1824 was an eventful year. Beethoven premiered his Ninth Symphony, the first American fraternity was founded, the name Australia was officially adopted our country’s name, and English cleric Charles Colton famous published the everlasting phrase that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. It is the latter that provided the inspiration for Chris King’s 20XX, and if the saying is to be believed, this game might just be one of the best-executed compliments of all time.
The best description I’ve found for 20XX is that it’s “procedurally generated Mega Man”. While not everything in 20XX is procedurally generated per se, as pre-designed level segments are just placed in different orders, this method of level design is still a big risk that often has not been capitalised on. The best procedurally generated games, like Diablo, Left 4 Dead 2, and the original Rogue, ensure that gameplay does not suffer while allowing a theoretically never-ending experience that keeps players coming back for more; while disliked games with this method, like No Man’s Sky, get in trouble for having too similarities in the levels or featuring tedious gameplay. With the goal of bringing this risky method into a Mega Man market, and coming into the gaming market shortly after Mighty No. 9 and the re-release of the old Mega Man games on the Switch and everywhere else, 20XX had to impress upon its official release or be plunged into obscurity.
And boy, is this game good at achieving its goals. 20XX was made due to a belief that there weren’t enough Mega Man titles for those who wanted more gameplay, and to its credit, 20XX does a great job of feeling like a new Mega Man game. It offers a theoretically unlimited Mega Man challenge, with leaderboards offering players an ever-present dangling carrot to improve on the next run. I drew a lot of comparisons between 20XX and the Binding of Isaac, with the fast-paced action, humorous writing and cut-scenes, large array of items and power-ups and variation in bosses that players face during each run working equally well in both games as players try to do a little better every time.
Starting up the game fir the first time, a few things become immediately apparent. After a truly tiny tutorial where players learn how to jump, dodge and attack and use the health and energy systems just like in the Mega Man X games, you are thrown right into the action. This game handles like a gem, and all the levels look great, with all the assets, enemies, bullets and the protagonist beautifully and vibrantly animated. Enemies and bosses pop, and when there are lots of bullets and enemies flying there is a level of controlled mayhem that, while potentially intimidating for newcomers, captures the same feeling the Mega Man games used to create. 20XX is very unforgiving, so newcomers to the genre will definitely want to start with one of the original Mega Man games or something simpler like Mighty No 9 to get a feel for this style, as jumping right into 20XX can be very daunting. Even on the lowest difficult, the platforming still requires a large amount of player precision and ability to get through the levels. At the end of levels are the highlight of the game for me, the bosses themselves, which are all beautifully animated and feel very different to each other. The upbeat and energetic music in each level is also a fantastic throwback and a genuine joy to have on while going through runs. The techno, beeping, digital style that was a feature on all Mega Man games is executed beautifully in 20XX, and might be one of the best original gaming soundtracks of the year.
20XX just gets it right in every facet, most notably in the gameplay. Players need to keep improving their own skills along with the permanent boosts to the character, as while there are some nice RPG elements in being able to upgrade your character through loot, failed runs will result in all but your permanent upgrades being taken away, which can be expensive and occasionally tedious to obtain. The levels themselves work surprisingly well, which is a big statement considering that it would have been very difficult to make procedurally generated platforming work the way it has. It is possible to learn patterns as the levels themselves, while being randomly put in through segments, are pre-designed, but this mix of unpredictability and flow allows 20XX to achieve its goal fantastically. The boss battles themselves bring a strong feeling of accomplishment upon defeat, and while the gameplay itself is very simple to allow for fast-paced action, and the bosses themselves can be defeated pretty quickly by players that know what to do, there were times where I felt myself just wanting a little bit more from the end-of-level enemies. That does not get in the way of the sense of accomplishment I felt though, and I will maintain that anyone who is able to finish a full run in 20XX should feel a real amount of pride in their achievement.
While there were a few periods that I felt the game needed more diversity and different enemies, the quick-tempo gameplay is awesome to experience, and even when I got tired of playing due to the unchanging objectives I knew that it would only be a matter of time before I’d get the craving for some more Mega Man gameplay to try and do better than my previous runs. This is a game that I will keep on my Switch for a long time, and I think that it has potential for success similar to other unending games like Rocket League, Mario Kart and the Binding of Isaac.
The non-intrusive price tag of $20 is perfect for the amount of content players get, and the big improvements I desire could easily be made through updates in the form of more bosses, enemies, maps and game modes. 20XX is to Mega Man what Sonic Mania is to Sonic. A beautiful love letter to games and game styles that seem to have been forgotten by major companies.
Delivers exactly what was promised.
Awesome fast-paced platforming.
Innovative level design.
Sound track is fire.
Tedious upgrade system.
Can get repetitive.
Sensory overload can be daunting.
Review by Trystan Bass
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