1001 Spikes review: back to the old school

By Robert Workman, Jun 06, 2014 3:00pm PDT

Remember the good ol' days when the only way to beat NES games was to play them with all your might? You know what I'm talking about: challenging games that made you gnash your teeth when you couldn't get through that one section. Well, 1001 Spikes is a pretty darn close reminder of that era, a game that makes you work for your progress in the best way possible. Take that, Dark Souls 2!

You play an adventurer out to impress his good ol' dad when he's told about a treasure deep within the Ukampa ruins. It's supposedly worth a lot of money, but it's going to take a lot of work getting through the Poko-mum door to acquire it. That's because the sneaky Ukampa is filled with traps. We don't mean scattershot traps either. We mean there's literally something around each corner that's bound to kill you, whether it's spikes in the ground, a tiki head spitting spikes at you, or a number of enemies you'll need to bring down quickly in order to progress.

The game ramps right into the hard stuff right away, as you'll have to go through the first few levels a few times before you progress into the ruins themselves. From there, you'll be doing a lot of trial-by-death in order to progress. You can save your progress after beating a level in the game, which is a thankful addition. But, otherwise, it's still up to you to conquer a level the best way you know how. It's a learning process, and a hell of a one at that.

Why did there have to be scorpions?!

At least Nicalis made the game simple to grasp when it comes to controls. You have a small jump, a big jump and darts that you can shoot, and I used all of these quite frequently while working my way through the diabolically hard levels. The opening levels were just the beginning, as later ones make each step a hazard.

It's the sort of game that rewards such perseverance. In addition, you can find bonus skulls to unlock additional goodies in the game, though collecting them isn't quite as easy as it seems. You've got a lot to figure out here before you make an ounce of headway.

The presentation is straight out of the 8-bit textbook, with cute animations, great level designs and likable sprites. It's also got an impressive collection of chiptunes attached to it, which I enjoyed listening to even while I died over and over again. The sound effects are good too, albeit a tad miniscule. It's an 8-bit experience, what more do you want?

Yeah, you're dead...

It'll take a long while to get through the game's crazy six worlds, and even then, it has plenty more to offer. The impatient will probably give up just a few levels in, but the devoted will find a lot to enjoy with 1001 Spikes. It's a fitting tribute to the games of old, while embracing a challenge level that today's dedicated gamers will truly appreciate. If they don't break their controller first, that is.

Rating: 8 out of 10


This review is based on a digital PlayStation 4/Vita code provided by the publisher. 1001 Spikes is available now for PC, PlayStation 4, PS Vita, Nintendo Wii U and 3DS, and coming later this month to Xbox One. It is priced at $14.99 and rated T for teen.

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