Starting 1001 Spikes, you have to be ready for upsets, hardships and heart break throughout the campaign. Through effort and perseverance can you only hope to succeed in a temple filled with nightmarish traps. Although frustratingly difficult, 1001 Spikes does give you a great sense of pride after every obstacle evaded and an overwhelming since of satisfaction after every level.
A simple story of a Aban Hawkins, left nothing from his treasure hunting father besides a map to a long forgotten temple, who sets out on a quest for untold riches. Quite hilariously, his dad left his fortune to only his daughter, which gives the story some depth and humor. Nonetheless, this game is all about masterful level design and gameplay in an 8-bit NES inspired world. The simple, yet refined graphics help draw attention to the actual purpose of the game. Survival.
The first few levels are kindergarten, teaching you the ropes via a helpful mouse. As soon as he lets you know that check points no longer exist in this world, you understand that this game is throwing you back to the days of old. Luckily, you are given 1001 lives to get through the temple, of which you will need all and then some. You can try to race through a level, but you will run into failure after failure. Though it is possible to run through a level, only with practice and knowledge of hidden dangers could you ever succeed. Too often would I methodically run around spikes or jump over fire, only to be greeted with a dagger straight to the heart. Figuratively in the gaming sense and real-life sense. You could spend hours dissecting the level; each spike, dagger or trap stone only to be surprised with something you never saw coming from thin air. The designers frequently and eloquently give you the hope of winning only to take it away the next step.
At first glance each level has certain stages within itself. You get your first look at the traps laid out and maybe the semi-patterns each obstacle has. Then you try getting past them. It might take 10 or 15 tries to truly understand the challenge. At first you could have thought it was all about dodges the spikes only to realize that while dodging you also need to be ready for the darts that will fling at you from across the screen. Only by knowing what is ahead are you able to forge a path to victory. It takes timing and rhythm as much as knowing the routine of the temple. Only through memorizing and ingraining every step of a level into your subconscious can you attain victory through multiple defeats.
The arcade mode does give the game some very cool additions. Most notably for the PS4, is the custom Nathan Drake outfit your character can equip that gives them some additional abilities. Not only do you get cool clothes to wear, but you can also grapple and hang from walls. The ability to play co-op is also a very fun addition, though it does not make the game any easier. By playing through the game, you are unable to unlock additional playable characters and equipment such as Aban’s sister. Then there is the competitive fights that pit players against each other in order to collect coins and win the level. This mode really shines and makes up for a lot of frustration in the campaign, by just being down right fun.
1001 Spikes is far from a bad game, but a few too many spikes on each level leave it falling from grace. I can see the implicate reward of conquering a challenging obstacle, but the many short comings have to amount to something. 1001 Spikes falls short in providing any sense of progress. I constantly felt like I was trying to defeat a mad-man’s experiment in perseverance. Some will fine the satisfaction of overcoming all odds a rewarding goal in and of itself. Others will either not have enough patience or more than likely just not have enough time to accomplish what seems like an insurmountable platformer. When you do finally prevail over the impossible however, is the same moment that you realize this game is beatable if only you persist.