Housemarque has consistently proven that as a studio, they are king at twin-stick shooters. They have proven it again and again with titles like Dead Nation and Alienation, a game that my friends and I sunk countless hours into since it released last year. Nex Machina is something special as it captures the classic style of games like Smash TV and Robotron and builds upon them in spectacular fashion; it might also help that Eugene Jarvis, the creator of both Smash TV and Robotron had a hand in creating Nex Machina.
There is only one objective in Nex Machina, save the last humans, and you’ll be blasting your way through many enemies to ensure the survival of our species, acquiring power-ups and annihilating robotic baddies that both are visually stunning in design and crafty to boot, with new enemies being introduced throughout the five stages within the game.
Controls are superb in Nex Machina being both responsive and finely tuned, which ties into the difficulty, if the controls weren’t as good as they were, the game would face big issues of being hard and nearly unresponsive in control. Each world is chaotic, fun, and packed with secrets to discover. You’ll want to keep your eyes peeled as you’re blasting your way through robots to find all the secrets in each level.
Progressing through each level grants you a power-up such as a better dash (something you will need to use often to survive) to a wider blast radius on weapons. The game evolves as you move along saving humans from robotic overlords, each power-up grants a new status quo that brings the fight to rewarding and challenging levels that are sorely missed from modern games.
Levels themselves are fantastic areas to explore and are interconnected with various secrets spread out, you can find hidden humans, beacons and more that are expertly hidden waiting to be discovered. With each area, you’re seeing vastly different environments and encountering enemies that you haven’t seen before, the element of seeing an unfamiliar enemy that you haven’t figured out how to engage often leads to chaotic and highly contagious encounters.
The main goal is to wipe out the hordes of enemies before moving on, with an optional secondary objective, each level you must find the humans who are wandering the stage who you must fend off the robots while ensuring your own survival.
Facing the boss at each level is where I found myself caught in frustration with each boss requiring a lot of precision to take them down. Within each boss fight, a hail of bullets will rain upon you and the best option is often dodging to get past these storms. To add into the mix, obstacles that absolutely require you be wary of how to proceed are often the key survival, lose all your lives and you begin from the beginning. Housemarque know how to set up a boss battle, all frustrations aside.
Arena Mode tasks you with achieving the highest score on sets of levels, with more being unlocked via credits that are earned by playing the game. This is tracked globally against other players and includes challenges that ask you to try new things to succeed.
Local co-op is how I play any twin-stick shooter, and with Nex Machina, getting through this game is recommended with a partner who can assist you to completion. Keep in mind, there is only local co-op and no online play, which I hope will be added in an update in the future. I’d love to return to this title down the line and find myself able to search for a partner to play with.
A title like Nex Machina can be completed in the same time it takes you to watch a movie – roughly 60-90 minutes, it was designed that way after playing it a few times. You’ve barely scratched the surface of what is available, you’ll want to go back and find the secrets you missed the first time, there are alternate paths to find, too, and you’ll want to explore each of the six worlds to uncover everything.
Hands down, Nex Machina is the pinnacle of Housemarque thus far, with each new game the Finnish studio ups the ante and then stomps all over it. By comparison, both Resogun and Alienation pale in contrast to Nex Machina, the spiritual sequel to Robotron, which with the onboarding of Eugene Jarvupped the quality of this game. I can’t stress enough how rewarding playing this game feels because even as frustrating as it can be to play, it’s that moment you succeed that makes it all worth the anger.