Nex Machina certainly comes from a long line of high quality, with the collaboration between Housemarque and Eugene Jarvis carrying experience with titles such as Resogun &Alienation as well as Robotron and Smash TV from the latter. Nex Machina offers fast action, projectiles covering the screen and hundreds of robots to destroy, without worrying too much about backstory, this is pure arcade action.
Sitting in line with the arcade stance, you won’t find much of a story-line, the worlds been over-run by hordes of robots who are hell-bent on destroying everything including innocent humans, It’s your job to save what humans you can, while destroying the primary enemies in order to move onto the next area.
In total you’ll find 5 worlds, each split between a number of sections, you can tackle to ‘Arcade’ mode which carries you through each world. Like Resogun you can increase your score by saving humans and finding secrets which are generally fairly straightforward if you shoot everything in sight, dependent on your difficulty level, you’ll have 5, 10, 99 or unlimited continues. With a little practice you’ll clear easier difficulties with only 5 or 10 continues, but with more and more enemies and a higher speed you’ll find Veteran and Master difficulties a real challenge.
Game-play is already of a fairly fast pace, and there’s a perfect balance between attack, explore for secrets and defence using the dash or side-stepping the numerous volleys of projectiles. Attacks on your right thumb-stick vary in range and spread as you collect power-ups, and you’ll need to get to grips with the dash (left shoulder button) and special (right shoulder button). Power-up’s again effect these, adding a triple-dash or even an explosion as you come out of a dash which is not only great for clearing deadly energy beams, but also clearing enemies around your destination.
The special weapons are even more important as latter difficulties will require careful management of which special you’re carrying and when to use it. My favourite was the powerful laser for cutting through large numbers of enemies, but with rocket launchers, detonators or the close range sword give plenty of options dependent on your play style.
It would be easy to throw Nex Machina on the SHMUP pile, but even after a number of years a handful of titles stand clear of the competition, Smash TV, Assault Heroes, Ikaruga, Super Stardust and Sine Mora each hold a place in gaming lore thanks to great balance, unique features or just all-round quality, and Nex Machina might not be quite up to some of these standards, but it’s certainly not far off.
The lack of any form of story does take the edge off your initial play-through, but even after completion there’s more than enough reasons to play again and again. Just a quick glance at the leader-boards will show scores ten-fold what you’ll achieve first time through, and curiosity is welcomed as you’ll find the option to watch back replays, which open up a new dimension of the game as you start to realise there’s far more to do. Back to the secret levels, covering enough ground to get the bonus for boosting to the next level or even saving all humans and avoiding death will pile up the points, and before you know it’ you’ll be backtracking to polish your new highest scores.
Thankfully you’ll also find Arena mode which gives you various challenges for the first three worlds, a set time limit, increased speed or relying on human a human combo in order to get any score at all, each give a little more depth.
There’s also local co-operative play, which is a great addition however it’s a shame there’s no online co-op.
Graphically Nex Machina is one of the best looking top-down shooters of recent times, making the most of High Dynamic Range (HDR) it’s a pleasure to see in action and transition effects between levels surpass most of what we’ve seen prior. With enemies (red), humans (green) and your own projectiles (blue) giving a clear uncomplicated view of what to avoid and what to aim for, it’s simple even when the screen is packed with dozens of enemies and projectiles to avoid.
Far too many games fall foul of packing too much onto the screen at once without keeping it simple, but Nex Machina manages this with perfection.
Detailed levels, a range of ever-tougher enemies and enough bedlam on screen mean you’ll regularly surprise yourself with quick movement and well-timed escapes with your dash and special attacks.
The sound compliments the action well with a suitable soundtrack that does feel a little repetitive but does’t detract from the overall enjoyment. It’s a shame there wasn’t a little more audibly, the only voices are notifications such as saving humans, and especially through the Dual Shock 4, I found these muffled and unclear.
Nex Machina is an arcade game of high pedigree, without a doubt people will find it repetitive after the first few evenings, but it’s incredible fun and those looking for a challenge will find the higher difficulties, arena mode and the online leader-boards will provide dozens of hours beyond your first play through.
Short of any real story, Nex Machina is all-out arcade action, providing a great range of challenges, and game-play that feels accessible and rewarding, it’s safe to say Nex Machina is highly recommended to any shoot-em-up fans.
Gameplay : 8.5
Graphics : 9
Sound : 8
Story : 6.5
Value : 8