August 16, 2017
Sony Interactive Entertainment
What do you get when you combine the side scrolling action of Mighty No. 9 and Metroid’s sci-fi alien action, adding a dash of electro-funk rock music? You get Matterfall. Developers Housemarque have made some rather memorable games in the past like Resogun and Dead Nation, so while I was going in to this review blind, I had high hopes. My verdict is a mixed bag of pros and cons that has me battling with the gamer inside me. I wanted to enjoy it but there was just a lot of niggling issues I couldn’t quite push to the back of my mind.
Matterfall starts rather abruptly, after a quick rundown of the game’s story by the main character Avalon Darrow. She is gun-for-hire that has been tasked with destroying “Smart Matter”, a sentient alien lifeform that has taken over the city. With little else to go off I was instantly thrust into the game and forced to master the battle mechanics with more speed than I was intending to. Matterfall doesn’t do you the favour of holding your hand, giving you only a swift introduction on how to play in its first level tutorial, but for anyone who hasplayed a side-scroller this isn’t too hard to understand.
Play is fast paced and action packed as you jump, dash, and blast your way through the Smart Matter in your path. Each stage has its own unique set of challenges and obstacles to overcome, sometimes allowing you to take a second to plan out your attack, and other times just ambushing you and demanding you dodge every last enemy or die trying. Defeating the aliens is entertaining enough as you can blast them with your arm cannon, directing the line of fire with your right analogue stick and moving with your left. Using the dash ability you can even stun and weaken your targets making them easier to destroy as they become momentarily inactive.
This is where things became complicated. As I progressed through the game, saving humans and destroying smart matter, I realised you required some phenomenal dexterity if you wanted to avoid being hit. The control’s commands, while simple enough to learn, were very hard to master, especially when you have literally a second to dodge enemies from all sides while I was still learning how to jump properly.
Also, the fact that you are limited to only four directions to dash made movement harder and caused me unnecessary frustration time after time. Dashing was made all the more important as you progressed, but its cool down period of two seconds made for some choice mini-rage moments, where I could have defended, but was unable due to my lack of a barrier. Further on down the track upgrades did help with this issue, but it felt a bit like too little, too late.
Matterfall is a fairly short game to play through and can be completed in a single night in a good four hours, give or take an hour depending on how well you play. Unfortunately with the lack of a juicy storyline to sink my teeth into, it became a challenge to feel as invested as I normally become with my games. I realise that in a game like Matterfall, story doesn’t serve as much purpose, but even in side-scrollers like Mega Man or Metroid you have some story to go along with that helps you empathise with your character. It became more of a matter of pride to finish this game, than a want to, because humanity would be lost if I failed.
“Each stage has its own individual single and fits the setting quite wonderfully…”
The soundtrack in Matterfall is possibly one of my favourite things about the entire game. Each stage has its own individual single and fits the setting quite wonderfully. It feels as though Housemarque have invested some serious time and effort into producing the right music for the game, at the very least. I’m not ashamed to say I have been listening to the full album on repeat for a while now.
While most of the niggling issues I’ve mentioned so far can be forgiven, what I felt was less than appropriate were Matterfall’s loading times for stages. I understand that, yes, loading in a game is sometimes necessary, but not when you’ve downloaded the whole game already onto your PS4. Being a short game, as it is, you would also want Matterfall to at least have some kind of replay appeal, but here’s where the game really falters, as there is little to none. Sure, you can go back and play on a higher difficulty and improve your scores but there’s no real driving force encouraging you to do so.
- Easy to pick up and play
- Fantastic soundtrack
- Fast paced, action packed gameplay
- Long loading times in-between stages
- Too short a game with little replayability
- Unnecessarily complex controller layout
As far as side-scrolling games go, Matterfall is fun. I did enjoy my time playing (for the most part), but there was just too many shortcomings in this game to truthfully say it’s a must have. If I was to describe its best quality, I would say it’s short n’ sweet, and keeps you on the edge of your seat. I do encourage you to give Matterfall a fair go if side-scrolling shooters are your thing and you’re looking for a nice distraction – but don’t expect a perfect game, because you won’t find it here.