X Would Be Proud
I haven't played 20XX. To be quite honest it's never even come across my radar before, but seeing 30XX in action at the Guerrilla Collective this week immediately piqued my interest. As a fan of fast-paced platformers like the Mega Man X and Zero series, it was impossible not to draw an immediate comparison. What I didn't expect though was how much it doesn't just nail the gameplay and feel but also expands upon it.
In the demo, you can play as either Nina, a blue character with a cannon, or Ace, a red character with a sword. There's a lot that you're going to find familiar if you've played the aforementioned games but 30XX does a fantastic job of adding further depth. While the characters begin familiar as you progress through the level you have options to pick up items and abilities, called Augs. These can range anywhere from modifying your health or speed, to completely new weapons.
While you start a mission with a sword, you might instead be shooting small bullets and crushing enemies with a flaming uppercut by the end of the stage. There's a lot more flexibility in the way you tackle levels that can appeal to a wider variety of play styles. I know I prefer to get in and take out an enemy faster than they can take me out so purchasing health power-ups and wielding the powerful sword was the way to go.
The 30XX demo has two levels available to play, a derelict Japanese temple and a cave system. Aesthetically they're extremely different but there is a very consistent design pattern. Levels feature large rooms with plenty of space to platform while avoiding bullets and flying enemies. You can choose to get in close and personal if you have melee but plenty of space to fire a ranged blast. There's also a lot of vertical movement, forcing the player into narrow corridors slowly moving up or down. These segments force the player to play it a bit safer timing their movements with stage hazards and enemy fire. The stages feel bigger and have a grander impact. It doesn't feel like you're running down a corridor throwing lemons at robots.
Each level also gives players a chance to test their skills. There's a platforming challenge called the Glory Zone that you'll be able to warp to and a combat challenge at a statue. While both are challenging the Glory Zone is rough. Make sure you've got your dash-wall-jumps down otherwise you'll find it a quick way to the game over screen. Both of these are optional so while you can use it to flex your skill and gain some extra money/equipment it's not needed in the long run. Some great quality of life features are present such as a health station before the final boss and a shop, money is pretty scarce early on though so don't expect to be able to get yourself anything fancy.
I was also pleasantly surprised at the mini-boss from the first level. Instead of the standard fare of walking into a room, doors shutting, and a fight beginning you get chased by a spiked wheel. You and the wheel end up in the mini-boss room where you need to fight him. The battle isn't difficult but involves a lot of cycling around platforms so you can hit him, especially if you only have melee range. Instead, if you get behind the wheel at the start, you can deal constant damage before the fight begins. This was a really fun shakeup to the regular formula and I hope that these kinds of dynamic boss fights continue throughout 30XX.
30XX Preview | Final Thoughts
Watching from afar, 30XX seems like a standard mix up of platforming and bullet hell but the polish on it is fantastic. Being able to customize your loadout and upgrade your character stats also adds for a more personalized experience. Even if the level and enemies are the same each time you play it you can get something different out of it. I would definitely recommend this to anyone interested in the genre and might have to pick up 20XX to tide me over.
TechRaptor previewed 30XX on PC via Steam with a demo freely downloaded during the Steam Game Festival digital event.