Dum-dum. Dum-dum. Dum-dum. Dum-dum. Dum-dum.
The intense beats of my heart are in time with the heroic synth. It’s all I can hear as everything else fades away. The only thing that matters are the swirling vortexes of brilliant neon light that burst like supernovas. The rush, the battle. Scorching lasers are honing in on me and relentless red monsters are nipping at my heels. I’m completely surrounded. That’s okay. I’ve got lasers of my own. Every nimble movement happens instantaneously. I am at one with the controller. My senses are heightened and my reactions are sharpened.
I am no longer surrounded.
We all know Housemarque are good – they are the undisputed kings of the shoot em ups. But fuck me, Nex Machina is sublime. Every detail of this game is created with the finest intricacy and detail from a development team at the absolute height of their powers.
To put it simply, Nex Machina is a top-down Resogun. It’s a shoot-em-up in which you face increasingly difficult enemies and have to save glowing green humans from being captured by alien machines. But there is just so much more in Nex Machina that I think it blows even the ace Resogun out of the water. It borrows the good stuff from that, and then makes interesting innovations in other areas.
For starters, rather than plain old dull outer space and the encircled areas that the battles of Resogun took place in, here there are colourful, luscious environments that are actually quite pretty. Well, if you get a second to actually take them in that is. Each arena in Nex Machina, from forests to lava gushing mines, has ten stages to be jetted through. The stages, obviously, get tougher as you progress and the level design really helps to keep things fresh – whereas Resogun’s stages all had the same layout. Thankfully some things don’t change and each arena concludes with a thrilling boss fight.
And oh, they are absolutely packed with secrets. Even the very first stage, which looks like a simple starter, has a secret if you dig around for it. By shooting coloured blocks and bushes you can find secret humans to save, collectibles and, best of all, bonus levels that take you on a little detour. Then, throughout levels there are random Corrupter bots to slay and the long snake like visitors to kill for bonus points. There’s just so much depth here. So much for you to really get stuck into and learn every corner of levels to get better and better.
Which is another thing Nex Machina is great at. It’s difficulty curve is expertly designed so you’re always getting a bit better. Always getting just a little bit further. It makes you determined to carry on, to have “just one more go” and then two hours later you’ve developed arthritis in your fingers. Nex Machina is challenging, and nothing is mouth fed to the player, but Housemarque has done everything it can to help the player learn and improve. From an arcade mode in which, if you run out of lives, you can still carry on just with your score set to zero and a really cool feature in the leaderboards which lets you watch replays of people’s runs. No doubt there’s going to be some mad skills on show. I’m not very good at games, but with Nex Machina I genuinely feel like I’m getting better with every run I do.
It’s just an exhilarating delight to play. The controls are as smooth as that friend you secretly hate is with the ladies. Everything is just so tight and responsive. All the enemies don’t only look interesting, but there’s so much variation in how they attack and what their powers are. And when you finally get over that hurdle that you’ve been tripping up over so often, when you finally smash your highscore, it feels pretty bloody good.
Game play wise, the only drawback I originally had was that, unlike in Resogun, you no longer have a special weapon that you can use all the time. When I was first making my way in Nex Machina I did feel at a bit of a disadvantage without it, but I soon learned that you get special weapon pickups throughout the levels, and there are a lot more options now. From swords to lasers, and loads more in between. So not even that is an issue anymore.
I’d say the only shame is that there is no online co-op, only local. Hopefully it can get added in the future, because I reckon this would be even more fun with mates. But, that does very little to take away from the great time I’ve had with Nex Machina, and I suspect I’ll be playing it for quite a while yet.
Housemarque are the kings of the shoot-em-up genre and Nex Machina is perhaps the brightest jewel in their crown.
This post first appeared on God Is A Geek: Video Game Reviews, Previews, Video, please read the originial post: here