Nex Machina is both overwhelming and watchable. It is a dual-stick shooter that is reminiscent of Robotron or Smash TV, but it updates that formula by swarming your monitor with particle effects, vivid colors, and destructible environments. It is out now for $20 on Steam and PlayStation 4.
Developer Housemarque released Nex Machina in June, but I’ve started to put in more time with it in the last few days. It’s chaotic shooter where you move a small character around a map overflowing with enemies to kill, humans to rescue, and secrets to uncover. While you are moving with the left stick — Nex Machina is ideal with a gamepad — you shoot by pressing the right stick in the direction you wish to aim.
That’s not a new idea. Housemarque has explored this genre for years with similar hits like the spherical 2007 PlayStation 3 shooter Super Stardust HD and the 2013 PS4 launch game Resogun. It also did a gorey version of this type of game with Dead Nation in 2010 for PlayStation 3.
With Nex Machina, however, Housemarque has does just about everything right within that formula. It is fast. Its power-ups unlock faster, riskier movement. The enemies ramp up in difficulty at an appropriate rate. Giving you humans and secrets to find keeps you from ever feeling comfortable. And it has a baller techno soundtrack.
Most important, though, Nex Machina is busy and bright, but it is rarely disorienting. That is a minor miracle considering everything Housemarque throws on the screen at once. At any moment, you might have to dodge 50 creeps while also avoiding a giant pink death ray, fast-moving bouncing enemies, and a couple of giant bi-pedal tanks. To see that, you’ll have to squint through explosions and showers of sparks while also scanning the level for humans and secrets.
But Housemarque does a few smart things, like adding a subtle red outline to enemies so you can always separate them from the ground. It also doesn’t hurt that the game runs so well that you’ll likely play at a high framerate.
You can see what I mean by watching us play in the video at the top. Check it out.