Video games are always fighting for evolution, looking to deliver the next big gameplay hook or unique narrative. Well, why not forget about evolution and just take us back to where it all started, in the arcade. That’s exactly what Nex Machina does; taking the age old trusted shmup gameplay and delivering a fast, fluid and down-right stunning twin-stick shooter; in fact, then only thing Nex Machina is missing is a coin slot.
This slick shooter is the next installment from developer Housemarque, the masterminds behind the brilliant Resogun, Dead Nation and Alienation. All these previously mentioned games feel like they’ve had some kind of influence on Nex Machina, but it’s the Resogun influence that really stands out.
The arcade mode of Nex Machina plays over five distinctive worlds. There is no obvious narrative game, just the aim to rack up the highest score possible, which can be done by destroying enemies, saving humans, finding hidden secrets and taking down huge bosses – hence the comparison to Resogun. The arcade mode offers several difficulties, which not only increase the challenge of the on-screen enemies but also reduces the number of continues you have, just be thankful that you don’t have to insert a coin every time you lose all of your lives.
Playing through the arcade on Rookie will take you around an hour, the Experienced difficulty will offer around two hours of gameplay (if you don’t run out of continues) and Veteran, well, you’re a better gamer than I’ll ever be if you finish the game on Veteran.
Although Nex Machina is seriously tough it never feels frustrating. Don’t get me wrong, walking into a bright pink neon laser and losing a record multiplier will really piss you off, but you only have yourself to blame. The main reason the game feels so accessible is due to its progressive challenge. Every world introduces a new type of enemy, and with fifteen levels to every world, there’s plenty of time to become accustomed to how that enemy plays.
One area Nex Machina does lose its progressive feel is in the huge boss fights, they just feel too inconsistent. For example the second boss, a mechanical yeti was so hard I used up all my continues twice in a row (okay, so I suck at shooter), however, when I came to the 4th boss and the final boss I had no issues at all, in fact, I finished them both first time.
Nex Machina offers players a ton of replayability. After you’ve unlocked all the worlds by finishing the arcade mode you can dive into Arena, where you have the ability to earn in-game currency which can be spent to unlock new cosmetic items for your futuristic hero. The game also features local co-op, which adds even more chaos to the onscreen action and is a lot of fun to play. However, I was very surprised to see the absence of online co-op. As you’d expect leaderboards are ever present, and did a great job in reminding me just how much I suck at shooters.
Nex Machina is proud to show off its arcade shooter heritage and is all the better for doing so. The slick twin-stick shooter bullet-hell gameplay and stunning presentation just keep sucking you back in for more. Developers Housemarque have added another stellar title to their already impressive shooter collection; Nex Machina is potentially the best shooter to release since its predecessor Resogun.