Intense arcade style twin-stick shooter: Welcome to Nex Machina. Long time indie developers Housemarque have teamed up with Eugene Jarvis (serving as a creative consultant) on their latest title. Playstation fans may be familiar with Housemarque’s 2013 title Resogun. As for Mr. Jarvis, he’s been responsible for such classics as Defender, Robotron: 2084 and Smash TV. That’s a pretty impressive pedigree. So does Nex Machina live up to it?
Before we get into that though let’s cover the basics. Nex Machina is a top down-ish twin-stick shooter. Well, not entirely top-down but more 2.5D. The main weapon of destruction, your gun. This is augmented with a dash ability and some special weapons as well. It’s no secret that I like it when games keep mechanics to a minimum. Better to have a few options that are well done than many options that are merely ok. In a game with the pace of Nex Machina it’s probably better not to have to worry about fiddling with too many things anyway, you may not have the time.
What is that pace? How does break-neck speed sound? Don’t worry that particular speed isn’t absolutely required. There are 4 different difficulty settings to choose from in the standard Arcade mode. Rookie will give unlimited continues and is at the slowest pace. If you are looking for an excuse to play at the lowest setting, it will give ample time to find all the secrets locked away in the levels and come to grip with the mechanics. Each level in difficulty will do 2 things, up the speed and lower the amount of continues. Experienced gives 99 continues, Veteran 10 and just 5 for the Master difficulty.
Nex Machina is a proper good twin-stick shooter however. The faster you and everything thing else move, the better the game gets. What may seem like utter chaos to some is actually quite ordered. The trick is finding that order. There are humans to be saved out there. Saving them from the machines is the first priority. Of course you could let them die on purpose if you are a self-centered jerk, don’t be that guy. Make a plan of action to save them all, but do so quickly. Nex Machina absolutely has a particular flow to it, find it, stay with it, or pay the price.
After working your way through the levels, hopefully at a blistering pace, there is the ever popular boss battles. If you have seen someone refer to Nex Machina as “Bullet Hell” *cough cough* Steam user tags *cough cough* the boss battles are probably the reason for that. Truth be told, I didn’t find them all that bullet happy. Like most things they struck a nice mix of speed and the occasional dash/dodge. I had actually anticipated them being a bit crazier than they were. But that just goes to show some good restraint in making them challenging yet fun, without going overboard.
So what else is there besides the Arcade mode? Got to make sure you’re at the top of your game worldwide, so there is also an Arena mode as well. Rather than being thrown in a pit gladiator style, Nex Machina’s arena mode has you complete different challenges or segments from the game. High scores of course for bragging rights on leader boards. Reaching certain milestones in score will earn some coins that can be spent unlocking more challenges or even some cosmetic options for your character. Right now they appropriately the Season 1 challenges. So, guess this means we can expect some variation in the future. That will be good to keep everyone coming back for more.
What would a fast paced twin-stick shooter be without a little eye melting goodness thrown in. Bright, flashy, seizure inducing visuals? Yes, please! Nex Machina touts it’s voxel destruction, but these are not your grandfathers voxels. In no uncertain terms this game is as beautiful to look at as it is to play. Even better is that through all the eye popping visuals, hazards are still easily spotted, no blending in with the environment. The contrast is just right so that there is never the feeling of a cheap death. That’s an area where Nex Machina has a leg up on one of my all time favorites Beat Hazard, where at 200% visuals, hazards get and do get lost in the background. Clean, crisp, yet flashy and vibrant all at the same time, what’s not to like.
No really, what’s not to like about this game? If you are even the slightest bit into these style of games this is a must play. The are few downsides, replay-ability may be one. It remains to be seen how fast new seasons will come in the Arena, but as for Arcade, there really is only the unlocking of the highest difficulty, and of course finding all the secrets. This will of course take some time, but if you are just playing to beat it then move on it may not be the longest title out there. Fair warning, this is a game that will suck you in and say, stay awhile longer, get that extra point, find the extra area, climb that leader board just a bit higher. The only other possible negative, extended plays will run your PC a bit hot. After about an hour of gameplay I did notice a good deal of heat pouring out the top of my PC. If you are a bit finicky about that as I can be a time maybe keep the sessions a bit shorter. Although the game itself will help that a bit as after 45 minutes or so my brain had turned to mush and I started making some rather silly errors in play.
Time for the final thoughts then. Nex Machina is an outstanding arcade style twin-stick shooter. It’s so outstanding that I would serious consider building an arcade machine just for this game alone. My wife may not appreciate a cabinet in the living room, but who cares, it’d be worth it. It just screams to be in an arcade somewhere and I’d love to have a crack at it in it’s natural habitat. It’s already great with just a standard controller, don’t get me wrong, but it deserves a proper stand alone home as well.
- Excellent visuals
- Top notch game flow
- Exciting game play, that is fast yet begs to be played even faster
- Run a bit hot