I didn’t give much attention to 20XX when it launched back in 2017. While the idea of a Mega Man inspired action platformer with a roguelike twist seems pretty unique, it never managed to grab my interest at the time. Looking back on the game and comparing it to the upcoming sequel 30XX, it becomes clear which element of the experience stopped me from obsessing over it: the art style. This isn’t the case at all with 30XX, however, which has managed to cultivate a much more polished and memorable aesthetic to go along with the quick action and addictive gameplay loop.
The shift in art style for 30XX is interesting because it’s seemingly the only example on the market of a game with a sharp, hand-drawn aesthetic shifting to a pixel art sprite style. What’s even more interesting, though, is how this shift to technically lower detail visuals manages to pack in even more detail and style than the original game. These aren’t flat, lifeless pixels that make up the characters and environments. Brazilian pixel artist Glauber Kotaki brings sharp designs to every inch of the screen, and elements like laser-blades and cave crystals have a gorgeous glow to them that add a real depth. It’s all complemented by bright particle effects that cascade from every attack and ability you or your enemies use.
And trust me, there are plenty of abilities. In the original game, your characters were essentially palette swaps to serve as catalysts for having a second player join in on the action. In 30XX, however, both characters come with vividly different combat styles and potential ability upgrades.
Nina has a classic blaster and a wide pool of ranged abilities, while Ace is a swift sword fighter with deadly combos. Both characters have slick maneuverability, though, making it easy to keep up with each other during combat. Even better is how often the synergy between the skills of each character plays out – freezing an enemy with Nina while Ace jumps in and slices the foe in half is so, so cool.
This is still a roguelike, so every run will present you with new abilities and loot drops as you progress. The original game had a paltry handful of potential abilities, but 30XX scales things dramatically with dozens of weapons and pieces of gear to collect.Things get even more wild with Nina’s Power Fusion system, which allows you to combine multiple abilities Transistor style to craft a brand new amalgamation of the two. Combine a paralyzing sonic wave with a spiraling burst-shot, for example, and you’ll craft a deadly spiraling sonic blast ability.
You’ve also got the standard roguelike fare of randomised levels, although each level you go through is made up of tilesets and enemies that are themed around the boss waiting for you at the end of the stage.
With a fresh coat of pixelated paint and plenty of brand new toys, 30XX has turned a so-so experiment in action platforming into a deep, content-filled and ultra-addictive experience. From the stylish cooperative action to the wide variety of upgrades and the absolutely gorgeous pixel art that ties it all together, 30XX is something for roguelike fans and co-op enthusiasts that is absolutely worth keeping an eye on.