The roguelike genre has seen a resurgence the past few years thanks to the tireless effort from independent studios. Although Mega Man finally has a new entry in development (Mega Man 11), Batterystaple Games and Fire Hose Games have released 20XX across all major platforms, previously only available on PC. This online and local co-op roguelike title is a solid action platformer inspired by the Mega Man X series. With procedurally generated levels, each run will take you through unique stages, ensuring no attempt will ever feel the same.
As a roguelike title, 20XX features a permanent death mechanic but does contain persistent upgrades for purchase through the use of soul chips. Unless you choose to play on the lowest difficulty (reverent mode), which grants you three lives but disables achievements/trophies, your run will come to an end the first time you perish. With the difficulty of each stage increase the further along you progress, the game will frequently get the best of you by design. I’m not saying that it is impossible to have a successful run from the onset, but unlocking upgrades provide much-needed assistance.
There are two main characters from the original base game for you play, Nina or Ace, both of whom play similar to Mega Man (ranged) and Zero (melee) respectfully. They even resemble the iconic characters, both in terms of initial design and color scheme. The third character (unlocked after a winning run), Hawk, features a powerful, yet unique whip-like primary weapon to siphon the energy from her foes and was initially released as downloadable content for the PC version. A fourth, the armored robot Draco, capable of using multiple primary weapons will be available sometime after launch through a free update. Nina and Ace both play similar, in terms of control mechanics, but each one brings their own unique abilities and weapons for your fight against an army of evil robots in an attempt to save humanity. Playing as Nina, you’ll have to perform precise platforming while blasting and dodging your way across stages. On the other hand, Ace’s energy sword can power you through foes but requires you to get up close and personal, a problem when dealing with long-range enemies.
The coolest gameplay mechanic from the Mega Man series has always been augmenting the Blue Bomber’s Mega Buster with the powers of defeated robot masters or mavericks, such as a machine gun that can fire in the four cardinal directions, a mortar blast, and more. While this is still something the occurs in 20XX, there are multiple paths you can take to customize your playthrough and character. Upon defeating one of the bosses, you can choose your weapon, further letting you decide the fate of your character. Instead of filling one of your three additional active weapon slots, you may collect nuts to spend in shops or vending machines during your run or a random aug to improve your character.
These augments can enhance your basic attacks, altering your weapon to fire in all four cardinal directions as an example, as well as supplementing your character with additional heart and energy containers, bonus damage or increasing your overall movement speed. Also, you can equip power-ups to each location on your body; head, body, arms, legs. For my first successful run, I had attachments that doubled the charge of my primary attack, charged consecutive shots at once, and even provided a forward facing shield when dashing. Keep in mind, that all of these are limited to your current run, but thankfully you can save and quit after defeating a boss if you wish to continue at a later point, although it would have been interesting if they included a password-based system limited to your profile, reminiscent of the original Mega Man games. If you complete a stage and defeat the respectful boss in a timely fashion, you will earn an additional treasure chest.
The platforming in 20XX has been refined since the first time I played the game at a press event a couple of years ago. While fighting flying, running, and jumping robots, you’ll need to navigate through the environmental hazards that populate each stage. Thankfully, you aren’t instantly killed by falling, and instead just lose some health. The stages may be randomly generated, but one thing is for sure, you’ll need to hone your platforming skills to jump from tiny moving or disappearing platforms and avoiding hazards that aim to knock you off. The dash mechanic, allows you to slide through small openings, but when combined with your jump, you’ll reach previously inaccessible areas. As I mentioned earlier in the review, the stages become more convoluted and hazardous the further you are in your run, so practicing your ability to make concise jumps and quick movements are crucial.
There are only ten unique bosses in the game, which seems like too few for a game touting a new experience each time you play, but depending upon when you face them during your run, you may begin to notice slight variations. The bosses you’ll face during the first couple stages feel quite tame, with easy to avoid slow-moving attacks, but you’ll encounter new patterns and much stronger attacks deep in your run. Not only do the bosses change, but the boss room will also vary, removing platforming sections to make it harder to avoid attacks.
Once you find your groove, which may happen after failing dozens of times, you’ll discover that you can have what is tracked as a winning run in under 30 minutes. This is the crucial reason that 20XX contains multiple play modes and options available to all players. There are weekly and daily challenges that have you compete for high scores on online leaderboards. The easy mode may turn off achievements but can be used to raise your permanent upgrades before tackling either the standard or harder difficulty. There are plenty of options to customize your experience, such as turning the permanent upgrades off before starting a run. You can also play with a friend locally or online, which does make some elements much easier, such as boss battles, but will increase the chaotic nature of the side-scrolling platforming sections.
20XX's difficulty is definitely fitting, considering the original Mega Man franchise is regarded as one of the toughest to complete. The roguelike elements work perfectly with the procedurally generated stages and permanent upgrade options. The controls genuinely shine, giving you complete control over your character. It has taken some time for the game to come to console platforms, but as it stands, 20XX is the definitive action platformer title paying tribute to the classic Mega Man X series.
Note: 20XX was reviewed based on a digital Xbox One copy of the game, provided by the publisher.