Over the weekend I picked up Nex Machina, and hot damn is this game good.
There's a good chance the name Housemarque doesn't ring any bells. You might have heard of Resogun, however, and there's a good chance you might have also heard of Robotron and Smash TV.
That's the combination of talent that went into Nex Machina, a top-down coin-op twin stick shooter. Which is really just a neat way of saying you control a dude in a motorcycle helmet who dashes around levels trying to save trapped humans from their robot overlords.
There isn't any real plot; it's just a series of connected levels and you, the player, trying to frantically dodge the sea of bullets coming your way. I could keep explaining things, but it's better seen in action.
The tricks to remember with Nex Machina is that it's not a procedurally generated schmup. The idea is to start out on the lowest difficulty, get used to the layout and some of the attack patterns, where the special weapons are. Along the way you'll learn bits and pieces, like the bonus you can get at the end of each level for dashing at the last second. Or the destructible bits and pieces that reveal secret levels. Or the timing where you capture one human and shoot as many enemies as possible before the combo timer ticks down.
Speaking of the levels, the transitions are great.
Even the level transitions are rad pic.twitter.com/y4fENXvmzm
— Alex Walker (@dippizuka) June 25, 2017
Much like the creators' previous games, Nex Machina isn't the sort of game where you'll be playing new levels after 20 or 30 hours. You'll see all of the enemies, attack patterns and weapons within a couple of hours. The replayability lies in ramping up the difficulty, leveraging the brief windows of invulnerability you get through with triple dashing, and finding the most optimal path through the level to maximise your score.
It also helps that the soundtrack is banging, and you can listen to the full OST on YouTube:
You can either playthrough levels individually or in a traditional arcade style, with a total of six lives (plus any you pick up along the way). There's also separate arena challenges with different modifiers. Some are time-based - get the highest score possible in four minutes - whereas others might change up the patterns by increasing spawn rates and bullet speeds.
There's leaderboards for everything, of course, and local co-op if you have a friend. Nex Machina is pretty playable using a mouse and keyboard as well, although you'll get the best experience with a gamepad. It runs like an absolute dream on PC as well, although there's no support for ultrawide resolutions and the game doesn't completely support borderless fullscreen at the time of writing.