With Nex Machina, Housemarque (the developer behind Resogun) brings forth their signature kinetic arcade shooting to the top-down arena realm, teaming up with Eugene Jarvis of Robotron and Smash TV fame for an addictive and challenging time. While it isn’t a perfect experience, fans of bullet hell shooters and quick-paced, edge-of-your-seat arcade action will definitively dig this one.
Developed and published by Housemarque
Available on the PC and PS4.
*Review code provided by Housemarque
Nex Machina plays and looks a lot like Housemarque’s previous release Resogun, mixing rapid-fire voxel shooting with the top-down madness of Smash TV. In it, players assume the role of a mysterious, futuristic biker who hops from world to world taking down evil robots hell bent on humanity’s destruction on his way to the being behind it all. It’s pretty light on plot, but it’s full of non-stop, rapid-fire, crazy action that’s sure to please people who like to jump right into gameplay.
The game is easy to play, but difficult to master, as players travel from world to world blasting away at increasing challenging enemies. Players move the biker with one analog stick while firing with the other, and each stage is divided into multiple closed off arenas where players must eliminate all enemies to continue onward. Players are initially armed with just a standard energy gun and a dash that’ll let them go through enemies and attacks, but they’ll also collect powerups from fallen foes that will improve the gun and dash capabilities as well as grant a special super weapon like a rocket launcher, sword, powered shot, and more. With enemies becoming stronger and possessing a ton of different attacks from melee strikes to different bullet types as players progress, players need to upgrade as soon as possible to take them on, but thankfully the controls are spot on, allowing players to take them out and dodge attacks with ease.
While the main goal is to reach the end of each stage and kill the boss, along the way players can complete side objectives to increase their score, many of which are instantly familiar if you’ve played Resogun. Most sections of a stage feature the last humans wandering about, who can be collected but can also be killed by enemies. Some are hidden and some are not, but collecting them adds some points to the overall score. Then there’s also special robots that can be killed that flee each section or follow a determined path before they exit the area, as well as beacons, secret exits, and more that keep a player’s points climbing as they progress through the stage.
Once players get to the boss battle however, it’s a whole different story, with players facing off against huge foes that transform as they take damage. These battles are all about patterns and avoiding streams of colorful bullets heading your way, and require players to master the mechanics as well as have excellent coordination as they weave in and out of fire and counter with their own. It can get pretty hairy at times, but nothing beats taking out foes with some skillful, and occasionally, lucky dodging.
One problem with Nex Machina though is its difficulty. While the game features a variety of difficulty levels that’ll present a variety of challenges, the game has some difficulty spikes in the later stages that can deter most casual players. The reason for this would be how the game handles death, causing the player character to lose a powerup every time they die; one that can be lost if it isn’t recovered before another death. Continues also completely wipe all collected powerups, and facing later bosses without powerups can make the game extremely challenging, if not impossible for some. Unless you have the reflexes and hand-eye coordination of a pro, you might find yourself flinging the controller across the room in anger a couple of times, or just quitting all together.
The game comes with a couple of gameplay options that challenge players to keep coming back for more and working to get that number one spot on the leaderboards. The game features a standard arcade mode, which allows players to take on stages one after another on the way to the final boss, or stick to One World mode to try to get the highest score on their favorites. The game also brings an Arena mode, which adds a number of challenges to the mix, like faster enemy bullets or set time limits. Players will be able to rank up on the season leaderboards and earn new skins and colors, as well as watch the competition’s gameplay in replays. The game also features local co-op, which is great for moments where two players want to team up and take on killer robots together.
Overall, Nex Machina is a great time, featuring blistering run and gun action, challenging encounters, and plenty of replay value. While it definitively isn’t for everyone due to the high difficulty of later levels, fans of bullet hell shooters, arcade perfection, and Housemarque games will definitively find something to love here.