Since its creation, plenty of games have been lost to development hell in Steam’s early access program. Plenty of these games never make it out, while some titles put on a coat of paint and call a game “completed” when they’re still functionally in beta. Then there are games that can’t possibly be “complete,” but are far enough in development to stand on their own in a full release. 20XX is definitely the latter, and because of its roguelike elements and room for improvement, it will never be “finished.” And that’s a good thing.
20XX is heavily inspired by the Mega Man series, specifically Mega Man X. However, instead of being a standard Mega Man clone, it takes the basic mechanics and throws various roguelike elements into the mix, creating an interesting experience each time I played.
When I initially saw 20XX, I was a bit weary due to the art style that, while cute, clashed with the background and felt off. But I was wrong to judge a book by its cover, as 20XX feels incredible to play. The control scheme is based on Mega Man X, and it’s arguably difficult to tell the difference between how the games play. Jumping feels snappy, movements are quick, and wall-dashing is well executed. Nina, the X-like character, uses an arm cannon for her attacks, and charging attacks is smooth and simple especially while dashing. Ace, the Zero-like character, feels fluid as well, though it’s a little more difficult to survive due to his attacks being short range.
Survival is important to 20XX, as the “normal” mode of the game only gives the player one life. The ultimate goal is to fight all eight bosses and survive the two doctors’ vicious test. The levels will have the same themes each time, but the layout will be randomized, ensuring a different experience each playthrough. There are also different powerups found around each stage as well.
These powerups can change the players base stats such as strength, power strength, speed, health, and energy, or they can add abilities by attaching to either the helmet, body, legs, or arm. These abilities changed my strategy completely by adding a double jump, allowing me to get health from killing enemies occasionally, or even negating knockback from hits.
Like a standard Mega Man game, there are eight bosses to defeat. The first boss is always picked at random, and there are three bosses to choose from at the end of each level. This element of choice allows me to plan my run a little better, as some of the powers earned by defeating a boss (if I don’t opt for an upgrade or currency instead) are useful against later sections of the game. However, any bosses not chosen early on will have an insane spike in difficulty through more aggressive attacks, or more room hazards such as lava or spikes shooting across the screen.
While the late game is difficult, there was not a single time my death felt unjustified. 20XX does a good job of presenting danger to you with enough time to react. Level 8 bosses may seem overwhelming, but each boss gives the player enough opportunity to beat them if they are able to dodge as many attacks as possible.
Like many roguelikes, 20XX doesn’t end when the player dies. Through the run, the player can earn “Soulchips” which can be spent on permanent upgrades such as health permanently increasing or the helper cat to give the player an item in a specified level. They can also be spent on unlocking more augs for future runs (items that give attack, health, speed, etc.) or items to be purchased for the next run only. However, these items can’t be used in Reverent mode.
Reverent mode can be considered the “hard” mode of 20XX. At the start, the player can select different “skulls” to activate. These modify the run and often make them more difficult in ways such as increasing the speed to 150%, replacing the bonus chest timer with a timer that slowly decreases the player’s health if it reaches zero, cause instant-death when falling into pitfalls or touching spikes, or even make the game endless. There is even a reward if the player is able to beat this mode while three skulls are activated.
20XX also features a two player co-op mode. To keep the players distinct from each other, one will always be another color, even if they’re both the same character. During the game, players will share nuts while having their own health and energy meters. When one of us would die, a pod would appear later where one of us could sacrifice health to revive the other at half health. Despite this being a fast paced game, I’ve never found an issue with my partner falling behind, even though he had never played a Mega Man game prior. The only issue we ran into is when one of us would venture too far away and cause the screen to grow exponentially, making it impossible to see properly. But this was still better than the alternative of neither of us being seen.
The only major gripe I have with 20XX is that eight bosses feels like a small amount after a while. Of course, they have different phases of intensity at different levels of the game, but it would be nice to see new bosses to the mix that won’t appear in every run. Also, most of the level types are repeated for the bosses, with there being more bosses than there are environments. But this is only a temporary issue, because 20XX will be receiving frequent updates just as it has done while it was in early access including a new character to add to the roster of Nina, Ace, and an unlockable character. I’m confident that, much like Binding of Isaac, 20XX will gradually grow over time.
Is 20XX a replacement for Mega Man X? No, and it doesn’t pretend to be. It takes the mechanics of X, nearly perfects them in fantastic roguelike fashion. Of course, there could also be room for more content, but that’s the nature of the genre. As it stands, 20XX is a fantastic game, and is perfect in short bursts as each level’s end gives players a chance to save before moving on to the next level.
20XX isn’t just a good Mega Man X clone, it’s an insanely fun and addictive roguelike with plenty of personality and possibilities. Each run is different from the last, and each death feels fair and justified. I’m confident that 20XX will only become better over time and be a shining example of how to do platformer-based roguelikes.