One of my earliest gaming memories was with Mega Man X4. It had so much style and frantic action that tickled my brain just right, and I had to find out what the rest of this series was like. Outside of the franchise though, it's been hard to find games that scratch that oddly specific itch -- and then I reviewed 30XX.
Sure, “sidescrolling action platformer” is almost the default option for all kinds of indie games, but there's a certain rhythm and pacing that comes with Mega Man X. It gives you virtually unlimited control while a sea of chaos tries to wrestle it from you, and few games capture that wild energy the way 30XX does.
This action-platformer roguelike follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, 20XX, delivering a Mega-Man-X-flavored, high-octane game that bombards you with moments that make you feel like a platforming god. You'll thread needles, land tight jumps, and absolutely break the limits of what you thought was possible.
However, it isn't all rosy. Like with any roguelike, bad luck spells frustration, to the point where it's crucial to know when to throw in the towel on a run. But when it all comes together, protagonists Nina and Ace welcome you into a thrilling flow state fueled by pure adrenaline and exhilarating joy.
30XX Review – Reploids Gone Roguelike
On the surface, 30XX bears a lot of similarities to Mega Man X -- even the art style looks pretty familiar. Nina uses her N-Buster to shoot bullets at faraway enemies, while Ace uses his A-Saber to slice up nearby enemies (hu-ha-ho, anyone?). Combine those with dashes and wall kicks, and you’ve got yourself an addictive action-platformer cocktail.
When you defeat one of the eight main bosses, you get a special power based on the boss. For Ace, these powers are activated with directional inputs and a cost meter. You replenish your meter by building up Style, which dwindles when you get hit. His gameplay, while difficult, is like a wonderfully wild and fun dance with death.
Nina, on the other buster, fuses different powers together to create new ones, creating more than 60 mutations that players can use. It’s a brilliant system that not only opens up your combat options but also adds a meta layer to the game’s roguelike mechanics.
For example, one attack launches an electric bullet with homing properties. Another creates a black hole that sucks in enemies. Combining them summons a black hole that launches several homing bullets. If you want that, you’ll choose the appropriate bosses as early in the run as possible -- but you’re also balancing that with which stages you want to finish early.
The further you are in a run, the harder it gets. Each stage is randomly pieced together with pre-built level segments, and these segments have various difficulties, depending on when they show up in the run. I found myself thinking ahead, knowing that if I got a double jump early, for example, I could save certain troublesome stages for later.
Throughout the 10-stage run, you’ll find challenges, boxes, and other ways to obtain augments and cores, like the aforementioned double jump. These can boost your attack, defense, mobility, and give some just plain weird buffs (or nerfs), and this is where the roguelike genre really comes in full focus.
Nina’s Buster is a great example. The base form launches bullets, and charging it releases a bigger shot. If you get a fork, it splits into three shots. A retro fork also shoots two bullets behind you. Your bullets could also arc forward or split when they hit an obstacle -- there are a lot of options, and all of them stack on top of each other (and can get stronger).
It takes a couple of runs to get a good feel for what builds you prefer, much like with any roguelike. Thankfully, 30XX provides enough variety to cater to all sorts of play styles.
Movement buffs are great for speed runners, but there’s also an ability that turns you into a speeding bullet that damages whatever you tackle, based on your speed. Alternatively, I transformed Ace into a floating, spinning blade of death that almost never touched the ground, and it felt so cool making that just work.
Go With the Flow
When you’ve got the right powerups and combos in 30XX, it plays like a dream. Every move makes you feel powerful, and you find yourself in a flow state where you’re dodging everything by the skin of your teeth.
At its most thrilling times, 30XX gives you full control, but just barely. It’s like a wild rollercoaster that you’re simultaneously rolling with and steering. That’s a tricky needle to thread, but it succeeds more often than it doesn’t.
While running and jumping through the stages, you'll become more familiar with the enemies and hazards, contributing to that zen-like flow state. You’ll start anticipating boss attack patterns, knowing how to get out of the way and exploit their misses.
However, so much needs to go right that it can be hard to get to those great moments. Like any roguelike, your success really depends on the items you obtain. You have a little bit of agency over your augments as you unlock more meta-progression buffs, but they only get you so far.
