There is a famous story behind the making of Robotron 2084, the infamous arcade game which provides the clear inspiration for Nex Machina. Designer Eugene Jarvis, the genius behind hit coin-op Defender, broke his wrist in a car accident and found himself unable to use a fire button. Determined to keep working on a new game project, he and his colleague Larry DeMar hacked together their own controller using two joysticks; one to move the onscreen character, one to fire a weapon. Thus, the twin-stick shooter was born.
Years later, we have the latest title from Housemarque Games, the Finnish studio that spent two decades rediscovering and perfecting classic arcade game dynamics. It's Super Stardust and Resogun titles are exemplary old school scrolling shooters, catching the speed and style of arcade blasters but enriching them with modern era visual exuberance. Nex Machina continues that legacy – and then adds some more.
The game opens up in a jungle world, and you are instantly pit against neon bug-like machines. These baddies only need one shot before they're obliterated, which is good because there's a lot of them. Once you clear the first portion, you're instantly transported to another section of this jungle scene. It may be on the same plane or it may be on a different plane, but however it's positioned in relation to the last one, it'll have even more daunting challenges to overcome with even tougher bad guys.
Controls are very simple, as with most twin stick shooters, although Nex Machina is definitely best played on a controller as there's no mouse aim cursor yet. Using a controller, right stick moves your character while the left stick aims and shoots your weapon. There are upgrades and special moves that you collect throughout the game, but utilising those add-ons won't distract from all the other controls. Nothing sticks and everything is seamless – which is all-too important in this genre.
The graphics are definitely aesthetically pleasing. That neon is like eye candy and there's plenty of it. The music is very well done, as it leaves you with plenty of energy to breeze through battles but isn't annoying or repetitive. Both of these come together for a glorious product that is pleasing to all senses, delighting even those not versed with twin stick shooters with its awesomeness.
Perhaps the best part about Nex Machina is that there are so many layers to the game. You could just play it to get from point A to point B – start to finish, enter, beat baddies, kill the boss, etc. but there's more to it than just that. Humans are at every level, waiting to be saved, and saving all available humans before being transported to the next stage earns a multiplier bonus. Going deeper still, there are hidden humans in various stages that aren't that easy to find, but doing so will yield even more points for those willing to explore a bit. Additionally, there are specific types of bad guys that pop up in special places throughout each world, and killing all of them before they quickly disappear will result in even more points for those who emerge victorious.
Another really solid factor in Nex Machina has to be the boss levels – they're intense without being impossible. You'll still die plenty of times trying to defeat them, but you're not likely to get at the “break your controller” rage level. Each boss is pretty unique with different bullets, backgrounds, and fighting styles, so you'll have to learn and adapt each time.
Nex Machina offers a soothing but exhilarating experience that is good for decompressing after a stressful day at work or playing together with a bunch of friends. It's a tribute to the classics with a twist, and it definitely needs to be in game libraries everywhere.
Tamim Bin Zakir aka Shwag_Lord(PSN ID) is an enraged individual who seldom thinks of being generous to others. Feel free to devour his tranquility at firstname.lastname@example.org