The blue bomber is making his return this year after a long hiatus from the limelight. In that time we’ve had many other characters step up to the throne to try and take up that mantle. Problem is that most struggled to grasp what made the action-platformer such a blast to play. 20XX is the next in line to give the popular series a go at its own game.
20XX is one of those games that come bundled with a story for ‘reasons’. It really needs absolutely no explanation why you are about to annihilate robots that have been running amok after an uprising, but apparently, Nina and Ace are hired to destroy these robots and bring peace to the world. Enough with the jargon – 20XX is an absolute joy to behold. There is no secret that this is a Mega Man-inspired game. Everything is presented as ‘that Mega Man game you’ve been waiting for’. From the title menu that has the camera panning up a tall building with your hero at the top, through to the boss battles, the way you explode when you die and everything in-between – it’s as close as any game has come so far to matching what the Mega Man X series brought to the table.
20XX is an absolute joy to behold.
Nina is modeled after the iconic Mega Man with a blue outfit, helmet and arm blasters. Similarly, she can shoot foes at a distance. By holding in your shooting button you can also power up a more powerful blast. Ace, on the other hand, generally deals with foes at a closer range, though his moves are more powerful than hers and he is red in colour. It’s up to individuals to choose what style they prefer before entering any one level, as things get super tough. Both of them can jump and dash, or combine the two for a jump dash move. They have more cards to play, but more on that a bit later. What makes 20XX so unique is that the game consists of levels that are generated randomly.
You will literally never play the same level twice and it’s that little ingredient that provides all the replay value you would ever need. Each level you enter will seem familiar as you’ll bump into items you would have encountered before, it’s just that it’s not the same layout, which means you can’t do much planning to perfect a particular section. Whether it’s platforms appearing or disappearing, platforms falling as soon as you land on them, conveyor belts sending you in the opposite direction, platforms moving back and forth with timed laser blast hindering your jump – it just never gets dull. No matter your platforming skills, there is a challenge waiting for you.
Up to two players can enjoy a game of 20XX in a co-op fashion.
Your objective is to tackle eight levels with a boss fight at the end of each stage. The bosses you encounter will change up their attacking patterns dependent at what stage you confront them. For example, if you fight the scary bat-like robotic creature (Eternal Star) on level 1 it’ll be a walk in the park, but encounter it on level 8 and you’ll have to deal with its attacks and other forms of punishment it’ll throw at you. Beat it and, like Mega Man, you can choose to pick up a unique boss power to use in your upcoming fights. You do have options as you can pick up nuts or an aug. Aug? Yes, you can do all kinds of wonderful things to Nina and Ace by installing augmentations.
When finishing a boss fight you are rewarded with soul chips, also obtainable by downing an extra tough foe (highlighted by flashing) when in general play. These soul chips give you access to item unlocks, permanent upgrades or next run items. The item unlocks help you gain a major advantage in the game, but these are also found at random. It could be that one aug gives you the ability to hover in the air for a short while or that it allows you to double jump. Nina and Ace will also get access to different weapon pickups that are crucial to beat most levels. Nuts, the currency in the game, affords you the ability to buy health and energy from vending machines. Should you find special shops mid-game you can also buy augs to help you increase your various stats. Then there are prototype augs (or catch 22 augs as I like to call it). These augs are, as it suggests, still in prototype and come with pros and cons. The Brutish augmentation, for example, will give you incredible attack power, but in return you can’t use your boss powers at all. It’s a give and take affair, but is worth experimenting. The stronger you can build yourself up, the better. The reason for this is quite simple – you have one life. It’s also a great reason to have another player join in to assist you.
Double the action
Up to two players can enjoy a game of 20XX in a co-op fashion and I managed to give it a go offline, as I could not find an online game yet (something that should change closer to launch). Nuts and aug powerups are shared, but should your partner die you’ll have to grant him or her half your health to respawn. What happens here is that you’ll always get a weaker player eating away at the health of the stronger player. Remember Contra and your friend stealing all your lives? Kind of feels like that. It’s still lots of fun with another player and I can just imagine if you put two players together with great platforming skills that it could be something special to play.
Where I am a little let down is with a particular move. Unlike Mega Man you can’t slide to avoid bullets aimed at your head, neither can you duck. This requires you to jump or walljump to avoid any projectiles. Whether there is another core that’ll grant me that move, I’m not sure, but I only have two of 16 cores left to discover. I also found that the general enemies got a bit samey and after your first encounter it would be much easier to deal with that same threat again. It’s all kept fresh with daily and weekly challenges and for those who aren’t quite as good at platforming, there is a Reverent mode that grants you three lives instead of one. If you feel you need more of a challenge there is also a Defiant difficulty but, unless you’re one of the robots uprising, best you not apply. For the first time since the Switch launched I found the Joy-Con’s as a much better option over the pro controller. Due to the iffy D-Pad on the Pro controller, it’s just not a good option for a 2D platformer that requires very precise jumps and timing. As a result, it felt like the perfect on-the-go companion.
Players who grew up in the 16-Bit Mega Man era is going to find much to love and it’s catered in such a way that it can virtually last you an eternity. It fits the Switch like a glove and is probably the perfect augmentation to bring the most out of any platformer fan.