Mega Man-inspired roguelike platformer 20XX (originally Echoes of Eridu) is setting a high bar for the genre. The game’s collectable upgrades and procedurally generated levels combine to give 20XX a necessary identity, helping set it apart from the competition.
Fire Hose Games managed to create a unique experience, even with the strong parallels to Mega Man X. Nina, a girl seeking vengeance for her family’s death, decides to replace half her humanity with a Buster Arm. Ranged attacks are her prowess, and she becomes inconceivably dangerous with new weapons and upgrades. She also bears a striking resemblance to Mega Man himself.
Ace, who bears a shockingly welcomed appearance of Zero from Mega Man X, focuses almost entirely on close-range sword attacks. Not much is known about his history, and there’s barely more information known about his present existence. As of this writing, the only known bit about him is that he kicks ass with a sword. When you start playing the game, you immediately realize the importance of this characteristic.
Procedurally generated levels are picking up in popularity among gamers with good reason. When done well, the feature adds an incredible amount of replay value to the game – 20XX does exactly that. Failure only teaches you what enemies and mechanics you’ll encounter in just one of the many levels they’ve created – how those enemies and mechanics come at you is a different story. Every run through the stages feels entirely different as you’ll come across unpredictable problems to solve.
“Levels are built from chunks, chunks are built from bits, and bits are built by the Grand God of Randomness, srand(t). The short version here is that the game shifts from precise platforming to intense combat in a blink and does so in new ways all the time.”
This amount of replayability is intensified with an absurd collection of weapons, abilities, and upgrades contained within their armory system, “Automatic RoboSapient Equipment & Navigation Assistance Library,” or “ARSENAL.” With over 100 blueprints for improvements to discover, there’s an upgrade for everyone’s playstyle. These blueprints can completely alter the way the game plays and feel incredibly satisfying once they’re applied in game.
Have bad aim? Shoot in every direction at once for less damage. Often die when retreating? Shoot behind you while you run. Boomerang blades, plasma swords, and more are just waiting for you to find and utilize them, so finding them becomes a priority pretty quickly. This often involves going through a particularly difficult segment of the level, but the gratification granted from unearthing these power-ups makes the stress worthwhile. Beating the final boss of a stage will present you with the option of choosing one of three possible buffs. This ensures a reward (usually a weapon specific to the level completed) for the player completing a stage regardless of difficulty.
Generalized buffs exist in the game, as well – it’s not uncommon to find items such as potato batteries, ninja sashes, or heart containers that boost a variety of aspects of your character for the run. The small boost to either power, armor, or speed can be the difference between life and death. In addition to finding items throughout the levels, small vending machines can be located that will exchange these items for money you find along your journey.
Everything from enemies to breakable boxes drop Nuts, the game’s currency, and they quickly become coveted once you start to experience the upgrade’s helpfulness. A more scarce version of currency, Soul Nuts, can be gained by destroying enemies with a blue aura. At least one can be found per stage, and each one (currently) drops between 1-5 Soul Nuts. This special currency carries over after death (normal nuts do not), allowing players to buy upgrades for themselves from the central hub of the game before you begin playing. This makes starting out infinitely easier – at least until you start to collect your own ARSENAL blueprints.
Upgraded weapons are one thing in solo play – cooperative play offers an entirely different experience. Having two people with insanely powerful (and beautiful) attacks on the screen simultaneously can really get the adrenaline pumping. If one dies, the other continues – Fire Hose Games was nice enough to incorporate a reviving station that can be used in a level to bring your buddy back to life. As helpful as this feature is, it seems to exacerbate the decline in difficulty as you progress through the game. This is entirely welcomed to those who may feel the early learning curve is too severe, but for others it can demotivate players to continue pushing forward. 20XX’s nature easily remedies this by stripping your character of upgrades after death, allowing the difficulty to reset due to a lack of power-ups and the existence of randomized stages.
Not all players will experience the decline in difficulty, however, and both the procedurally generated levels and insane number of upgradable weapon combinations attribute to this. Co-op play and daily challenges are extremely nice to see included in the game’s genre – those two features alone are enough to sell the game to its targeted audience. The art direction is nostalgically crisp, and both character and “level design” are interesting enough to keep you coming back for more.
20XX is currently in Early Access and can be bought on Steam for a discounted price of $11.99. The game is slated for release on November 25th; once it does, the price is jumping up to $15. If Mega Man X tickled your fancy, you might want to give 20XX a shot. Having a friend endure the difficulty alongside you can be awfully comforting.
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