By Phil Schipper / September 9th, 2015
|Release Date||November 25, 2014 (Early Access)|
Randomly generated Mega Man gameplay? With co-op? It sounds too good to be true. The thing is, it’s not. Get ready for 20XX.
The goal is a simple one: make your way to the end of the game’s eight levels and conquer the bosses that lurk there. However, just like any Mega Man game, this is a complex endeavor that requires skill, luck, and planning–even more so with the unexpected always looming ahead.
You–and your other player, if you have one–can choose between two very different characters: Nina and Ace. Nina has a classic buster, while Ace gets a saber similar to Zero from Mega Man X. Besides the thrill of close combat, I prefer Ace for his slightly higher jump, which is a pretty significant advantage when platforming is half the challenge of the game. Both have the classic dashing and wall-jumping skills as well.
The eight levels are divided into four themes: forest, fire, ice and sky. Each one has different challenges–the forest area is filled with both disappearing and falling platforms, for example, while in the ice area you have to dash between safety zones to avoid being hit by cannons. They also feature different enemies with wildly different behaviors, and you never know where they’ll be placed, leading to almost constant tension. The good news is that when you fall into spikes or a pit, you don’t die–you only take one point of damage. That’s a real relief when dying means starting over.
What really makes the random generation–and the game in general–more interesting is the vast arsenal of powerups you can find through various means during your run. With them, you can run faster, jump higher, deal more damage, and even have little drones back you up. For the most part, they’re found in three places: in special side areas that are well-guarded by traps, at little shops and at the very end of the level. By finishing in under a certain time, you can get an extra level-end powerup. This makes for a powerful risk and reward effect: do you rush through the level and try to get through the trap-riddled side rooms for more powerups, or do you play it safe?
It wouldn’t be Mega Man (or a fully-formed copy thereof) if it weren’t for fast-paced boss battles that end with you stealing their abilities, and 20XX has that down. In addition to the powerup that the game hands you after you defeat a boss, you also have a choice. You can get yet another normal powerup, or pick up that boss’ Power. Using a Power requires energy, a second meter, but it’s definitely worth using most of them liberally. From an 8-directional boomerang to a machine gun to a ring of fire that helps take damage for you, the powers are just generally awesome. After making this choice, you also have three options for the next stage boss you’ll face, allowing you to control how you build your arsenal somewhat.
The procedural generation is smart. The more levels you’ve gotten through, the bigger the platforming challenges–and the more enemies–you will face. Despite this, it is capable of chaining a climbable but disappearing wall with reversed-gravity floors and more, seamlessly, without ever creating an impossible jump or other situation. You can get familiar with the little “bits” that the levels are made of, but they’re combined in such crazy ways that you never know what to expect.
Besides getting more skilled at it, your overall progress between individual runs basically comes down to the powerups you have unlocked. There is a shop where you buy new unlocks using Soul Nuts, which are gained by defeating special, extra-difficult enemies. This area also allows you to add insane new challenges onto the already daunting task of getting through all the levels.
Two-player is pretty amusing. When you’re far away from your partner, the game compensates by zooming out, which can lead to your characters looking hilariously small in some situations. If one player dies, there are special pods in the middle of stages and right before bosses where the survivor can sacrifice a little health to revive their partner. Other than that, players really just help each other out in combat and don’t interfere with one another beyond that. (At times, it was nice to be able to go ahead and show my less-experienced second player a safe route, though.)
This game is in Early Access, but if it weren’t for the big reminder on the title screen, counting down to the next update in a week or two, I wouldn’t even know it. Sure, there are a few game imbalances with powers and so on, leading me to sometimes cross my fingers for a certain first boss. I’m even really curious about the guy who tells you, “I still do nothing. Sorry about that.” But if you asked me whether this game was missing something, I’d say absolutely not. It’s a lot of fun to play by yourself, and even more so in co-op, which is amazing in my book. Plus, who doesn’t want to make immature jokes about how the game’s currency is called nuts?
At the time of writing, the price on Steam is $11.99 USD, but as development continues it’ll climb toward $15. Personally, I see no reason why you shouldn’t grab it right now.
Review copy supplied by the publisher.
20XXBatterystaple GamesMega ManPC