The difficulty curve in 30XX starts getting pretty steep once you’re in the second half of a run. If I didn’t have a leg core that gave me some sort of mid-air mobility by stage 6, I knew I was pushing my luck. The last two stages in particular will test your platforming mettle, and without some aerial course correction, you’ll be playing with fire -- sometimes literally.
And really, that just comes with the territory of the roguelike genre. While there are an overwhelming and exciting number of options up front, it really requires a focused build to find some success in the late game.
Of course, platforming is pretty subjective, and I’m sure there are players out there who maneuver through the entire game without any extra powers. But if you don’t find a way to maximize your damage, you eventually hit a wall that’s hard to jump over.
Enemies and bosses get higher health pools further in a run, and that’s pretty normal for roguelikes. However, it really stood out to me in 30XX, likely because I’m carrying over so many preconceptions from its clear influences.
Mega Man X games get challenging in their latter halves, but for the most part, enemies could be cut down quickly. Enemy quantity, attack frequency, and damage were cranked up, but you felt just as lethal to them as they are to you.
In 30XX, that’s not quite as true. Late-stage enemies can take more than three charged-up hits to kill, and it feels like a momentum killer. Again, this is a preconception and bias I’m bringing to the table, and it can be alleviated with the right augments and cores. I just felt it’s worth mentioning, considering how much it wears its influences on its sleeve.
Who’s the Boss?
If you’re not as into roguelikes, 30XX features other gameplay modes too. You can play community stages built by others using the in-game tools (or even build them yourself, if you’re inspired). There’s also Ellie’s Gauntlet, where you can run through longer community-made levels that can feel almost metroidvania-esque.
30XX also has something called Mega Mode, where death doesn’t wipe away your progress. It really takes the game back to its roots, and I don’t mean 20XX. Even if you die mid-stage, you keep all the upgrades you’ve found along the way, so eventually, you’ll get stronger.
You can pick from all eight main bosses in any order, though their difficulties are predetermined. So even if you like fighting Hoot Omega first, if they’re the eighth boss to choose from, the stage will be a high hurdle to start with.
When it comes to bosses, there’s a good variety on display here, and their powers constantly force you to stay on your toes. One boss messes with gravity while throwing explosive shuriken your way. Another controls giant floating fists, effectively zoning you until they create platforms for you to use.
You might end up hating a certain boss or two, but that’s more out of how great the boss designs are. Each one is radically different, so every player’s going to have their own “weakness” that a boss might be the perfect (or imperfect) match against. Even the final bosses, which I won’t spoil, are a lot of fun and pay off just how dynamic a run of 30XX can be. Overall, the bosses are designed pretty well.
There’s a story here too, though it doesn’t particularly play a central role. There are journal entries for each boss, and the final bosses have some dialog. Some characters at your home base say some things about Eleanor, the big bad. But if I’m being honest, 30XX’s best impressions are made in the gameplay, not in the data entries or dialog.
What really does make an impression, though, is the absolutely killer soundtrack by Cityfires, who was also responsible for 20XX’s soundtrack. The chiptune-inspired, energetic music is full of lively, nostalgic sounds, and you could drop some of these tracks straight into the ‘90s and early 2000s and it would blend seamlessly.
30XX Review – Final Thoughts
Overall, if you’ve been walking through a desert, waiting for a drop of Mega Man X, 30XX isn’t just the next best thing; it’s your oasis. While the roguelike mechanics can present some frustrations, they’re also directly responsible for making a nearly infinitely replayable action platformer that feels even better than it looks.
For those who love jumpin’ and shootin’, or jumpin’ and slashin’, 30XX should be at the top of your list right now. If you have fond memories of yesteryear, this game goes above and beyond scratching the itch.
TechRaptor reviewed 30XX on PC via Steam with access provided by the developer over the course of 18 hours of gameplay. All screenshots were taken during the process of review.
- Jumpin’, shootin’, and slashin’ feels fantastic
- Creative, fun bosses provide a great challenge
- Interesting variety of powerups and abilities
- Pause-worthy soundtrack by Cityfires
- Roguelike elements leave a lot to chance
- Difficulty curve can feel hit or miss