Review: 1001 Spikes is fierce, but sharply entertaining

Platforms: PC, 3DS, Wii U, PS Vita, PS4, Xbox One

The team over at Nicalis must be comprised of old-school lunatics. How else can you possibly explain the studio's latest release, 1001 Spikes? The game delivers perfectly on a classic platformer formula that many of us grew up with on early consoles, and it's tough as nails from start to finish. To the uninitiated, this could very well be a test that will leave you gnashing your teeth. But for those who can appreciate the good ol' days of truly challenging gaming, this is a welcome download.

Trying to please Dad

The story puts you in the shoes of Aban Hawkins, an adventurer who thrives on exploration, even if that occasionally means getting in trouble. His father wasn't too fond of him, leaving most of everything he owned to his sister. However, he does provide a clue to a legendary treasure behind the Poko-mum door in the Ukampa ruins, one that's immeasurable in value. Of course, there's a catch – Aben has to overcome countless deadly traps in order to reach it.

The game, consisting of six worlds filled with these devious levels, will take quite a while to conquer, mainly because it shares Dark Souls's passion for putting players through almost unavoidable deaths. That's not to say it's impossible, but it introduces a learning curve that, again, most games don't show these days. That makes it something that players who grew up on the likes of The Battle of Olympus and Rygar will happily embrace.

Spikes 2

Memorization Is Everything

With a game such as 1001 Spikes, memorization is the key to getting through stages. You'll often repeat situations where you jump over obstacles and take out enemies, only to find something new that ends your run. From there, you'll need to go back and avoid that mistake, and keep repeating the process until, yes, you finally finish the level and move on to the next.

The game is relentless in its level design, but also quite ingenious, and it's great at delivering that rush of satisfaction when you're finally able to get to the end of a very difficult segment of play. Again, it's never to the point of being impossible, but it's certainly a trying process. You basically have to get everything right, or you'll perish as a result.

Thankfully, the controls in 1001 Spikes work just right, with small and large jumps working perfectly and the ability to fire darts being a godsend for charging enemies and tiki heads that have nothing better to do than shoot lethal ammunition your way. You'll need to master every skill at your disposal, or you won't even clear the first world.

Taking it back to the old-school

For the presentation, Nicalis continues the old-school themes, as the game looks and sounds just like an 8-bit classic. It's a bit odd playing retro material like this on something as new as the PlayStation 4, but it works incredibly well. The backdrops and level design are straight out of 8-bit history, and the animations are simple yet adorable in their own little way. And, yes, we're big fans of how the character flashes red when he meets his demise, rather than ending up a bloody mess on the floor.

Nicalis also did a bang-up job with the game's soundtrack, as some great chiptunes are present and accounted for here. The songs get ever better as you go on your way, and coupled with the simple but great sound effects it really brings the sound home. Play with headphones on when you get a chance – it'll be like you're back in the late 80's again.

1001spikes-logo

My View

Here are the criteria I consider most important for judging 1001 Spikes.

#1 Presentation: 8/10

The graphics and sound don't strive to be next generation, but they perfectly fit the 8-bit motif that Nicalis was going for.

#2 Level design: 9/10

Diabolically tough, and at times aggravating (even to experienced players), the addictive level design will certainly have you coming back for more.

#3 Gameplay: 9/10

It's simple to learn, but incredibly tough to master, and the controls are accurate enough that you won't have to worry about accidental slips or screw-ups

#4 Replay value: 8/10

If you have the stomach for it there are plenty of hidden skulls to find. Game saves after the end of each level are a saving grace here.

Overall: 8.5

Although some players may grow to hate and fear it, 1001 Spikes is a wonderful throwback to an era when platformers didn't need lavish graphics or huge technical feats to impress. The 8-bit presentation hits the spot, and the gameplay is challenging, but not impossible. It truly is a blast from the past, even if that blast stings a little.

GameCrate reviews represent the opinions of the GameCrate writer who wrote them, and not necessarily those of Newegg.