There’s been a lot of disappointment in games recently, between Mighty No 9 and No Man’s Sky. Regardless of where you stand on the subject of traumatic disappointment, these won’t do that.
20xx. Developed by Batterystaple Games and Fire Hose Games. Published by Batterystaple Games. Released in Early Access November 25, 2014. Available on PC. Review key provided by publisher.
20XX is an Early Access, rogue-lite, Mega Man clone which, to put it frankly, is the game I desperately wanted Mighty No 9 to be, even if I didn’t know it at the time. I have no particular ill will towards Mighty No 9, but it didn’t scratch the nostalgia itch, so I ended up hopping into Mega Man Legacy Collection where I saw the old, familiar timestamp; “20XX,” reminding me of this charming indie game.
I played some 20XX last year, though I didn’t spend enough time with it to be anything but absolutely awful, so I never got far. The fact that it’s still in Early Access, nearly two full years after its 2014 beta launch, does make me wary of expecting much from a real “launch” proper, but the best part about Early Access is that it doesn’t always matter. The playable content is already well worth the $12 investment, and it’s not like they’re taking things out of the game. Early Access used to be derided as a way to get free beta testers, not entirely unfairly. Nowadays, though, it seems more like a good place to soft launch and garner feedback directly from the people you’re making the game for.
Any fan of Mega Man will fawn over 20XXfor hours. The rogue-lite bit isn’t as perfect as the game’s Mega Man impersonation, and you’ll find yourself encountering familiar sections of the random maps occasionally, though it’s more oddity than detriment. Note that this is different than the persistent “Run” or play session. If you die, but don’t quit out, you’ll stay on the same “Run,” which means your corpse will be waiting out there for you somewhere to find and snag a powerup from, with the only reasonable dialogue for that situation; “wtf.”
Full Mojo Rampage. Developed by Over the Top Games. Released June 28, 2016. Available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC(Played). Review key provided by publisher.
Full Mojo Rampage is fairly generic as far as rogue-lite, twin-stick shooters go, but the titular mojo motif goes a long way to masking that. FMR is unassuming, and I was taken off guard by how much I enjoyed it. After playing solo for a couple of hours on Xbox One, I recruited some friends to play on Steam, and co-op is where FMR started to stand out.
The game breaks down the campaign into acts, each of which consists of a unique overview map, each node being a level you’ll need to clear to progress. Some of the overview maps are linear, but the web maps introduce choice, which always adds a layer of enjoyment for me. You and your companions will slay monsters, lift loot, and unlock permanent upgrades as you level up. Your loadout will determine your playstyle to a large extent. Each of the eight playable characters has a unique set of abilities that demand wholly distinctive approaches to combat. Ghede, for example, uses totems to establish a secure perimeter, where it’s easier to kill enemies without them getting close. Baron Samedi, on the other hand, gives you an item to summon Samedi to your aid whenever your Rampage meter fills. You’ll also get to choose a number of “Pins” tied to your level that impart bonuses like speed, damage, and goldfind.
FMR might not impress rogue aficionados, but it’s an incredible entry level game that has enough depth to be entertaining to veterans without being too daunting to newcomers.
Livelock. Developed by Tuque Games. Published by Perfect World Entertainment. Released August 30, 2016. Available on PC. Key provided by publisher.
Livelock, Tuque Games’ first release, is a top-down, twin-stick, co-op shooter that puts you in the robotic body of a Capital Intellect searching for the key to Eden, humanity’s last hope. While a lot of games in the genre offer some class options, Livelock takes it a step further, utilizing the traditional party makeup; Tank, Healer, and DPS. While there’s something to be said for the more standard archetypal variation, where you might have a larger variety of more nuanced class choices, I think Livelock‘s distilling it to its original essence is a brilliant move.
Once you’ve got a couple friends together, you’ll want to figure out who’s taking on which role. The tank, “Vanguard,” relies a lot on melee, where the DPSer, “Hex” is a bit more subtle, preferring to snipe from as far as possible. “Catalyst,” the support’s skills heal wounded allies and spawn automated drones to help with battle. As you might expect, the classes require wholly distinct approaches to play, so it’s important to ensure your frontal assault friend is playing the tanky Vanguard, rather than the squishy Hex. It also adds a ton of replay value, even in the static campaign, because of the vastly different experiences the classes offer.
Livelock‘s biggest problem is the three-player limit. I get that they didn’t have much of an option in a game with this sort of class structure, and it offers enough distinction to make up for the loss of the four-player status quo. There are only two game modes at the moment; campaign and survival. The campaign will take you several hours, which is already great value for the $20 price tag, so the survival mode is just icing on the cake. It’s not quite as accessible as Full Mojo Rampage, but it does distinguish itself within the genre far better.