Developer: Batterystaple Games, Fire Hose Games
Publisher: Batterystaple Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC via Steam, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Release Date: July 10, 2018 (Switch and PlayStation 4), July 11, 2018 (Xbox One), PC (released in 2017)
Disclaimer: A code was provided by the developer for review purposes.
There’s no doubt that 20XX borrows inspiration from the Mega Man franchise. It is probably one of the closest clones that I have played in years. But, there is one stark difference in the formula that 20XX seems to exploit more often than not. The game is undeniably one of the most difficult games I’ve played to date.
The first thing that made me take notice of 20XX was its art style. On the surface, it paints itself as a welcoming platformer akin to many of the other Mega Man clones on the market (Mighty No. 9). Below the surface, you will find a challenging, unique, and sometimes unrewarding tribute to many platformers that have come before it.
It should be made well aware that 20XX is more than just a clone. When you first jump in, you’ll see a slew of confusing power-ups that mean darn-well nothing to any beginner. Over the course of your difficult journey, you’ll realize that 20XX is a roguelike action platformer with many design facets. Once you die on a given run of the game, (You’ll only have one life on the standard difficulty.) it’s right back to the start to begin your journey again. Collecting the sparsely dropped Soul Chips during any playthrough will ensure you can purchase some power-ups when you start a new run, as you can redeem these chips for abilities.
The 20XX experience has its ups and downs. For example, you could grab power-ups for basic attacks and increase your health bar capacity. Finding “Scrap Recyclers” is an easy way to manage weapon buffs, armor, and moves during a level. In these tiny mechanized huts, you can trade collected nuts for parts. Enemies will infrequently drop these collectibles, oftentimes having them found in small loot crates. The “For Glory” tents offer in-game challenges (and I do mean challenges) that provide armor or stat increases.
During the game, you can choose either Nina or Ace. Nina mimics moves by Mega Man, while Ace bears similarities to Zero, complete with a blazing Z Saber-like attack. Holding down the R button while pressing the jump allows you to perform a jumping-dash move. This too can be altered, even allowing for a double-jump and hovering move to be gained. A tri- and quad-buster can create a more powerful blast than the standard buster, useful for grueling boss battles where enemies move erratically. Ace’s moves also can be upgraded, creating some unique attack combinations.
Much like the Mega Man series, defeating a boss allows you to absorb their ability. The formula for letting you either choose a boss move or power-up works fairly well. I did find that the difficulty was very lopsided depending on the path of options that you venture down. You might think, “I should load up my health bar stats,” right? In doing so, over the course of your run you will be starved of health pickups and high difficulty spikes, often wishing you chose something more on the offensive side. The same goes for choosing most boss move upgrades. Energy drops will become few and far between, leaving you with a ton of moves and not being able to use them.
Levels and bosses become progressively more difficult as the game continues. It is also a good idea, after playing through a few times, to gauge which levels become obtusely difficult during your run. This helps in knocking out more difficult bosses early on and even getting power-ups that prove more effective during platforming. Levels that are a cakewalk early on can become the bane of your existence if not prioritized based on difficulty. More enemies and traps change the layout of the level, and even the bosses will have different attack patterns.
Although I was able to have many somewhat successful runs in 20XX, I will admit that I have yet to complete the game. Even moving down to the easy difficulty has proven as much of a challenge as the standard setting. There has been much success with Ace, and new things to be discovered each time a run was attempted. However, the last level of the game is laughably difficult, with swarms of enemies and tight platforming to wade through.
There’s no doubt that during the latter part of the game your wits and reflexes will be put to the test. Platforming is a mixture of reaction time, strategic paths, and lucky mishaps that can carry you to the level’s end. Even then, you’re still faced with the next hurdle to bound in the form of the next boss.
For everything difficult that 20XX is, I did find it to be one of those experiences that kept calling me back for more. It shares similar DNA to games like Super Meat Boy, a game whose difficulty was often laughable. There’s no doubt that you’ll achieve levels of comfort in your abilities, only to have them squashed moments later. This is essentially the entire makeup of 20XX. Even so, the general gameplay, presentation, and enemy variety never make it stale.
There are a ton of upgrade routes to pursue throughout your experience. Each time you’ll discover new weapon and power-up variations, even if you’ve attempted the game 20+ times like I have at this point. As much as I want to hate this game for its unforgiving nature, I can’t help but appreciate it for what it is.
If you decide to pick up 20XX—you’re going to have a bad time. You’re going to die, you’re going to be frustrated, maybe even throw your controller in a fit of rage. If you’re anything like me, you will find small instances of inspiration and confidence to pick up your pad once again and jump back into the fray. And, I couldn’t recommend it more for that.
A console gamer gone rogue. Collector of retro games, pun and dad joke enthusiast. My spotify playlists are out of control. Rocket League anyone?