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Is Vampire Survivors Insufficiently Goth? Try 20 Minutes Till Dawn

I really want to know what the hell is going on in 20 Minutes Till Dawn.

As one of several women with vaguely supernatural powers, you’re dropped into an arena with an infinite army of Lovecraftian monsters coming straight at you from every direction. You’ve got a gun and a plan: live until sunrise, at which point the monsters will stop coming. That’s it. There’s no story here, just the vague shape of one, but it’s got my curiosity up.

20MTD is a bullet heaven game in the same spirit as last year’s Vampire Survivors. Like VS, it’s a top-down action roguelite where the challenge comes from surviving long enough to put together a random character build from whatever random scraps the game throws at you; unlike VS, 20MTD gives you limited ammunition and requires you to aim, which makes it feel a little more like classic twin-stick arcade shooters than an idle game.

That gives 20MTD’s gameplay an immediacy that VS, for all that it does right, doesn’t have. You can’t simply stand still in 20MTD, because sooner or later, your gun will run dry. Outside of a couple of particularly degenerate weapon loadouts, you have to run, dodge, weave, and actively create space to avoid being overrun and give yourself space to reload. If your problem with VS is that you don’t like games that, to a significant extent, play themselves, that’s not an issue you’ll have with 20MTD.

What initially got my attention about 20MTD, over the legion of other indie bullet heaven games that came out in the wake of VS’s success, was its visuals. Everything in 20MTD is black, white, or gray, unless it’s red, and the characters all look like they’re from some minimalist, experimental 2000s horror webcomic.

There’s only one background track in the game, “Wasteland Combat,” but it’s got a nice bassy hum which never wears out its welcome. Especially on your first run, when all you’ve got to play with is Shana and her revolver, it gives 20MTD a vibe like a dark horror Western. 

20MTD is still in Early Access at time of writing, and could use a few quality-of-life improvements before it’s done. Being able to track your stats on the pause menu would be nice, as would a better font on the combat numbers, which often end up as white text over a white explosion and thus illegible.

It also doesn’t limit your character builds the way that VS and a few other games do. You don’t get, say, six or eight slots to fill with particular abilities in 20MTD; you just get one skill every level until the match ends or you’re dead. The only thing forcing you to focus on a particular build is synergy. Otherwise, you can simply load up on everything at once.

That’s the sort of complaint that you have to be fairly deep in the bullet heaven weeds to make, though. 20MTD’s got a decent core loop combined with a simple but memorable look, which has kept me coming back to it for the last couple of months.

20 Minutes Till Dawn might be for you if:

  • You like both roguelites and twin-stick arcade shooters.
  • Your gaming time’s at a premium and you like the idea of something that’s made to take no longer than 20 minutes.
  • The problem you had with Vampire Survivors was how little of an active role you actually play in any given run.
  • You like it when a survival game actually lets you survive.

It might not be for you if:

  • The “monochrome webcomic circa 2005” aesthetic you see in the screenshots is an issue.
  • Constantly reloading puts your teeth on edge.
  • You’re that guy who keeps showing up in my email to complain about how shoggoths are represented in modern pop culture. I blocked you for a reason, Howard.

You can pick up 20 Minutes Till Dawn on Steam or mobile, or check out its predecessor 10 Minutes Till Dawn on