Bringing comparisons into view, despite some altered mechanics, it’s clear that 20XX wants to contend with the formula that Mega Man instills incredibly well. Now with that being said, I must point out that 20XX brings its own unique spin on that foundation, so much so that it has what it takes to stand on its own two feet. Though still, I just couldn’t help but get mentally taken back to everyone’s favorite bomber in blue. The question is, with the Mega Man X Legacy Collections just two weeks away, does 20XX do enough to stand tall enough?
I’ll start with the premise and go from there. The game centers around both Nina and Ace, armored soldiers that wield a power blaster and an energy sword, respectively. Contracted by a pair of professors; Brighton Sharp and Arlan Flat, Nina and Ace are tasked with clearing out a selection of dangerous locations in an attempt to eradicate a robot uprising that’s tearing around Earth. What follows on from this is a fairly competent (if at times tough) roguelike 2D platformer that will challenge you to the end of your tether, and then some.
One of the biggest distinctions that 20XX offers is that it dishes up procedurally generated content across a broad variety of elements. The levels that you play in 20XX are not pre-defined, nor are the boss sequences. Everything that you will soak up here is largely down to chance, which helps to keep things fresh. The aim of the game is to battle through each level, blasting the hell out of all forms of creatures along the way, and ultimately beating one of the eight epic boss battles that are designed to test your skills to the absolute limit.
What makes 20XX quite interesting is that players will need to contend with some loss of acquisitions upon death, meaning that the game’s items and augs come in passive and permanent varieties. I found the balance here to be very well laid out and it sits quite well with the game’s roguelike elements. If you bite the proverbial dust, your temporary per-run pick-ups will fly out of the window, but you are indeed allowed to keep your permanent upgrades and unlocks. It helps, of course, that the core gameplay is tight and responsive.
The game supports three tiers of difficulty; easy, medium and hard. The two playable characters, Nina and Ace, collectively offer up two wildly different play styles. Nina’s power blaster is a great choice for those that like to put some distance between themselves and their foes, whereas Ace’s energy sword is perfect for getting up-close and personal. Regardless as to which character you gravitate towards, both Nina and Ace handle largely the same, though, I must say that it’s nice to have the choice to play how I want to play.
One of the main problems for me here is that I love Mega Man and this is clearly drawing inspirations from that. Though, 20XX doesn’t cater for the one thing that I love Mega Man the most for and to some degree, that hurts the overall experience. I quite enjoy the structured route that Mega Man takes. I like selecting my level and becoming antiquated with it through trial and error and muscle memory. 20XX’s procedurally generated content chases that away and in all honesty, I think it would have suited the former format.
Don’t get me wrong, that level of never knowing what you’re going to get next is a thrilling concept that works well in the games favor, but it doesn’t cater for bettering run-times or speed-runs. My other gripe sits with 20XX’s inconsistent difficulty spike. Sure, this can be attributed to the game’s procedurally generated layout, but I couldn’t help but feel as though I had periodically pissed the game off for reasons unknown, and so it decided to beat me to a pulp. Mercifully, the latter concern here is not one that’s often forefront.
Regardless of the few niggles here and there, 20XX is a solid game that will certainly please those that enjoy the core foundation. Levels are packed with large variations of enemies, many of which come with their own attack patterns and behaviors. There’s some truly challenging platforming sections to overcome as well as tough, intricate boss battles that will see you pulling out your hair if you set a foot wrong. By and large, this achieves everything that it sets out to accomplish. Co-op play is also a neat feature that’s present.
I also quite enjoyed the games diverse visuals. There’s a total of four different themes running through 20XX, each of which bringing some lush colorful environments into the fold. With the procedurally generated content in mind, I have to say that I was impressed with how well the game kept things fresh for a great length of time. It takes a few hours of play before you start seeing some light repetition, but for the most part, 20XX uses this backbone feature wonderfully. I cant quite commend the audio cues that well, sadly, which does very little to bolster the experience, despite the solid soundtrack.
When you’re not blasting or slashing your way through shed loads of enemies or navigating some tricky platforms, you’ll be at your HQ. The HQ serves as your game hub. Here you spend your currency on upgrades or cash in your soul chips (a rarer currency) on permanent upgrades. There’s also daily and weekly missions across normal and hardcore modes, the latter features skulls that will add all forms of addition challenges. When all is said and done, this is a fairly decent game that’s worth its asking price. It just didn’t truly blow me away.
Despite its difficulty fluctuations and some minor design issues with its procedurally generated content, 20XX offers a solid Mega Man-like action platformer that plays well and is distinct enough to stand out. There’s a lot of diverse content to work through, with heaps of upgrades to chase after and several enemy variations to keep you on your toes. It’s just a shame that its few issues hold it back slightly in the long run.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.