Housemarque is a house built on the love of arcade classics. The studio that brought us superb games, such as Alienation and RESOGUN are back at it again in a genuine love letter to twin-stick shooters. Unveiled at the PlayStation Expo in December 2016, Housemarque is bringing Nex Machina to the PlayStation 4 later this year. A twin-stick shooter, players can expect that fantastic, furious action as established in previous Housemarque titles, but Nex Machina is looking to evolve the aging formula and bring in something entirely new. Fortunately for Stack-Up, a playable demo was available at the PlayStation booth at PAX EAST this year.
Nex Machina will tell the tale of humans fighting against vicious machines. In this world, humans are uplinked and digitized onto a game grid to do battle with the machines. Of course, the machines of this world have gone far too long under human oppression, and look to enslave, as well as devour them for their own gains.
Housemarque has been known for creating twin-stick shooters, and love letters to other arcade classics. From Super Stardust Ultra to Dead Nation, Housemarquehavee had quite the trademark in arcade action. However, Nex Machina is special, as it is a collaborative title between Housemarque and video-game pioneer Eugene Jarvis. Eugene Jarvis was responsible for participating in the creations of gaming classics, such as Robotron, NARC, and Smash T.V. These arcade classics revolutionized the way games were played, from the use of a twin-stick control scheme to the presentation and gameplay mechanics.
My demo with Nex Machina would be quick, but nonetheless, an incredibly exciting one. Players are a small futuristic soldier up against an onslaught of evil machines. My first initial impressions were that the game looked spectacular. The levels had a modern pixel design, in which you had the sensation that the level you were on took place within a computer world. Having said that, each explosion would warp the level and send visible shockwaves through the cubed ground. The game moved exceptionally fast at 60 FPS, and the lighting effects were quite stellar.
The gameplay was extremely fast, polished, and refined. Coupled with the incredible synth wave soundtrack, it was pure euphoria for a short time. Here I was, the lone savior, blasting away at the enemy, protecting the humans, and giving very sincere digital punishment via lasers and explosions.
After a few waves of easy enemies, the difficulty ramped up, as I was tasked with attempting to save humans and avoid death. There were electric barriers that would critically hurt the player, but the dash mechanics, which was instrumental in RESOGUN and Super Stardust, came into play. With the dash, players could go through barriers and gracefully avoid enemy fire.
Later on, I would have a secondary weapon, a rocket launcher, that would fire big, blue rockets at the enemy, obliterating them in a satisfying, colorful death extravaganza. This didn’t curb the difficulty, as it was still difficult to save all humans. For the ones you don’t save, they are eaten alive by the machine and die a horrible death.
Upon one of the final waves, the camera and level shifted. All my previous battles had been in an arena-like setting. Suddenly, the camera pivoted behind the player, and I was running forward toward the danger. In this instant, I knew this was a nice nod and love-letter to the side-scrolling shooting classic, Contra, which featured a few level of running up all hallways and destroying the alien defenses.
After breaking through the last barrier, I was treated to a quick boss fight. A cybernetic head emerged from the ground, spewing red fireballs and dangerous laser fire at me. The first few tiers of this boss were easy. Then, the fire became constant, requiring the dash ability to avoid the constant stream of energy circulating in the arena. After a few seconds, and constant laser fire from my end, the robotic monstrosity was completely obliterated, deleted from the level in a showering hail of particle effects. With that, my demo concluded.
My demo left me extremely excited for Nex Machina. Having played all of Housemarque’s previous games, this one absolutely feels distinct, different, and even more exciting. It feels as if Eugene put a special level of polish that only a pioneer could do. As he was involved in very historical impacts to the world of video games, it feels that these two talents merged, could make for one of the most exciting arcade action games in recent memory.
Nex Machina is slated for release in 2017, exclusively for the PlayStation 4.