Aban Hawkins & The 1001 Spikes is really, insanely hard. Instant death can happen at any moment. Dozens of spikes will spring up from the ground and impale the player. Arrows will shoot out of statues and pierce anyone that comes into their line of sight. Oh and there’s also the bats, the fireballs, the crumbling blocks and the tons of other death traps lying in wait just a few jumps a way. So yeah, 1001 Spikes is hard. But it’s insanely fun.
Even though death is imminent and can occur only seconds apart, there’s a twist: players have 1,001 lives to make it through the game. The beauty of 1001 Spikes is how simple it truly is. Players guide Aban through a series of compact levels, each with a key and a door to unlock. Every level will present its own challenges in both getting the key and actually making it to the exit alive. To accomplish this, players have an unlimited supply of throwing daggers, a short jump and a long jump.
Clever tricks like that are just one of the many ways that 1001 Spikes tests players’ mettle. There’s also groups of spikes that pop up and down on a cycle and require cat-like skills to cross. Then again, that safe spot might also be a trap. The difficulty contained here hearkens back to the days when players had little resources to beat games. Internet guides were nonexistent, players had to use trial and error to make baby steps towards the finish line. The game definitely evokes similarities with Spelunky when looking for a comparison in gameplay, just with less items and roguelikeness. While both share the same Indiana Jones themes, 1001 Spikes’ 8-bit aesthetic certainly has its own charm.
Without a doubt, the game can be hard. Despite having a thousand lives to figure levels out, death traps can be like sponges. But through every ridiculous death, it’s still fun. Part of it is a testament to incredible programming and part of it is through a general love of challenge. A new death might be groan-inducing but it’s also a lesson in how to avoid that situation again. Chances are, though, it will also catch you unaware when you got a bit cocky.
If dying a thousand miserable deaths alone isn’t enough, 1001 Spikes also features more than a dozen unlockable characters and multiplayer. New characters have unique abilities and will change the way players work through each level. Multiplayer uses both co-op and versus mode. Players can work together or attack each other but will share the same pool of lives.
Publisher and developer Nicalis will be bringing 1001 Spikes to the PS4 hopefully by the end of the year and promises other consoles such as the PS Vita to come afterwards. Players might recognize Nicalis for their work with Cave Story and La Mulana, games that share some common threads with 1001 Spikes. If their track record is anything to go by, players are going to have a blast with each of those 1001 lives.