Review: Nex Machina - Death Machine (PlayStation 4)
- Release Date (NA): June 20, 2017
- Release Date (EU): June 20, 2017
- Release Date (JP): June 20, 2017
- Publisher: Housemarque
- Developer: Housemarque
- Genres: SHMUP, Dual-Stick Shooter
- Also For: Computer
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
Nex Machina is a $20 title that drops you right into the action with no story, tutorial, or training. For about an hour you will be blasting and smashing hordes of robotic enemies as you attempt to save the human race... at least, that's what I -think- the game is about. There isn't even a short description or title screen demo to tell you what is going on, but from the game trailers, I gather that the robots are sick of catering to the lazy NEETs that mankind has become and decide to kill them all and take over the planet. So here you, unnamed Soldier X grabbing shields, power ups, and gun upgrades in your one-man-mission to destroy every last one of them.
Being so short, there isn't much to say about this game, but they did everything exactly right. Tight controls, diverse enemy variety that is themed to each stage (or world, as the game calls it), and a rechargeable dash ability that grants you invincibility frames. Let's not forget the amazing visuals, bumping soundtrack and 5 unique sub-weapons that make this game an absolute blast to play.
Like most arcade SHMUPs, your main weapon power drops every time you die-- but only by a small bit each death. I couldn't quite gauge exactly which aspects of your gun got worse as I only died a couple times on the last 2 levels (5 in total). Your main weapon can have it's power, spread, and range increased. The sub-weapons are very useful and can be used to switch up your playstyle. They include things like a sword that can 1-shot most enemies AND destroy projectiles, a charged beam attack that can devastate huge waves, a remote bomb that (from what I can tell) is mostly just for clearing huge sprays of enemy fire, and a focused laser beam that is smaller than it's counterpart but requires no charge time and can be held down for a longer duration-- I never used the 5th, a charged dash move. All of your sub-weapons have infinite uses, but all incur a recharge time.
Your dash ability can also be upgraded to hold 3 charges, and I feel acts like a bit of a crutch, but is really fun to use. It can go through all enemy fire types except for the black-bordered ones, which are primarily reserved for only the toughest enemies. You can make short or long dashes depending on how long you hold it down, which lets you conserve on dash time and is critical to manage for later boss fights.
Every world has a new set of unique robots that they throw into the mix and change up the challenge of the stages. Each stage is carried out by clearing small sections at a time and rescuing as many humans as possible. Once each "room" is cleared, regardless of whether you saved all the humans or not, your character will blast off to the next section until finally reaching the boss at the end of each stage. The bosses are fantastic and have classic bullet hell patterns to analyze and avoid. All the enemies and enemy fire are clearly defined with no trickery or projectiles colored like the backgrounds, and fidelity never seems to get lost in all the chaos. If you die in this game, you have nobody to blame but yourself.
From code redemption to end credits (including download time), it took me only 51 minutes to clear the game with 6-8 minutes spent per stage. It's -super- short, but it is one hell of a ride.
The fun doesn't end after the credits do: there are several "secret humans" and "secret exits" to be found that let you play small bonus areas in your quest to rack up points.
There is also a challenge menu that will (supposedly) be updated in seasonal installments with fresh maps and leader boards. You can customize your Soldier and visual loadout with coins that you earn by doing these challenges. The dev team stated that they really wanted you to get that same "arcade hero" feeling, so the game captures your whole run and lets anyone play it back, so they can see exactly what you did and how you did it. This means you can go back and watch the best of the best play through and maybe learn a few techniques for your own repertoire.
There is also a boatload of side missions to complete for in-game trophies and regular Playstation trophies, plus a bunch of different difficulty levels, AND local co-op multiplayer for the campaign-- so there is a lot to do post-mortem.
+ Flashy Visuals
+ No "Hidden" Bullets
+ Great Sub-Weapon Selection
+ Leaderboard Replays
+ Lots of Secrets and Challenges
- Super Short (1 hour)
- No Storyline/Universe Explanation
Bright, colorful graphics coupled with fast-paced action in separately themed levels are a feast for the eyes. Distinctive colors and designs mean you won't get lost in all the commotion and accidentally run into anything deadly.
Simple but tight controls go a long way in bullet-hell style games, and this was no exception. The recharging dash mechanic and clearly defined enemy fire mean any deaths are purely your fault.
There is a LOT to do after you've made your initial play-through. Tons of challenges and secrets, in addition to the standard PSN trophies, means you'll be coming back again and again to play through the main campaign in a myriad of difficulty settings. Seasonal maps and challenges, along with leaderboards, should deliver fresh content and add lots of bang for your buck.
out of 10
(not an average)
A flashy and fun adrenaline shot of tight controls and exploding mayhem; this budget title is a must-have for any fan of arcade style Shoot em' Ups and Dual-Stick Shooters.