Mega Man is the first thing that comes to mind after a minute or so of playing 20XX, and at this stage I can’t think of any better way to sum up what this game is other than it is a procedurally generated Mega Man clone with some added rogue-like elements to boot. Now i’m a fan of rogue like games, and I’m also a fan of procedural generation when it’s paired with some decent gameplay. I’ve never however been a massive fan of Mega Man games, having almost entirely skipped the series during my younger years. I am however very aware of how highly regarded the series is, and as such i’ll tread somewhat carefully as I try to transfer my thoughts and feelings from my head into words and ramblings.
So, 20XX is a hack-n-slash action platformer set in a procedurally generated set of levels. You can play as either Nina or Ace, the difference being between using a forward firing blaster or a sword. Ninas fixed firing arc is challenging, and until you find one of the various upgrades it can be somewhat cumbersome to dispatch of specific enemies, particularly those blocking your ascent. As such I personally found Ace the more fun of the 2, although beating the bosses is certainly a much bigger challenge. Whichever you choose however, they both offer up a unique challenge and help to extend the life of the single player game.
Each stage is procedurally generated, although it isn’t as granular as other games. Levels are assembled from prefabricated sections and stitched together rather than a pure tile by tile basis, the results are that awkward jumps or non-obvious paths – problems that typically plague other procedurally generated games – are somewhat avoided. The downside is that there is a level of familiarity as you traverse sections that you’ve previously seen before, and it was only a couple of runs before I started seeing repeated geometry. Another minor annoyance is that you’ll often come across multiple paths that ultimately lead nowhere despite the impression there should be something nice waiting for you at the end. Stages are short-to-medium in length, and each closes with a boss fight winning which allows you to acquire that specific bosses ability and assign it to one of 3 buttons. From there, you’ll be offered a choice of one of 3 bosses to try and tackle next and you just rinse and repeat until all the bosses are defeated. Simple right!?
Each world is as you can imagine scattered with crates, power-ups and tiny little bonus arena battles. Power-ups follow the typical formula, health upgrades, damage upgrades, etc; But every now and again you’ll find a nice weapon upgrade or new ability, and these can make a real difference in determining if your likely to complete or fail the run. Alongside other minor upgrades and currency that you can collect through the game you can also collect a more useful currency, Soul Gems, which is principally a form of compensation that you can spend on persistent upgrades or single use items prior to starting a run. It’s a nice touch, a reward for your time investment although the cost of items increases as you spend so you’ll need to earn more with each subsequent run to unlock the next tier.
If like me though your nothing more than average at this type of game, then what you’ll really be interested in is co-op – of which both local couch and remote online are supported – which allows you to team up to beat the challenge. Matchmaking was a cinch, and with 2 players tackling the hordes of enemies the game suddenly feels a lot more beatable, and hence fun. Death no longer necessarily means game over, where your partner can resurrect you in exchange for a some of their health and this results in a much better sense of progression, particular for the more casual player.
Overall, I can see the appeal of the game and particularly how it would appeal to a certain group of fans. The game however isn’t really my cup of tea, and whilst trying to maintain some objectivity this review is after all my opinion and sadly this game has failed to really grab me. Graphically it certainly hits the mark, silky smooth animation coupled with detailed hand-drawn artwork, and solid frame-rates throughout. And the co-op mode is good fun if you can find a similar skilled partner to play with you. But I think my main issue is that it the gameplay hasn’t really evolved and without being blinded by nostalgia it just isn’t really suited for the mass modern audience that we have today. That said however, Chris King’s goal was very much to recreate the feel of the Mega Man games of old, and from my limited opinion he has certainly hit that nail squarely on the head. And having been born from a successful Kickstarter campaign shows that there’s an audience out there chewing at the bit for more Mega Man, so what the heck do I know.
To conclude, I have no idea if this is a good game or not. I did enjoy playing it, although it carries no long term appeal for me. But if you’re chewing at the bit for a true to its root Mega Man clone then this is probably what you’ve been waiting for.
20XX was provided to us by Xbox/Batterystaple Games for Xbox One. It was reviewed on an Xbox One S and X.