(Housemarque for PS4)
By Mike Delano
With modern retro-referencing hits like Super Stardust HD, Outland and Resogun under its belt, Finnish developer Housemarque hardly needed to team up with anyone in order to prove they had the chops to make old-school design relevant in today’s game scene. But by teaming up with Eugene Jarvis (a consultant on the project), creator of Robotron: 2084 and Smash TV, the developer has made its best game to date. Nex Machina infuses the classic Robotron twin stick formula with breakneck speed, adds in the wild voxel-based visual style of Resogun and sharpens it to a razor edge. As you blast through the five levels and the rapid-fire substages within them, you may be reminded in spirit of Ikaruga, another masterpiece of intensity that was constantly throwing new ideas at you and one that trimmed off anything unnecessary from its design. In Nex Machina, your gun and your dodge dash are all you really need to survive and succeed, with the handful of power-ups and secondary weapons only providing some flavor and variety. It’s as it should be — many of the best games have just one polished core mechanic that grips you rather than several half baked ones. That strong connection between the game and the player holding the controller is what makes Nex Machina work, and it’s why you’ll hit start on a new game despite having just burned through all 99 of your continues.