I have never been a part of the Megaman fan club. My quick and pinpoint platforming experience comes from Ninja Gaiden (because I was edgy like that). So when 20XX arrived, not only did it give me a chance to try out a Megamanesque experience but it also gave me a chance to dust off my Switch after a while. But does 20XX hold up to the charm of those retro platformers, let’s find out.
20XX is an indie roguelike action platform video game developed by American indie studio Batterystaple Games. The early access version was released for Microsoft Windows on Steam on November 25, 2014, and the completed game was released on August 16, 2017. The game will be releasing on the PS4 and Nintendo Switch on July 10, 2018, followed by its release on Xbox One on July 11, 2018.
Story & Narrative
You get to play as Nina or Ace, androids who are deployed from a space station orbiting the Earth, in order to stamp out Robot uprising at various locations. And… that’s all. That’s the entire premise of why you are doing what you are doing. To be fair, the game is full of tongue in cheek references, and other quirky dialogues, but you should not be expecting a multi-layered narrative from it.
Gameplay & Mechanics
What you can expect is a very tight, very responsive and very fast platformer. Made in the Megaman X style (I am told), the platformer involves you jumping, sliding and wall climbing across a multitude of levels, all the while taking out a robot army hell-bent on killing you, pushing you off the ledge or both.
To counter these threats, Nina is equipped with an energy cannon (long range) while Ace has an energy sword which is a close range weapon but faster. You can also buy both permanent and temporary upgrades before each level (conveniently called runs), which can affect your movement speed, your charge attacks, or your jump range. During levels, players can use bolts gained as currency to buy passive upgrades or to gain back health or energy in vending machines. They can also find upgrades in treasure chests and other places. Upon beating a boss the player can choose to take their power as a reward, granting them a new special ability, or take a reward of bolts or a random passive upgrade instead.
What you cannot do, is memorize the layouts of each run, because they are randomly generated each time you try out a new one. Oh, and those temporary boosts that you bought, will also be gone if you die during a particular run. Keyword Rogue Like, or rather Rogue-Lite, since permanent upgrades stay with you. And because the game does not feature a multi-life mode (except on lower difficulties), you can expect to die and lose those temporary upgrades a lot.
Each run culminates in a boss fight with one of the 8 bosses, and vary in their challenges so it always feels new. The bosses are well designed, each requiring a different set of tactics to beat, and each one more than capable of ending a run in an instant if you become complacent. As with the levels, each boss gets harder depending on when you face them; at the beginning of the run the boss feels like a nice warm up, if you face the same boss at the end of a run then there will be platforms missing, new phases, and stronger attacks.
If the bosses are not your thing, you can also try out a bevy of daily and weekly challenges which offer lucrative prizes at the end of their run apart from bragging rights and a leader-board. These can be planned out however as they don’t change in structure, at least for the day.
If you are bored if playing solo, you can play the various levels with a friend in online co-op, which like any other fast-paced platformer can cement or fracture friendship forever.
Graphics, Performance And Sound
20XX suits a Nintendo Switch screen the most. The 8-bit retro style design and the chiptune synthesizer soundtrack, feel out of place when played on a 4K TV. Of course, the upside of the very low graphic load is a buttery smooth performance. Plus the game is not ‘Always Online’ and given the fact that every run rarely lasts over 15 minutes, it’s a perfect game to be played on the commute.
Rogue-lite, Permadeath, Action Platformer, 2D Scroller. 20XX does a decent job of balancing all those buzzwords and making it all click. Its small, quirky and needs a decent skillset, but its also fun and enjoyable. The only real danger that 20XX really faces is getting drowned in a sea of Megaman clones, which are similar but far inferior.