the speaker on the DualShock 4 and with all the pandemonium on screen, her reminders do come in handy.

The sound effects that coincide with the explosions and bullet hell intensity are engaging and polished. A sort of techno/rock type of music is befitting of the game’s style but nothing is forfeited by jamming out to your own playlists.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component but a leaderboard system is an integral part of any arcade score chaser. It allows you to filter through both a global list and one displaying only the high scores of your PSN friends. Beating your rivals gives even further incentive to master the levels.

Conclusion:
Matterfall is what you get when a supremely talented studio hones in on a mechanic they’ve perfected and experiments with it in another genre. We’re offered a fresh take on the style of gameplay against a familiar backdrop of shooting and maneuverability.

The amalgam of genres and mechanics may seem odd on paper but in practice, the cohesion of the intermingling parts create chocolate and peanut butter rather than pizza and ice cream.

Like a Naughty Dog action adventure or a Rockstar open world, a Housemarque twin stick shooter is the gold standard. Unfortunately, this genre isn’t as mainstream so the brilliance behind these titles goes largely unrecognized. There is however a cult following and the fans that understand the significance of these games will sing their praises with a most deserving outcry of support.

Score:
9.0

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

Written by Emrah Rakiposki

Emrah Rakiposki

– Food
– Video games
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It has been my life’s work to properly order the list of this world’s greatest pleasures. There is no right answer.

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