Housemarque has been around for some time, releasing iconic titles like Super Stardust, Resogun, and most recently, Alienation. Sprinkled between those games are other titles like Nex Machina and Matterfall, a side-scroller, twin-stick shooter. While light on any story, the action is the star of Matterfall where you take on the mantle or a power-armored mercenary by the name of Avalon Darrow.
Matterfall has many of the studio’s trademarks incorporated into the game, and as I mentioned, hits familiar beats like saving humans, finisher moves, and tons of twin stick shooting. While the controls are basic, they are tight and responsive, a necessity in games like this, shooting is done with the right stick, with a boost button linked to the shoulder button, as well as a powered-up mode that slows down time allowing you to clear out a room when cornered. Darrow can also create platforms with her energy cannon that is needed to move up or forward.
Dashing is exhilarating and necessary to get around and is easily the best ability to complete each stage, dashing grants invulnerability, and also knocks enemies into a dazed state allowing for attacks to connect and damage them.
The basics of each level require you to move quickly and efficiently while killing as many enemies as you can while increasing your score. The longer you go without being hit, the score multiplier goes up, rinse and repeat through 12 different levels, with bosses sprinkled in every 4 or 5 levels or so that shake up the formula.
Matterfall is a difficult game at times by the sheer number of enemies that end up on your screen, between dashing through them while shooting them down, it’s easy to lose sight of where you are. Luckily, the weapons you gain and unlock alleviate the stress of dealing with so many enemies, and the bonus unlocked through augmentations (up to 12 total) beef up Darrow.
Bosses are easily the best part of Matterfall, each one feels unique and is clever in design with multiple phases to them. Approaching these battles require trigger reflexes, you’ll also need to learn their patterns and dodge and attack according to how they move. The biggest issue with these encounters is the slowdown when things start to get frantic and the screen fills up, causing issues that are unnecessary.
Playing on PlayStation 4 Pro, Matterfall runs at 1080p at 60 frames per second – the particle effects are beautiful and the chaotic action is buttery smooth at this frame rate, the added HDR brings out the colors in such a way, creating a vivid, deep palette. During enemy encounters, you’ll see the attention to detail the developers put into making the effects pop.
Matterfall’s biggest problem is that once the game is over, it is hard to want to come back other than up your score rank. Granted, you can beat that game in around six hours but with little incentive other than to beat scores, there isn’t anything worth starting again. Load times were also an issue, and in a game like this, that is unacceptable when having to restart a section and having to wait upwards of 30 seconds or so breaks immersion.
Housemarque continually improves with each game they release – a feat that is much harder than most would think. A few missteps like slow down and uninspired levels bring the final product down, but the tight controls, fun gameplay, and epic boss battles make Matterfall a great addition to both your library and Housemarque’s portfolio. The score attack mode is fun, but after a few hours with this game, there isn’t much else to do unless you want to continually improve your rank.