30XX Early Access Preview – Just like a modern Mega Man!

Posted on February 17, 2021

30XX is a sprite-based running and gunning action platform title developed by Batterystaple Games. It’s also the sequel to 2018’s much-loved 20XX! 30XX is currently still in development and has just released into Early Access on Steam. The game features procedural generation, two playable characters, online co-op and multiple game modes.

The game modes on offer include ‘Classic’ which is essentially a one-life-only playthrough of the stages in random order. See how far you can make it on only one life. When you die you start again but there’s some benefits you can unlock and bring with you into your next run. 30XX also features ‘MEGA Mode’ where you can choose to attack any of the themed stages in any order you like.

The first thing I noticed about 30XX is that it is stunningly pretty and the stages feature plenty of colour and variation. At the time of writing, there are 6 levels available to play and it looks like at least another two are on the way at some point. All of them are strikingly different in both theme and gameplay. My favourite level, Echo Cave, features loads of blue and purple as you make your way through caverns with a backdrop of water and cliffs, speakers and equalisers dotting the environment.

The game also features a futuristic city level where the background is filled with flying cars whizzing past a vanilla sky. This level contains a lot of vertical gameplay, particularly one really groovy section where you’re dropping down against an upward draft that really drives home the setting. There is a level with a clock theme, pretty self-explanatory, featuring loads of swinging platforms and more. All of these levels are supported by unique enemies, bosses and gameplay, not to mention a great soundtrack that suits the tone of the stages perfectly.

Not only does 30XX genuinely look and sound fantastic, but it also plays fantastically as well. The gameplay across the stages strikes a delicate balance between running and gunning action with more technical platforming sections too. Furthermore, the stages feature multiple routes and areas that hide things like power-ups and additional skills, so it’s definitely worth replaying once you have defeated some bosses and added their specials to your skillset.

I was initially a little concerned about the idea of procedural generation in a platform game because to have a genuinely playable game in this genre requires careful design to balance the gameplay and make a stage flow. Luckily I didn’t identify any particular issues in the design of 30XX. It appears to me the procedural aspect of the game has more to do with sections of levels rather than a fully random experience. I assume the developer has built different variations of the stages and the procedural aspect just remixes them.

I completed all of the available stages in 30XX and did not find the difficulty crossed the line from difficult to unfair for the majority of the time. There were a couple of instances where a jump between platforms was just a little too far, or some platforming section was a little too chaotic for my liking, although on the whole I think the levels are well designed and fun.

Certainly the one-life-only ‘classic’ playthrough is a mission in itself because the order in which you play the stages is random, as are the design of the stages. To be honest it’s not my favourite way to play 30XX. I think MEGA Mode is where it’s at. Each level has a boss at the end with their own particular skill, once you beat them, you get to add it to your repertoire. So once I had played through the levels, I soon realised that getting certain skills from certain bosses early on made the rest of the game much easier.

I would say that the game is a LITTLE on the short side at the moment, given that it should really only take 5-10 minutes to make it through a stage and beat the boss, so a full playthrough is probably going to take just over an hour at the moment. This would have probably cut the mustard back in 1994, but these days I’m not so sure. I think the levels themselves are about the right length, maybe 30XX just needs more of them. Or maybe rather than the procedural generation and remixed level sections, Batterystaple Games could have made two acts per stage, it appears there was more than enough material to do so.

That said, this is a game still in progress and unfinished. It’s absolutely possible that by the time the last levels are completed and 30XX can actually be played from beginning to end in full, that minor criticism may become non-applicable and a full playthrough may feel satisfying.

Given that this is still not a fully finished game, there are a couple of issues/bugs to be aware of. In one level I started to take random damage for no reason at all in some sections, which rendered it practically unplayable. In classic mode this was particularly frustrating because it can unfairly and prematurely end a good run. Coop mode, though fun, is a little broken at the time of writing. Fellow Checkpointer Elliot and I got together for some online coop action and we found things would go wrong more often than not. Enemies wouldn’t appear in his world that appeared in mine, even bosses sometimes wouldn’t show up for him with only their projectiles visible. One particular boss would crash his game every single time he joined and he had to hard quit out of the game every time we wanted to restart a run together.

All of that said though, overall, 30XX has a lot going for it. I love the stark contrast between levels and despite Batterystaple Games saying that it is procedurally generated, some of the level design is just too clever for that to completely be the case. I adore the graphic style, the soundtrack and the mix of fast-paced gameplay with technical platforming. It is a solid game that I can’t wait to have a proper go at when it is actually finished.