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20 Minutes Till Dawn – Roguelite survival action

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Developer: Erabit Studios
Price: $2.99/£2.49
Size: 183 MB
Version: 2.0.40
Platform: iPhone & iPad

20 Minutes Till Dawn

20 Minutes Till Dawn is a rogue-lite survival game with top-down twin-stick shooter mechanics at its core.

Each run sees your anime-inflected hero spawning into a shadowy arena, with an expanding swarm of hellish beasts converging on your position. Starting out with a humble six-shooter, you must fight an endless rearguard action, evading the swarm with your left thumb and shooting them with your right.

The screen rapidly fills up with enemies

Defeated enemies drop little experience-bestowing pips behind, which must be looped around to and scooped up when possible. These pips enable you to level up, which in turn grants you a semi-randomized choice of power-ups.

It’s these branching and often outlandish upgrades that really lend 20 Minutes Till Dawn its flavor and its longevity. A chosen power-up might do something as simple as increasing the speed or potency of your weapon, or as out-there as granting you a slow-hatching dinosaur egg that will eventually wreak automated havoc on your adversaries.

The dragon egg power-up hatches a powerful companion

At the end of a run, which involves surviving either 10 or 20 minutes, any currency earned will be added to the pot. This currency can then be put towards unlocking new weapons and heroes, both of which can fundamentally adjust the pattern of play.

On the weapon front, there are rapid-fire twin machine-pistols that start out perilously weak, but which become much more effective when you factor in fire or lightning status effects, which combine well with the higher rate of fire.

The shotgun, meanwhile, completely flips the script in enabling you to punch holes in the enemy front, and even to stand your ground for a time.

Those additional heroes are perhaps slightly less fun to play around with, but can prove just as transformational. Notable examples include one with more than double the usual starting health, and one who turns the departed souls of their enemies into heat-seeking bullets.

20 Minutes Till Dawn isn’t without its flaws. In testing, we experienced a number of instances of slowdown as the action got particularly hectic, even on an iPhone 13 Pro.

We’d also suggest that the so-called ‘Quickplay mode’ isn’t quite quick enough for mobile play, and that a five-minute mode might be a smart addition, especially considering you can’t save progress mid-session.

Even so, there’s no denying what an absolute hoot 20 Minutes Till Dawn is to play. Its increasingly frantic minute-to-minute action might initially seem quite limited and repetitive, but there’s an admirable layer of depth and strategy hidden away in its branching roguelike systems.