By: Casey Curran
I like when the name of a game is exactly what it sounds like. 1,001 Spikes sounds like one of those games, though I soon found out that it gave me 1,001 lives with well over that many spikes. However, it did indicate the game’s old school, brutal difficulty well enough. And despite a few stumbles along the way in delivering a very challenging game, it succeeds at what it set out to do.
1,001 Spikes has both very simple controls and levels designed around them flawlessly. There is both a high and low jump, each of which proves useful throughout the whole experience. In fact, knowing when to jump high and when to jump low may be the most important key to success throughout the game. The game also allows you to throw knives, both against enemies and to deflect enemy projectiles, which, just like the jumps, is very responsive.
The problem I usually face with indie games going for a retro art style is that they think using older graphics is enough. After all, it was enough for both Mega Man 9 and 10, but what many indie developers seem to forget is that Mega Man already had a charming and fun aesthetic. Fortunately, 1001 Spikes realized this and employs an Indiana Jones inspired style that looks great despite using older tech. My only real issue is that the bloody spikes and character deaths feel a bit out of place when everything else looks so kid friendly.
Music invokes a charming NES inspired track, though nowhere near as memorable as many 8-bit classics. Sound effects, however, invoke this style perfectly.
Remember when people were saying how much they died in Demon’s Souls? That game has nothing on 1,001 Spikes. Like Demon’s Souls, however, it is about familiarizing yourself with a level until you master it. Levels tend to be short, so the lack of checkpoints is not an issue. Hell, the game even tricks you into thinking that there will be checkpoints before finding that you have to clear every level perfectly.
These levels are full of all kinds of hazards at every corner. Being careful is not enough here, as just waiting too long can cause a trap to spring. Rushing into an area could have you walk straight to your death, but standing around can cause a trap to stick out, hitting you like a sitting duck. You have to be aware when playing this game. Aware of how a block’s shape indicates if it houses some kind of trap or hazard. Aware of how an irregularly designed area would set up traps differently. Both your reflexes and mental prowess will be tested here, to the point where I felt like taking a nap after each session.
However, the game does not quite achieve this perfectly. Rather than introduce hazards in a controlled environment, the game instead opts to show things like blocks that shoot knives and breakable blocks when they will lead to your certain death. The high number of lives heavily mitigate this, but it is still very annoying to die when you have no way to know any better.
If you seek a nice, old school challenge, it is hard to get much better than 1,001 Spikes. The game is not always fair, but despite this, it does a fantastic job of staying fun. If you are a Super Meat Boy fan especially, you owe it to yourself to give this game a try.