Nex Machina reinforces Housemarque’s status as the undisputed king of the dual-joystick shooter. This collaboration with arcade veteran Eugene Jarvis (he of Defender and Smash TV fame) is a borderline perfect spin on the genre, as you take control of a futuristic space pilot pushing back against hordes of voxel-based robots.
Your objective? To save the last humans, of course – fans of the Finnish developer will appreciate all of the nods to previous titles that the studio has baked into the mechanics of this new arrival. As you blast your way through the bad guys, you’ll eventually pick up power-ups that will increase the range of your firepower and the aptitude of your dash.
But while the game seems simple on the surface, it’s absolutely jam-packed with nuance: dashing at the end of the stage will net you a points bonus, while keeping humans in the field (and thus in danger of attack) will allow you to up one of many multipliers more efficiently, thus increasing your final score. There are also tons and tons of secrets.
So, while it’ll take you about an hour to beat arcade mode on the easiest difficulty, you’ll barely have scratched the surface by that point. Accessing alternate paths through the six worlds and locating hidden humans is all part of the fun, and now that you can watch back replays of other players’ best runs, you'll learn more about the game within the game itself.
There’s also an arena mode which re-purposes the levels in a variety of scenarios: time attack, increased speed, and so on. As you unlock medals here, you’ll earn currency which can be spent on cosmetics or unlocking even more challenges. Furthermore, the game dynamically breaks out new targets for you based on your leaderboard position, encouraging you to have “one more go”.
And in addition to all of that, there’s local co-op, which adds even more intensity to the already frenetic foray. As you’d expect of Housemarque, everything runs at a rock-solid 60 frames-per-second, and much like Resogun, the sheer abundance of voxels on screen are a real technical feat. The music is also suitably hyperactive, serving up some slick techno beats.
Nex Machina is everything that an arcade game should be: addictive and accessible yet bursting with hidden depth. Housemarque continues to be the master of the dual-joystick shooter with a sublime effort that harks back to the coin-op glory days of yesteryear. This is a near-perfect complement to the ridiculously good Resogun, and deserves to find a place among your PS4's hard drive space.