Although there have been some fantastic twin stick shooters in recent years, nothing has come close to knocking Geometry Wars: Evolved off of the tip of my list.
That game was incredible. Relentless, fast-paced, beautiful to look at and as rewarding as it was frustrating. The perfect mix of arcade spectacle, refined gameplay and score-chasing addiction. So I was delighted when it was added to Xbox One's backwards compatible list.
It's as good today as it was back then so any other arcade point-chasing was out of the window for the time being. That was until I was asked to review Nex Machina
, the new game from the team that brought us Resogun
From the first moment I started playing I could tell Nex Machina
was going to be good. Initially it's the visuals that grab you. It looks like a carefully choreographed firework display as your screen fills with bright neon bullets, a variety of different enemies, projectiles and lasers. It's an intense first hour or so as your brain tries to separate out everything that's happening on screen in order for you to actually play the game.
Then you'll appreciate how well everything runs. I've had some insane amount of action happening at once and Nex Machina
doesn't drop a frame. In terms of textures and assets, it won't push your console too hard but when everything is happening at once you really do appreciate how well it all holds up.
When you jump to the the next stage the world rotates around like a cube so you can battle on a new face while it still has the feeling of a continuous space. Sometimes the camera angle changes to give you more of an over the shoulder shot. Nex Machina
does a hell of a lot of work but stays at a rock solid 60fps throughout and that's as important as it is noticeable.
It's important because twin stick shooters like this are all about getting into the zone. You know what I'm talking about, when you feel your score rising, block out everything around you in the room and concentrate every thought you have on what you're doing in the game. The moment you notice a performance blip, your trust in the game is gone.
You need to feel as though every death is a mistake that you've made. You'll get frustrated when playing Nex Machina
but that frustration is only aimed at yourself as you failed to see an enemy behind you while concentrating on taking out a larger group in front or not noticing that your dash stamina is low when trying to get out of a tricky situation.
You get frustrated, you restart and you go again. You'll never rage quit, because it's impossible to call 'bullshit'.
Initially Nex Machina
seems as straightforward as it comes. Like Geometry Wars
but with machines fighting monsters. There are power-ups to collect, point multipliers and helpless humans to save. You'll begin by just trying to stay alive and get as far into the arcade mode as possible.
Getting to the end isn't too difficult on the lower settings, either. On the easiest mode you're given infinite continues, the experienced difficulty gives you 100 but this game isn't about reaching the credits so that will all become irrelevant in no time.
While you're getting to grips with the game you'll start to notice a few things you hadn't in your early fights for survival. A stray bullet might uncover a hidden human to save, there are glowing green enemies and even secret exits to levels.
Over time your play style will change. Instead of franticly spraying bullets at everything that moves you'll be plotting a path in order to increase your score at a faster rate. Collecting humans in quick succession will increase your multiplier, as will taking out certain enemies before they disappear. You'll soon have a favourite special weapon and make sure that once you've picked it up you avoid all the other ones scattered around the stages.