Released on: November 25th 2014
Available Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, XBOX One
Price: CDN$ 16.99 (US$ 14.99) [Steam] CDN$ 22.99 (US$ 17.99) [Playstation 4, XBOX One, Nintendo Switch]
It may seem obvious by now, but I am a fan of platformers. (As if reviewing three of them already isn’t enough evidence). Of the myriad platform games played as a kid, not many others had as much pulse-pounding action and fantastic weaving of gameplay and narrative as Mega Man X. Before Mega Man 11, however, it seemed like there was very little interest in reviving the series. That is where 20XX comes in — promising to be a roguelike Mega Man X with online and offline multiplayer cooperative gameplay, multiple characters, daily, and weekly challenges. How could I resist?
In 20XX, the player takes control of either Nina or Ace to clear a space station of dangerous robots that have run amok. At the end of every stage, the player fights a boss. Similarly to Mega Man, once the player beats the boss, their power can be taken. Where 20XX differs, however, is that the player can pick up an upgrade instead. These upgrades are also found all over the level and are extremely helpful to the player. The story of 20XX is simple yet cleverly written. If the player meets an unfortunate end, they will get friendly (or mocking) jeering from the scientists that hired Nina/Ace. For those who are victorious in beating 20XX without dying, they will get a hilarious ending (that will not be spoiled here).
The graphics of 20XX are crisp and clean. While explosions can shake the screen, the player can decide how much the screen shakes in the options menu. I thoroughly enjoy Nina and Ace’s character design. Their bright colors help the players keep track of them, which is an asset when playing cooperatively.
The music in 20XX is sublime. Being inspired by retro game soundtracks, their excellency is one of the many things that keep me coming back to 20XX. The intro, the stage themes, the boss battle theme, the final boss theme: all of them are great to listen to on their own and go wonderfully with the high octane action of 20XX.
By now, it may seem evident that 20XX’s gameplay is a high energy experience. Mega Man X has always been a fast-paced action game; 20XX takes this inspiration and cranks it to eleven! When the player first starts their run, things might be a bit on the tame side. The further they progress, the more enemies appear on-screen, fire their projectiles faster, and they take more damage before exploding. Bosses also get progressively more difficult in this regard. The bosses will either have more traps, have more tricks, or even summon more minions the further the player is in their run. The player can find upgrades that increase the amount of damage they dish out, give more health, more energy for boss powers, and better armor parts. These armor parts drastically help the player on their run by making their charge shots faster, giving them a double jump, negating knockback, etc. Not only that, but Nina and Ace can find different weapons to suit each player’s playstyle. Nina is a master of projectiles. She can find weapons like the Spread Shot, which fire three bullets in front of her, the Star Beam that shoots in all directions, or a shotgun for massive point-blank damage. Ace finds close-range weapons, like the short but powerful knuckles, the slow but long-reaching wired-lance and the glave, sporting superior range to his starting sword but missing enemies that are too close. Finding these upgrades is satisfying since they do not interrupt the game’s flow. Dodging an army of enemies and taking care of every last one of them is incredible. It makes me feel like I am a one-person (or two-person when playing co-op) army. What I find incredibly impressive is how balanced co-op is in 20XX. Co-op is neither harder or easier than playing 20XX solo, which is the best way to develop a cooperative mode.
For those that have read my review of Dead Cells, they might be more aware of what a “roguelike” is. For the uninitiated, a “roguelike” is where the player only has one chance to make it to the end of the game. If they fail, they have to start from the beginning. 20XX is one of these. The player can find “chips,” which act like Dead Cells’ “cells” in that they are kept after death so that the player can purchase findable upgrades. 20XX also gives the player the option to buy upgrades using these chips for their next run. In this regard, I do find 20XX a kinder roguelike than Dead Cells. Not too generous, but not overly punishing either.
20XX also features Daily and Weekly challenges on normal and hardcore difficulty modes. If the player has mastered 20XX, these are a decent place to test their skills. When the player either dies or beats the run, they will get a score based on how far they got and how much time was spent in their playthrough. 20XX also has a Boss Rush mode (known as Rush Job in 20XX), where the player goes up against all of 20XX’s bosses one after another. If the player has a particular run they want to play through, they can use the Seed Racer to see how fast they can complete that run. Their score then gets featured on the global leaderboards. Since I have never been too concerned with high scores, I prefer to stick to the main modes.
As much as I praise 20XX, it is not perfect. The aforementioned fast-paced nature can be overwhelming for those who have never played games like Mega Man. Even for those who have played those kinds of games before, the first few runs of 20XX can catch players off guard as the difficulty creep is subtle enough to overlook. While it is easy to track where the player is on screen, it is sometimes hard to keep track of how many projectiles there are. When this happens, the game feels like a bullet hell and becomes onerous.
Ironically, my second grievance with 20XX is that it is easy to master. If the player plays games like the Mega Man series regularly, they will need far fewer runs to beat 20XX. My friend and I, being long-time fans of the Mega Man X series, beat 20XX on our second try. Even though the obstacles are randomly generated, they don’t feel much more different upon multiple playthroughs. While it is true that with the harder mode, the player can add mods to make the playthrough harder, it still feels slightly shallow.
Even though 20XX’s difficulty is a little inconsistent; it’s excellent gameplay, soundtrack, and addictive nature make it infinitely replayable. 20XX is a strong recommendation for those looking for a great Mega Man X inspired game with tons of action.