Nex Machina in the test - unsurprisingly: a twinstick shooter masterpiece
The best from back then
The game principle remains as essential as the story: In a dystopian future, machines gained their own consciousness and then decided to simply wipe out all of humanity - Terminator sends his regards.
Each of the six levels consists of several mini-areas, in which we have to clear all the machines in order to advance to the next section. The more people we save in the meantime, the better for our high score. At the end of the level there is an elaborately staged, multi-level boss fight.
With launches and rescue operations, we gradually increase our point multiplier, which is always reset as soon as we are devoured by the robot horde. Co-op fans can also go machine hunting with a buddy, with both players sharing a screen. However, only locally , an online mode is missing.
Little scope for a lot of fun
Nex Machina throws us into a succession of tight arenas in which we are constantly under pressure. This means that we have to take a lot of risk and cut tracks in the opposing masses that are chasing us in the small sections. Fixed guns, which chase their wide-ranging bullet-hell projectiles over the map in simple patterns, further restrict the freedom of movement.
Fortunately, Nex Machina can be controlled very precisely, and the well-known twinstick mechanics look more fine-tuned than ever before. Moving and shooting at the same time works intuitively, and even risky maneuvers are possible without any problems, provided we have cleared a safe path through the enemies beforehand.
At the push of a button, a sprint can also be carried out, which makes us jump a small piece invulnerable through the level. Otherwise impenetrable enemy blocks or laser obstacles are no longer a problem for a moment.
Even if we don't think we have to emphasize it, we do it anyway: Be sure to use a gamepad for Nex Machina. It is not without reason that the Twinstick controls conjure up the spirit of old arcade machines, on which we shot our way through the levels with joysticks. Chasing through Nex Machina with the mouse and keyboard may be similarly efficient with a little practice, but lets an essential part of the game feel fizzle out.
Bullet Hell multitasking
If you really want to penetrate the higher highscore regions, you have to search for the mini-levels in addition to the struggle for survival in addition to secrets . These can be hidden people, access to secret areas or special opponents who have to be destroyed under time pressure.
The catch with these explorations is that these secrets have to be cracked before the last enemy blesses time. As soon as that happens, we automatically jump to the next level. Professionals then complete the overall levels in record time to secure additional bonuses.
The collectable power-ups that are hidden in boxes are helpful. Anyone who pays attention to painting them in can, on the one hand, look forward to passive improvements such as increased weapon spread or a shield and, on the other hand, special weapons such as rocket launchers and bombs, which we can actively use alongside the primary weapon to prevent particularly tough opponents from harvesting people. Here Nex Machina requires additional skill in strategically collecting the power-ups - sometimes it is wiser to avoid the rocket launcher and stick with the super laser.
Nex Machina can be merciless and frustrating, because when the multiplier is reset by a stupid mistake, the complete highscore run is usually in the bucket. Thanks to the five fairly balanced difficulty levels, there is in principle the right challenge for every type of player, but that does not change anything when a perfect run has come to an end by then.
And so we kept catching ourselves restarting the same level umpteen times as soon as we thought we had to bite the grass too early. For each game mode and selected level of difficulty, Nex Machina offers its own online ranking lists.
To just end the game and bring the final boss to his knees, it only takes four to five hours of play - a perfect run should be feasible in less than 30 minutes. But the emphasis is on perfect: Nex Machina reveals its true scope if we carefully plan the next attempt to sprint through the levels as quickly and efficiently as possible without endangering the precious multiplier.
Nex Machina does not become boring because every action by the player is rewarded with impressive and satisfying audiovisual effects.
However, the neon flashes and voxel explosions cannot hide the poor art design of Nex Machina. Alienation's enemies and game world already seemed generic, which didn't get any better with Nex Machina's retrofuturistic look.
And individualizing your own character with outfits, ammunition colors and helmets is only half as much fun if the character remains interchangeable anyway. But who wants to hunt items when it can also be a new high score?