Is there anything in the world that screams classic arcade more than evil robots vs humans? How about a game where the story is basically nonexistent to the point where it is not immediately clear where people have been getting the story from? If these clues were not enough, ‘Nex Machina: Death Machine’ is a classic arcade game…go figure.
Nex Machina is a twin stick shooter from the kings of modern twin sticks shooters, Housemarque, of Resogun fame. On top of that, it was developed with help from Eugene Jarvis, famous for games like Defender and Smash TV, so this game has more classic gaming chops than it knows what to do with.
The storyline is basically nonexistent but appears to have something to do with a near future where robots rose up against their human masters. Obviously, this is not a stunningly popular move with the humans, so they send someone in on a badass motorbike to kill them all.
Gameplay is simple but effective, left stick moves your character, right stick aims and fires your weapon. You also have a dash on the L trigger and a special attack on the R trigger, providing you’ve picked one up. With these simple controls, you have to smash, shoot and explode your way through 5 levels of neon-coloured death bots, with each level ending with one super robot.
As well as making your way around aimlessly murdering robots (well, maybe not aimlessly), you also have to save humans who are wandering the maps. These humans have a certain amount of time before they’re murdered by big robots, so the gameplay is a frantic rush to dodge enemy bullets, murder killer robots and save humans before the robots get to them.
If it hasn’t come across yet, this game runs at hyper speed constantly. The only time you have to breathe is either when you die or between levels, and that lasts for barely a heartbeat. From start to finish, you’re constantly on the move; to remain still means death. The breakneck pace combined with constant neon explosions feels like the coolest seizure that you’ll ever have.
The game is split into 4 difficulty settings. The easiest allows you to continue on no matter how many times you die, from the second settings onwards, not only are your continues limited, but the enemies also get stronger and faster. These settings culminate in the final ‘Master’ difficulty, which can only be unlocked by completing the game on Veteran, and limits you to 5 continues with faster enemies and revenge bullets fired by anything you kill.
As you can probably tell from those difficulty levels and their descriptions, this game is not easy, even on the lowest difficulty. Clearly, the game is designed to harken back to an earlier age when repeatedly playing the same 5 levels over and over again until you could rinse them on the hardest difficulty was what gamers lived for; admittedly, with the added bonus of not having to spend all your money in an arcade somewhere.
On top of being expected to tackle all 5 levels on the various insane difficulty settings, there’s also a high score leaderboard to place on, secret humans to find, and hidden exits to certain areas which lead to exclusive new areas to blast through.
While you can fly through the arcade mode in less than an hour, you’ll be able to find much more available for you in the various challenge modes. The challenges can be anything from a simple ‘score attack’-style affair to much faster moving enemies and only accumulating score under specific circumstances. On top of that, there’s also a couch co-op mode, something rarely seen these days, so it is completely possible that you’ll get enjoyment playing through the game again with a friend by your side. While the 5 levels may seem like a small number, the amount of gameplay you can get out of them could potentially be massive, and the entire package costs under a quarter of the price of a normal full game release.
There’s something about the visual and sound design that make the game addictively playable on top of the stunning game feel that the devs managed to capture. Everything is rendered in bright colours with neon highlights splashing all over the screen. It is really satisfying to kill a whole group of enemies without taking a single hit and dodge out of the way as they explode in a shower of neon laser death.
The music in the game fits the neon themes with a very fast-paced techno soundtrack throughout. The soundtrack also fits well with the vast amount of sound effects, but it does have a slight tendency to get drowned out at times. On top of these sounds, there’s also a cool robotic voice which reads out important information at certain times, like when you save all the humans in a level or when your shields take a hit.
Platforms: PS4, PC
Release Date: 20th June 2017