“A High-Intensity Sprint That’s Over Too Soon:” Matterfall Review

Posted in Kulturecade by - September 01, 2017
“A High-Intensity Sprint That’s Over Too Soon:” Matterfall Review
Let’s get this out of the way up front: Matterfall doesn’t win any points for originality. It has the sci-fi aesthetic of Alienation, the side-scrolling platforming of Outland, and the bullet hell shooting of Resogun. That being said, Matterfall draws from Housemarque’s previous games to good effect, creating a fun and frenetic game that has all the hallmarks of greatness. It’s a shame then that the experience is over so quickly.

Matterfall stars one Avalon Darrow, a freelance bounty hunter of sorts who is paid to clean up a disaster involving an outbreak of “smart matter.” The game is bookended by a couple of cutscenes that contain the entirety of the story, so it should go without saying that Avalon has no defining character traits other than her willingness to shoot dangerous things for money. Still, the setup is adequate and unobtrusive, plunging players right into the game and never slowing down the proceedings.

Gameplay in Matterfall is all about movement. Key to Matterfall’s quick pacing is the dash ability; not only does it boost the player, it also stuns nearby enemies at the end of the move, which in turn makes them easier to kill and increases their point value. This mechanic subtly encourages players to actively charge into combat, and while I felt the need to hang back and pick off foes from afar in some of the more crowded encounters, I generally found the risk/reward dynamic Matterfall employs to be quite enjoyable. Combat is fairly standard twin-stick shooter fare, but players are able to gain secondary weapons and passive upgrades by rescuing civilians hidden throughout levels. Since Matterfall is a game about chasing high scores, choosing your upgrades carefully adds some replay value to the experience. Should you equip the shotgun and a stun radius booster to quickly brute force your way through levels, or would you rather take a health upgrade and homing lasers, opting for a slower but safer option? The choices presented here aren’t groundbreaking but coupled with the fun combat, they were enough to compel me to shoot for higher scores.

The only aspect of Matterfall that comes up short is the game’s length. I was able to beat the three zones offered here in about two and a half hours, and about thirty minutes of that time was spent trying to beat Matterfall’s brutal final boss. No matter how fluid and beautiful Matterfall is (and the effects are quite striking, even if the futuristic city feels a bit familiar), I can’t see myself playing this game for more than a few more hours before I’ve had my fill. Only the most hardcore of score chasers and trophy hunters will eke out more than a few hours from Matterfall, and at $20, Matterfall is a bit on the expensive side considering its short runtime.

Matterfall is a classic case of quality over quantity. The game is fun, fast, and fluid, offering up gorgeous flurries of projectiles and challenging boss fights. If you’re not bothered by Matterfall’s short length or feel confident that you’ll spend a lot of time trying to improve your high scores, Matterfall is an easy recommendation. If you’re the type of gamer who puts a premium on the volume of content offered, however, Matterfall may feel rather anemic.

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