Housemarque has made a bit of a name for themselves. While their biggest game is probably PlayStation 4 launch title Resogun, they were also well known for their twin stick shooters. Games like Dead Nation, Alienation, and the Super Stardust series were well received for their flashy and fun gameplay. Nex Machina feels like the logical conclusion of Housemarque's work: a twin stick shooter with a style very similar to Resogun. Does this mash-up work, or should you find another to spend your time on?
The game starts with your character driving a motorcycle super fast before jumping off it and shooting robots. This is the only lead-in that you'll need, as from here on out Nex Machina is all about the gameplay. The game doesn't try to ease you into your robot-killing rampage either, leaving you to figure out how to play it and how everything works on your own. Picking up a laser is nice, but you're going to have to spend some time learning how to use the weapon and which situation its best for. The game's at least gives you unlimited lives at the default difficulty so you can continue as many times as you wish.
You're most likely going to need to continue a lot. Nex Machina can become quite difficult, especially in its last few levels. Each level is composed of 15 zones, and each zone has two objectives: kill all the robots and save as many humans as you can. Every level goes by at lightning speeds, not stopping to let you catch your breath as you continue your task of robot killing and human saving. Each zone holds some secret as well, whether it be hidden enemies, secret exits, or even hidden humans. I feel like I barely scratched the surface after a single run through the campaign, and I'm excited to see what more dedicated players are going to be able to find.
When everything comes together it makes Nex Machina into a completely enthralling experience. Rushing into a group of enemies, skillfully dodging their attacks, and taking them all down is always a delight. A lot of this is amplified by a fantastic use of visuals. The entire game is bright, glowing, and full of impressive effects not unlike Resogun. From the way enemies explode to how my missed attacks would slowly chip off chunks of the environment, every action felt like it had a good amount of oomph to it, despite the blazing fast speed the game moved at.
The game also has an arcade mode which lets you replay campaign levels with additional rules and conditions. For example, one allowed me to replay the first level but with faster and more aggressive enemies. Another put me under a time limit to score as many points as possible. There are many ways to keep getting more out of the campaign, and local co-op is also available for you to have a friend join in on the robot blasting fun.
On the other hand, this means Nex Machina is absolutely not made for someone who is interested in playing through the campaign once and calling it a day. At a little under an hour long, there's not much here if that's all you want to do. Instead, the point is to replay the levels, perfecting your runs as you inch higher and higher up that leaderboard. Each time I retried a stage I would find a new way to perfect my runs, chain together kills, and collect humans while hitting secrets. In that sense, the game is totally addictive, but that will only apply to people who actually care about those things. It does make Nex Machina's appeal sort of limited. Those seeking for a campaign with unique scenarios will have to look elsewhere.
If you are into that high score chasing rush, there are plenty of ways you can continue to replay levels and rerun your strategies. As you keep doing so you'll also earn currency for a simple character customization process. You can only really change the helmet, body, and bullet color of your character, but it does at least give you something to work for and a way to at least make yourself distinct. In one really strange design decision, you also have to buy arcade levels. It feels like there's not much point to keeping one of the most important features of the game locked behind in-game currency you need to earn, but at least it's not too expensive.
Nex Machina is aiming for a very specific type of gamer, and those that fall into its net will quickly find themselves with an enthralling new twin stick shooter to chase high scores with. If you're looking for an intense game that lets the players use its mechanics, then this should be the next stop for you.
Nex Machina is a pure mechanics game, one that pushes you harder and harder to shoot for that high score. People looking for just a campaign will be done after an hour, but everyone else should find plenty of reasons to play.
- Tight, Challenging Gameplay
- Tons of Secrets
- Interesting Mechanics
- Lasers and Explosions Look Fantastic
- Campaign is Only an Hour Long
- Buying Arcade Levels Puts Pointless Lock on Things