The roguelike has grown into the biggest genres in the indie game scene over the last few years, and with regular standout games, they likely aren’t dying out any time soon. I can appreciate roguelikes, even though the live-die-repeat nature can aggravate me on occasion, but titles in the genre that alleviate that pain with consistent progression or rich story keep me engaged for hours on end. Still, I’ve had a few times where I’ve dug into a game that felt like it would totally be my thing if it just didn’t have roguelike trappings slapped on.
I imagine Batterystaple Games ran into a lot of feedback similar to that with 20XX, their Mega Man-inspired platformer roguelike from 2017. Their follow-up release 30XX is a similar robot-blasting roguelike platformer, but this time, fans can tackle the entire experience with a totally different Mega Mode that turns this into one of the most addicting and engaging love letters to the blue bomber I’ve ever played.
The Standard mode for 30XX is stil all about that die-and-retry roguelike form. A run in this mode sees you chilling in a small hub area before diving into action, where you’ll be randomly teleported to one of several different levels, each sporting their own unique visuals, music, enemies, and bosses. It isn’t just the level order that’s randomised, though; the levels themselves will have varying layouts and sections each time you tackle them. The midboss and boss of each level stays consistent, but the challenges you face between those fights are different each time, making it even harder to truly master a stage.
At first, it felt a little surprising that the game was openly whisking me around all of these different levels in such a short time. You’re typically be stuck in one environment before earning progression to the next one in a roguelike, so having a brand new one be your starting section in each run was a surprise, and the variety of layout changes I encountered each time made even repeat level encounters feel brand new.
As you navigate these stages, you’ll grab ability and attack upgrades from rare chests or defeated bosses that can drastically alter the flow of battle. For laser-sword wielding robot Ace, you might discover a flame uppercut that drastically strengthens your regular blade combos. For blue bullet blaster Nina, you’ll likely run into a variety of different projectile types to wield and even combine thanks to her unique Power Fusion system. This isn’t the kind of game where upgrades and modifiers are tossed at you like candy, so clawing your way to a new one always feels incredibly special.
Of course, it can be all too heartbreaking to make a sloppy mistake and lose all those amazing upgrades as you die during a run. You might not even be able to tackle that same stage again to immediately learn from your mistakes. Mega Mode is built to ease the frustrations of the roguelike genre that might otherwise turn people away from 30XX, while still maintaining the tough-to-master difficulty you’d expect from a game so heavily inspired by Mega Man X.
In this mode, you initiate a playthrough that delivers randomized versions of each level, but you’re able to pick and choose which level to dive into from the hub as you please. Dying isn’t a permanent defeat either, as you’ll be able to return to the hub, stock up on upgrades, and dive right back into the level you just got destroyed in. Some added bells and whistles like narrative scenes help make Mega Mode feel more like a standard platformer affair, and it’s a great way to experience the game if you want to change things up or just feel burnt out on roguelikes in general.
No matter which mode you tackle, you’re in for an artistic treat thanks to the killer visuals and sounds of 30XX. As promising as the gameplay of 20XX was, the hand-drawn art felt a little bland at times. The key art and character illustrations for 30XX have seen a massive upgrade, but the entire game is now rendered in sharp, vivid pixels that combine the chunky appeal of SNES sprites with modern particle effects and glistening glows. Each level is accompanied by insanely awesome chiptune music that gets your adrenaline rushing every time you hop into a level.
30XX is still very, very early in its Early Access roadmap, but while there’s a bunch of stuff the developers are set to add and improve over time, the core experience is already incredibly exciting. With two different ways to experience the game that are equally addicting and finely-tuned, roguelike fans, Mega Man X lovers, and members of both categories owe it to themselves to keep their eyes on this game as it gets bigger and better with time.