I get the point.
Hey look, it is another pixelated platformer that wants me to die over and over again. The current trend of recreating the glory days of difficulty from the 8 and 16-bit days (along with the visual aesthetic) has become more commonplace than military shooters. It seems each week we are served yet another extremely punishing experience at a bite-sized price. 1001 Spikes is certainly not a stranger to difficulty. I died. I died hundreds of times in the first hour, and regardless of how much I played, I still died. This game is hard but never unfair, and to my surprise, it kept me coming back for more death.
There is a common theme running through 1001 Spikes, and it is derived from the name itself. The campaign tasked me with completing all the levels with a preset number of lives. Yes it is 1001. That seemed like a lot; that was until I started dying over and over on the same level. My count continued to diminish, and I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough to conquer every challenge. This game is tough, and it wears that badge on its sleeve, but when I did manage to complete a level, it also offered immense satisfaction.
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PS4, 3DS, Wii U, Vita, iOS
Price I’d pay: $7
Length: Depends on skill
One of the biggest reasons it works is because of the tight controls. My tiny adventurer Aban had two jumps at his disposal, as well as a range of precise movements and even an attack. The game tosses plenty of obstacles at the player, with the most prevalent of course being the massive amount of spikes. They crop up from everywhere, and each time one took me down, it was deflating. Mostly it was caused by my own carelessness, but occasionally it felt a bit cheap.
The biggest surprise for me though was the insanely fun multiplayer 1001 Spikes offers. This four-player arena mode pits players against each other in a variety of modes, collecting coins or playing keep away. The array of characters, including of course indie darling Captain Video, add plenty of flavor, and the environments keep things interesting. It definitely invokes that “one more game” mentality when playing with friends. I spent far more time with this than I had expected.
If there is one thing that drove me nuts about the game though, it was the cheap deaths I was constantly experiencing. Sure the early goings serve more as a tutorial, but by the end, the lackluster level design and placement of obstacles serve more as trial and error as opposed to skill. The worst was the constant death with the end of each level in sight. This happened repeatedly, and it was really a buzzkill. There’s nothing worse than working so hard to reach the end, only to be forced to do it all over again because of one poorly placed spike pit.
The aesthetic of the game also wore thin. I get that the pixelated retro look has become sort of a trademark for these types of games, but 1001 Spikes does nothing interesting with it throughout. The level designs are not remarkable, and things start to bleed together after a while. Using a certain style for the sake of having that style doesn’t make it interesting.
Still, for those looking for a punishing experience on console or PC, 1001 Spikes definitely delivers on that promise. I died and died, yet kept coming back for more. The multiplayer mode is more fun than it has any right to be, and the tight controls make it a joy to play. If you can get past the cheap deaths and played out aesthetic there is a lot to love here. Just make sure you know what you are in for before diving in.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.