Video Game Review: Matterfall (PS4, 2017) is somehow imperfect AND engaging, addictive and fun at the same time

Matterfall comes to us from developers Housemarque, who brought you addictive arcade experiences such as Resogun and Super Stardust. Matterfall returns in the same spirit, mixing challenging combat and platforming with great effect.

Matterfall slots players into a dystopian city overrun by a mysterious alien substance, and it’s your job to stop the plague and wipe out the alien threat for good. It’s some good old sci-fi fun, and while the game remains light on story, it proves as an adequate setup for the gameplay madness that ensues.

Housemarque’s experience in arcade style gaming is on full display here. Being a side scroller, Matterfall is no stranger to gorgeous visuals, blending various colours, enemies and explosions within a single frame. While it looks great, it plays even better. Matterfall’s combat is fast and fluid, with a dual stick control proving to be as responsive and intuitive as Resogun ever was. Enemies are varied and interesting to look at, and provide a solid moment to moment challenge. While you have a primary blaster that sticks with you for the entire length of the game, you do gain access to secondary weapons that can be assigned to directional buttons for some added variety. Abilities like overcharge freeze the screen and subsequently all enemies within it, allowing your inner rage to demolish anything even close to you. Platforming is present, but thanks to Matterfall’s functional and responsive controls and a quick dash which helps you disable enemies and burst around the environment, it becomes a joy to navigate the various levels and challenges presented to you.

While Matterfall immediately engages you with its solid controls and combat system, there are a few setbacks. The main issue here is longevity. Matterfall can be finished within a couple hours. You heard that right, a couple hours. There’s 12 levels to complete across 3 environments, with every 4 levels culminating  in a challenging boss battle. I don’t mind short games, and the length of Matterfall is not an issue for an initial play through. But upon finishing it, there is not much else to do. Sure you can time trial every level, but most of the time you find yourself blazing through the initial play through that it just seems pointless. the lack of any reward system or incentive to do so just adds to the fact.

Housemarque’s previous games have always been challenging, but in Matterfall, it can get frustratingly hard. Normal levels are challenging, yet accessible and flexible enough to point out that when you die, it really is your fault, and I can accept that. The issue is the boss battles. The difficulty spike here is insane, and feels a tad jarring when you’ve passed the previous 3 levels in under 20 minutes only to encounter the final boss, die 10 times and spend 20 minutes trying to beat it. It’s just too much of a difference to ignore, as the rest of the game is challenging, but not to an unforgivable degree.

Overall, Matterfall is a ton of fun. While it lasts. The combat and moment to moment gameplay was so addictive and rewarding, but the length of the experience and lack of incentive to go back and play again just left me disappointed. Sure you could go and play it again for the mechanics alone, but sometimes it’s just not enough. While the game presents interesting visuals, enemies and boss battles, there’s no denying the insane difficulty spikes the boss battles bring with them. Matterfall is a blast to play, but don’t expect to come back to it once you’re done.

Score7.0 out of 10
HighlightsExcellent controls, combat and platforming
LowlightsOverall length, insane difficulty spikes
DeveloperHousemarque
PublisherSony Interactive Entertainment
PlatformsPlayStation 4
Release DateOut Now

Reviewed on PlayStation 4. 

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Matthew Arcari

Matthew Arcari is a games and technology author at The AU Review. You can find him on Twitter at @chunkysworld1 and Chunky's World on YouTube.

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