Who’re you going to call when your science division messes up and uses alien matter to power technology that causes it to take over everything and overthrow you as a species on the planet you live? I would recommend you call on Avalon Darrow, badass battle-chick that specialises in “cleanup” operations like this.
Matterfall is a new side-scrolling shooter with platforming elements, developed by Housemarque, the same developers that brought us Alienation, and was published by Sony Interactive Entertainment, worldwide, as of 16 August 2017. The game is a PlayStation 4 exclusive game, and has received mixed reviews so far, though I think the game should get a little more credit than that. Those who enjoy Platformers with a unique challenge will surely find that this will have a competitive advantage in their library.
So with just about any game that exists today, we usually want a reason for why we are playing the role we’ve been given and to know if we’ll be able to find out more as we play. Matterfall gives us a quick introduction before the Main Menu appears, and even though it isn’t a game with major depth in the story, it certainly does give one a good reason for playing. You play as Avalon Darrow, freelancing “problem solver” (or “Fixer” as she says) of sorts, and quite a badass one at that. Your services have been requested (and payed for) after the risk of using Alien Matter to power the technology of a city outside Earth has backfired dramatically. Prototype war machines have also been injected with the Alien Matter, called “Smart Matter”, and are now also running amock in the city. The city is being evacuated, and you’ve been tasked with slipping in, cleaning up the mess, and not mentioning it to anybody once it’s been dealt with. The certainty in her voice makes it sound like she’s had jobs like this before, which is interesting to consider. It’s a Sci-fi game, and we’ve already been told this is a different planet to Earth. Even though we weren’t given a name, we know there are different colonies and cities on other planets (which Avalon confirms a little later in the ending too).
A Solid Challenge
Matterfall has a total of 12 levels; 3 areas with 3 levels and a boss fight in each too. The game gets progressively more challenging with every level, but none of them even remotely prepares you for the Boss fights. The controls are in a completely different range too, but this it more of that Arcade-like challenge that many enjoy, even though it took a while to get used to, once I did, I was having a blast. You have a number of objectives you can complete in each level, which will yield rewards. Firstly, depending on the Difficulty mode you choose, you’ll be setting the standard for your experience. Rookie mode gives you more health, weaker enemies, and a lower Score Multiplier, Freelancer can be considered the “Normal” mode, and provides a sturdy challenge for players with the standard amount of health and a better Score Multiplier, and then Veteran, which is the hardest difficulty, gives us only 2 bars of health, stronger enemies, and a boost to the Score Multiplier. I chose Freelancer from the start, because I am no Rookie, though I later on gave Veteran a try and, my word, was it a challenge.
During each level, your Score Multiplier goes up the more enemies you kill, but will go down by one every time you get hurt and lose a health bar. This can get frustrating during moments when you’re racking up kills and suddenly get a stray bullet that hits you and messes with your mojo in that moment. Sometimes, it’s better to focus on finishing the level instead of being too worried about the Score in the beginning. You are also tasked with saving Civilians who have been trapped inside of Matter Crystals. You free them using your own Matter Ray gun of sorts, shooting a beam of “Positive” Matter that destroys the crystal without harming the Civilian, allowing them to get teleported out to safety. When you save all the Civilians in a level, you get rewarded with an Augmentation which you can apply to one of three slots in Avalon’s loadout. You switch between Weapon Augmentations using the D-Pad. Some Augmentations are passive, and only work when they’ve been added to one of the three slots, though you won’t have to worry about pressing the Arrow on the D-Pad to activate it. There are four Secondary Weapon Augmentations to acquire and eight Passive Augmentations. Collect them all and see which loadout works the best for you. You can even switch Augmentations mid-game. When you enter the Augmentations selection menu, the world around you pauses and you can safely select what you want to use.
Hidden around the levels are little crystal Caches, that yield 1000 points multiplied by your score multiplier. A higher score will get you a higher ranking on the Global Leaderboard. I’ve managed to get on a couple, with some good effort. Some of the higher up scores seem insanely high, but could be possible if you play on Veteran, or later on, Master difficulty! You get bonus score for not dying as well, and for beating the level within a certain amount of time. If you die, you will be revived at a checkpoint that you had passed earlier in the level. If you haven’t gotten to a checkpoint yet, the level will start from scratch, so you won’t need to worry about restarting if you’re after that “No Death bonus”. While traversing the levels, there are platforms made of a Positive Matter (I’m not sure if this is another form of the Smart Matter or not), which you will use to get from beginning to the end, or to hidden sections where the Civilians are being held “crystalised”. On many occasions you will use your Matter ray to create platforms to aid you in your exploration, or to deflect the attacks from enemies. When there aren’t these walls or platforms to materialise, you can use your dash ability called Strike to stun enemies and destroy their bullets. When destroying enemies, there is a chance that they will drop Health nodes, and Overcharge nodes, which allows you to use your Ultimate ability of sorts called Overcharge, where time slows down around you and you are immune, shooting 3 streams of bullets from your gun for bonus damage too. The challenge we’re given by the Trophies alone are maddening, some being as crazy as wanting you to get no Deaths in each level while playing on Veteran!
Matterfall is most certainly a promising platformer. I have enjoyed my time that I spent playing the game, despite a few rage moments, which is customary to any platformer (I suppose). The story isn’t deep, but at least gives us an idea of what we are dealing with, and we even get a nice outro when we destroy the final boss that might even be hinting at more levels as DLC for the future (depending on how well Matterfall does I guess). The graphics is diverse and pleasing, and the soundtrack is amazing! The music in every level has the same techno/electro dance music going on while you’re exploring and destroying enemies, but each track has a different melody, making every level feel different and ominous. The variety of enemies is well thought out and each one’s challenge is, frustratingly, acceptable to bear. Every boss is intense, especially the last one, and requires immense focus and mastery of the controls depending on the difficulty. The controls were at first a real challenge to get used to, but like I said, it makes sense for this kind of game, and a change from the norm is good sometimes too, and it’s really satisfying utilising the Strike ability with the Augmentations and other boosts that you get. The game may be short, but it’s made an impact. You can get yours from BTGames for R289.00, pretty decent in my opinion. And be sure to check out Housemarque’s Matterfall website too!