Let’s cut the shit—Nex Machina: A Death Machine is a great game. It’s fast, frantic, and chaotic in both the gameplay it provides as well as the visuals it sears onto the backs of your retinas. All this visual stimulation is accompanied by a pulsing electronic soundtrack which melds together to create an arcade world teeming with alien life that’s just waiting to be destroyed! But don’t forget to spare the humans in need of rescue because this is a Housemarque game after all. The Finnish studio was founded way back in 1995, which I didn’t know, but didn’t really make a mainstream indie name for themselves until Super Stardust HD on PS3 back in 2007. Skip to the current PS4 generation and the company really made headlines among PlayStation fans with their PSN launch title Resogun which released to mass critical acclaim. You can tell the team is definitely a talented bunch because they got a version of Resogun running on PS Vita, even if it is a watered down version. After the timid response to Dead Nation and the lukewarm reaction to Alienation, Nex Machina goes back to the studio’s arcade shooter inspired roots.
I played the campaign solo but can only imagine how much better it would be with a friend helping you blast through waves of enemies. On the surface, Nex Machina seems simple: blast enemies, collect power-ups, blast more enemies, beat bosses, save humans, repeat. However the more you play the game, the more details you’ll discover that affect your score. One example I found was leaving humans out in the open, exposed to danger, actually made my end multiplier higher. This discovery made me switch gears and instead of saving all the humans first, I would keep them alive as long as possible while I defeated all the waves of enemies until I found another nuance—if you annihilate all the enemies in an area before collecting all the humans, you’ll be whisked away to the next area without actually saving the humans, thus making your score much lower. It’s a fine dance, and one you’ll learn the steps to as you play. If you have experience playing other arcade or twin-stick shooters, you can probably clear the campaign in an hour or two. That doesn’t mean you’ve seen everything the title has to offer though, as there are multiple difficulties, challenge modes, new paths to discover, and unlockables to collect.
Furthermore, you can complete challenges like time attack in arena mode to win medals that reward you with in game currency to spend on items in the shop including cosmetics for your character and new challenges. There are new modes being added as detailed on the PlayStation Blog, with Replay Mode being one of my favorites. As you may expect given the name, Replay Mode lets you see other players’ runs which can help you learn new strategies and tricks to boost your own results while playing. On top of all this, the game offers local co-op at 60fps which really drives home it’s arcade-inspired roots. I can tell you this, Nex Machina is one game that will always live on my PS4 like other great indie darlings such as FEZ.