Developer: Batterystaple Games, Firehose Games
Publisher: Batterystaple Games
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch (Review code provided)
20XX is a strange concept, a hybrid of sorts. It’s actually a fairly simple recipe – grab your blender and we’ll try to make it ourselves. Take one part Mega Man, pop it in with a bit of rogue-lite, whizz in some anime style visuals and a chiptune soundtrack and… oh, you broke your blender. I… should I have made clear that was a metaphor. Sorry, NGB takes no responsibility for the breaking of kitchen appliances. You should probably buy a new one. Sorry.
So, 20XX then! If you metaphorically followed the steps above, you should have an idea of what to expect! Honestly, though, out of the box I kinda bounced off the game. Now, that probably shouldn’t have happened; 20XX is an action platform game with roguelite elements so I should have been all over it from the get go. Yet it took a few plays for the game to really click.
I’m sure we all know what an action platform game plays like (seriously, Mega Man… you just… you Mega Man, okay?) but the roguelite elements might need a little explaining. Put simply, expect programmatically generated levels, permadeath and persistent bonuses that will make subsequent playthroughs easier (but not easy) and you’ll know what to expect.
As you jump and shoot your way through these random stages, you’ll pick up temporary weapons and buffs that will stay with you through til your death, as well as two types of currency. One can be spent on shops and vending machines throughout the levels while the other is a permanent currency that can be spent between runs on adding and powering up permanent bonuses.
The levels themselves are linear affairs but often have areas off the beaten path which will reward the player if they explore. At the end of each stage is, as expected, a boss to tackle. These range from giant heads to robo-birds and teleporting twin enemies. Each presents its own challenge but is never entirely challengING. Moves are frequently telegraphed well and each boss feels do-able. This is fairly important for the roguelite part of the game. Following a more strict Mega Man structure with obnoxiously hard bosses that require specific weapons to defeat would have ruined the randomised flow. Defeating a boss nets you a significant power up – currency, a health boost or the bosses weapon to use for yourself, followed by the choice of how to proceed. This, again, keeps the linear action platformer feel without compromising the roguelite progression.
Okay, I’m waxing very lyrical about 20XX, but where did it initially let me down? Well, bluntly, the visuals. First impressions can often stay with you and for 20XX I wasn’t overly enamoured. Sonically the game has all the bleeps and bloops of chiptune audio and sound effects that you’d expect, but visually – well, instead of providing a slick and chunky 8 or 16bit homage to the games it’s aping, 20XX instead opts to use a pseudo Flash game art style… out of the box this felt remarkably bland with floaty animations, some janky elements to the UI and fairly uninspiring anime styling. What 20XX epitomises, however, is that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
Get past the visuals and the game is fantastic fun. It feels accessible and deep with plenty of unlockables available on the central hub, a choice of characters who dramatically change up the gameplay – one with ranged attacks and another who specialises in close quarters melee combat. Daily and weekly challenges provide rewards to help you power up and there’s even a local co-op mode. It’s great! And it’s only 12.99 on the Switch which is frankly a bargain. Roguelite style games, with their focus on repeat runs, work incredibly well on mobile formats (just ask me about the ridiculous amount of time I sank into Rogue Legacy on Vita) and 20XX is speedy enough to entertain for both extended sessions at home and quick blasts on the daily commute.
A drab exterior hides a remarkably solid roguelite take on the action platform game, with plenty of content and challenges to warrant repeat visits, as well as that roguelite rarity, a co-op mode. Highly recommended!