Housemarque has made some of the most fun games in the last few years. Most of us were introduced to them with Resogun on the PlayStation 4 but their first major release on Sony platforms was Super Stardust HD back in 2007. They released Alienation last year and I liked it enough to buy a physical copy from Singapore as an import because the retail release wasn’t done outside that region. Today they have released Nex Machina as a collaboration between Housemarque and Eugene Jarvis. Nex Machina is a combination of multiple things that work brilliantly together and have topped everything they have made before this. Nex Machina is an arcade style shoot em up that will captivate you for a long time.
Nex Machina is a twin stick game that has released on both PlayStation 4 and Steam. This is the first proper Steam release from Housemarque in a long time and their return to PC could not have been with a better game. You play through rooms of enemies from a top down perspective. Levels are split up into rooms where you need to clear out every enemy before you are transported out. There are 6 worlds to explore.
The core gameplay loop is simple and very addictive. Controls involve you using the left joystick to move and the right one to aim your weapon with an automatic fire setting. You use the shoulder buttons to use power ups that you pickup like a triple dash or rocket launcher. There are also passive power ups like a spread mode for your base weapon and longer range bullets. Enemies come in waves towards you and everything looks amazing as you destroy multiple enemies with bullets and have colours and particle effects go all over the place.
The arcade mode is the base mode that lets you play through the worlds from the start and try to finish them all. Playing the arcade mode will unlock more worlds for use in the other modes where you can play with certain modifiers. Unlike most bullet hell games, Nex Machina comes with multiple difficulty options. The last one has to be unlocked and the easiest one is perfect for beginners. It has unlimited continues and is a bit too easy for players who are familiar with Housemarque’s other games. There’s also a coop mode which unfortunately is only local right now. I hope they add online coop because it would be amazing.
Visuals are definitely a highlight in Housemarque games. Resogun had some of the most sublime visuals in a side-scrolling shooter ever and Nex takes things further. Bullets, particle effects, enemies, and more all pop out and are a feast for the eyes. Performance is great as well and every version of the game runs at 60fps and I noticed no drops on the standard PS4 in my time spent playing it.
The initial trailer got me very excited for the music in Nex Machina and the final release delivered in spades. Ari Pulkkinen has composed a fantastic electronic score. Even the subtle sounds are well done and the overall audio design is fantastic.
Hopefully the team at Housemarque get the attention they deserve for their craftsmanship in the audio and visual departments in addition to the addictive gameplay they have with Nex Machina. I hope a future update adds online coop but other than that, you absolutely need to get Nex Machina as soon as possible. It is Housemarque’s magnum opus.