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Review

Matterfall Review

The facts of the Matter.

Following closely on the heels of Nex Machina is Housemarque’s latest take on an arcade classic, and this time it’s a 2D platformer-shooter mash-up. Playing as female gun-for-hire Avalon Darrow, you have to clear up the mess after an experimental weapons project has gone wrong underneath the largest city outside of Earth.

The game is set over three stages – Fortuna City, Hydroponics and Matter Mines – each consisting of three levels that blend platforming and arcade shooting, before facing off against a boss battle. Armed with a single main weapon, which is aimed and fired with the right stick, and a selection of boosts and augmentations, you must destroy the enemy robots made of Red Matter, while using Blue Matter to create temporary platforms. You also have a strike, activated by L1, which dashes you in the direction of travel, neutralises bullets, freeze enemies, and lets you pass through Blue Matter.

Enemies occasional drop blue spinning Matter Bombs which can be detonated using your beam, creating a mini explosion. You also have an overcharge weapon which can be filled up by vanquishing enemies, and Avalon has a five bar health meter that is also recharged by killing enemies. As usual for Housemarque games, there is a score multiplier which increases as you kill, and drops every time you lose a bar of energy.

Older gamers will no doubt notice hints of the classic Turrican in Matterfall, but the younger generation might be a little more familiar with the side scrolling section of Velocity 2X. Matterfall requires the same levels of dexterity as the Futurlab title, chaining together jumps, dashes and super weapon blasts to avoid bullets and climb through the levels. That said, I found it much easier to play than Velocity 2X, even if Housemarque have mapped jump to R1 and not given any options to change the controls; it does take a short while to retrain your muscle memory to stop pressing X to jump.

Just as you’d expect from Housemarque, it looks great, with the same kinds of voxel-based explosions as seen in recent games, moves smoothly and has a wonderful synth soundtrack. All the genre staples are included, such as conveyer belts, zero-G sections, and annoying see-saw platforms, while the difficulty ramps up gradually over the course of the game with no huge spikes until you get to the last boss who is an absolute beast to destroy. There are also online leaderboards to chase to the top, multiple difficulty levels to challenge you, and secrets areas with humans to find and save.

So it’s a great game that barely puts a foot wrong, except that you’ve seen it all before from this studio. Score multipliers, lost humans, a single main weapon; it’s exactly the same template as the last few Housemarque games transposed to a new genre. It even has the same woman who has been telling you that your multiplier has gone down since the days of Super Stardust HD! It just feels like a slight step down from Nex Machina. Whilst the levels look great, they are very generic and the only destructible elements are the robots, meaning you can’t blast through walls or even the odd box that is laying about.

There are two minor problems with the game, the first being the controller layout. Having R1 to jump is something you can get used to, but having to flick between special weapons augmentations using the D-pad is too fiddly and I ended up having just one weapon in the three available slots, with passive abilities locked in the remaining two positions. Secondly, you’re also going to have problems with the boss battles if you have raced through the levels rather than exploring and rescuing the humans, and thus unlocking the augmentations, as these are practically essential for beating the bosses.

What’s Good:

  • Fast and fun gameplay
  • Great soundtrack
  • Plenty of replayability
  • Classic Housemarque gameplay

What’s Bad:

  • Final boss battle is a huge difficulty spike
  • No option to remap controls
  • “Classic Housemarque” is a little tired these days

Matterfall is a great shooter and will give you many hours of entertainment if you like chasing high scores and challenging gameplay. However, it does feel like a slight let down after Nex Machina and is the least essential of all the Housemarque games on PlayStation 4. That said, the least essential Housemarque game is still better than most games you will find on the console, so it’s still recommended.

Score: 8/10

Version tested: PlayStation 4

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One Comment
  1. Tony Cawley
    Pint! Pint!
    Since: Feb 2009

    I think they peaked with Alienation to be honest. That had coop, fairly deep progression system, unlocks, large variety of weapons, upgrading etc. Their last 2 games seem to be much more scaled back, which is a shame.

    I didn’t bother with Nex Machina and I don’t think I’ll bother with this, because they both seem like reduced versions of the same formula.

    Good review though Tuffcub, I enjoyed that.

    Comment posted on 15/08/2017 at 06:43.

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