Housemarque is back with – surprise! – a sci-fi inspired, twin-stick shooter called Matterfall.
It mightn’t be very far from the developer’s wheelhouse, but when they keep producing games of such high quality, it’s really hard to complain.
Matterfall places you in the futuristic space armour of Avalon Darrow, a gun for hire. She’s a freelance mercenary dumped on a futuristic world that’s been infected with a strange alien substance known as smart matter, in reality a parasite that seems to gobble up anything it comes in contact with. Your mission? Blow things up, and blow ‘em up good.
Mattlerfall is a side-scrolling shooting similar to Resogun, but with the addition of platforming elements. Controls are limited, but complex; you’ll need to adopt a Halo, Bumper Jumper-style grip on your DualShock 4 to progress. Your thumbs will provide movement and primary fire via thumbsticks, accompanied by shoulder buttons that jump, boost, fire (up to three) secondary weapons and power platforming beams. It’s a unique setup, and one that takes some time to get used to, but your muscle memory should kick in after a bit. The best advise to proceed is to give in and let go — you’d be surprised how well your twitch responses will work.
While Darrow can straight out fire at most enemies using the right-stick, she’s got a great little boost mechanic that stuns opponents and makes them easier to kill. That boost is also necessary to avoid enemy fire and move through blue energy walls and platforms. Darrow will also need to occasionally fire energy at said platforms, making them solid enough to platform upon. The same mechanic also powers up the occasional elevator found around the world. Certain sections of levels are also in zero-g, meaning you’ll need to be careful not to boost yourself into a wall of deadly smart matter.
Some of the best bits of Matterfall result in utter chaos, with Darrow boosting, jumping and firing crazily as waves of enemies throw themselves at her. As you might expect, flawless fighting builds a multiplier, and with that a special ability that causes even more destruction when triggered. At times, you can’t make out what’s happening on the screen as there are too many bullets and enemy carcasses flying about; it’s nothing short of brilliant.
Checkpoints are liberally placed throughout levels, meaning you can have as much fun trying to take everything out as you can taking the pacifist approach, avoiding fire as best you can as you make your way from point to point. If deciding to progress via the run-and-non-gun method, it’s important to keep an eye out for civilians trapped in smart matter; freeing them will unlock augments, secondary weapons that you can assign to three spots on your d-pad.
At the end of each level is a boss; you’ve no choice but to go in guns blazing at that point. Boss battles are tough to begin with and get increasingly more complex as you push on; so too, though, does the satisfaction that comes when beating one. In the same vein, you’ll get that same endorphin rush when besting a friend on each level’s leaderboard.
There’s not much to Matterfall, but there doesn’t need to be. Once again, Housemarque has made a tight little game with polished mechanics that’s sure to delight.
Matterfall was reviewed using a promotional code on PS4, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.