My favorite kind of Indies are the ones that were inspired by the games of yore. Much like how Freedom Planet is a direct homage to Sonic the Hedgehog, 20XX is a tribute to the Mega Man X series. Developed by both Batterystaple Games and Fire Hose Games, it is easy notice their passion brimming through. Not only did 20XX capture the spirit of the 2D side-scroller series, but it manages to spice up the formula in interesting ways.
The game pits you in the role of either Nina, equipped with a trusty blaster, or Ace, a sword wielding boy, who are sent to eradicate various robotic terrors ravaging the area. Both playable characters play similarly to both X and Zero respectively, but in all the good ways. Nina has a blaster that she can charge to shoot a larger shot. Ace, however, can perform multiple slashes that can be deadly at close range. Each character has their own pros and cons. Ace’s sword deals more damage than Nina’s blaster, but he has to be close to his enemies to do it. While Nina has less attack power, her range makes up for it.
Both characters can jump and perform a dash move that can increase jumping distance. Performing this does require pressing both the dash button and jumping simultaneously, which might be odd for Mega Man aficionados, but it’s easy to get the hang of quickly. In addition to dashing, both characters can perform a wall jump. This is helpful not just for ascension, but also to reach moving platforms with the help of the extra altitude. While there are many pitfalls, 20XX is filled with walls and platforms to jump off in case of a mistake.
What makes 20XX unique, however, is the Rogue-lite design behind it. Characters have a set health bar and any hazard takes away one hit, including spikes and bottomless pits that will send you right to the point in which you fell. However, losing all your health regardless of the reason will result in a game over. There are no continues or extra lives here.
It may seem taxing at first, but thankfully throughout the game there are plenty of items and weapons that will make your platforming experience more manageable. Items that can either increase your health or energy meters, to weapons that can be found in crates or by defeating bosses. A lot of the items can be acquired by finding bolts throughout the stage. Those can be exchange at health or energy stops, or little shops that offer greater upgrades for a higher price.
While the bolts are currency meant to be used in each individual run, there are also soul chips to collect. Those can be used once you die and return to HQ. They can be used either to buy permanent upgrades, or temporary ones that cost less. The catch? They can only be used for one run. In addition, the levels are also randomly generated, despite recycling themes between the different bosses. While the backgrounds can get drab after multiple plays, at least each playthrough will be different than the last.
Each level ends with a boss encounter, and all of them have their own unique attack patterns. After a boss is defeated, players can choose the next boss to face. What makes the bosses more interesting is that the further you are in your run, the tougher they become. Either the arena will have stage hazards or bosses will have more health than if they were encountered earlier.
Just like the Blue Bomber, our two heroes gain new weapons when they defeat a boss. However, both characters use powers in the same exact way without any variations. Ace is known for being a close ranged fighter, and yet when he uses ranged weapons in a similar fashion to Nina it feels rather unfitting. The majority of weapons feel slow and lack fire power compared to a rapid succession of basic attacks. In fact the Fire Shield power you get might be the best since it helps engulf you in a rotating fire shield that can absorb enemy attacks.
Going through 20XX is fun and challenging no matter how many times death occurs, but the game also allows two players to get into the action, both local and online co-op. Since both characters have different attack strategies, they complement each other well, and playing with a friend is an absolute blast.
Graphically 20XX looks pretty nice. The level design, while simplistic, is very appealing with its color palates. The camera is positioned further back than most 2D action games to give players a better idea of what’s to come in order to perform jumps properly. The art itself is nice, but I do wish that some of the cutscenes had more polish behind them. The music, while true to the chiptune days of the 16-bit era, isn’t exactly memorable, but appropriate.
20XX could’ve easily been a thrown together rip-off of the Mega Man X games. Despite this, it manages to pay tribute to those games, but stands on its own by infusing Rogue-lite mechanics. Playing it with a friend is a blast and the controls are nothing short of spot on. Even if it lacks the usual polish of a AAA release, this game is a gem, especially for those who adore classic platform games.
Final Score: 8 out of 10