Friday 31 May 2024

Steam / GOG Downloads #9

1001 Spikes (2014)
By: Nicalis, Inc. Genre: Platform Players: 1-4 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: PC
Also Available For: PS4, Vita, Xbox One, Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, Mac

I can't recall how I first came upon this game but pixelly platformers always catch my eye, and it wasn't long before this example reminded me of a specific, not to mention notorious game from the 80s. Can you guess which one from the screenshots here? Yes, that's right, it's Rick Dangerous! If you've ever played Core Design's game you'll know exactly what that means, but if you haven't, allow me to explain. I believe in general terms the genre is known as 'precision platformer' but in the case of Rick Dangerous, it would be better described as 'cheap death platformer'. Cheap deaths are generally frowned upon in the gaming world but it didn't stop Rick Dangerous from being pretty popular. Does this much newer game from Nicalis Inc. share its appeal? Let's find out :)

Still in the tutorial area with the mice helpers...
Being a modern take on the genre, the presentation is of a much higher standard throughout, even if the in-game graphics don't look all that much more sophisticated. Neither is the backstory, actually, which is something about an archaeologist going missing, his children (Aban and Tina) finding a map and setting off to look for him and/or continue his legacy, etc. This is all detailed in the story-ish intro and further cut-scenes between some levels. I was going to start here by telling you how many levels their quest takes place over but, to be honest, I'm not totally sure how many there are. The game's blurb boasts '100+ levels' but I don't know where they all are. The game initially takes place in a land called Ukampa which features 35 levels spread over six themed worlds. After this there is *coughspoileralertcough* another whole section which has further 25-ish levels (I think).

But, I suspect Harvard professors are keen to point out, that still only makes 60 levels. Where the devil are the other 40+? I've no idea to be perfectly frank - I'm not even skilled enough to finish the first 35 levels, for yes, it is a pretty tough cookie! The game's title, in case you were wondering, refers to the fact that you start the game with 1001 lives, and also that spikes are one of the most common reasons you'll lose them. If a life-count of that startling size doesn't give you an indication of the challenge that awaits you here, I don't know what will (guffaw/eeek!). Most levels are around two screens wide but everything is small, and a lot of things have been packed into each that can (and most likely will) kill you, usually without you even seeing them the first time!

Each level's objective is simply to find the glowing key and get to the exit. There is also a glowing skull on each level, either in a hard-to-reach spot or hidden, but you don't have to collect them. I'm not even sure what you achieve by collecting them, to be honest. I think it's just an 'achievement' but they certainly provide an additional challenge for those so inclined, as if most people will need any more challenge than just playing this game normally (guffaw!). Indeed, as mentioned, the hazards are many and include the titular spikes, some of which are just there, while others kindly wait until you're upon them before thrusting out at you, while probably next most common are stone faces in the walls which spit fast darts across the screen at you - but only when you reach their horizontal plane.

This obviously means if you jump up fairly close in front of one, you'll probably be offed before you've even realised what's happening! There are plenty of other things to look out for too, such as flame spouts and fireballs, falling blocks, spinning blades, rolling boulders, and scorpions. Happily, you can get rid of the latter by shooting (or I guess throwing) what I believe are knives. These can also be used to hit switches from afar on later levels and can even counteract the darts fired from the wall faces. I suppose you're expecting them to be in very limited supply then, but there is, surprisingly, an unlimited stockpile - squee! That's not to suggest the game is even in the same area code as easy though, oh no no no. Much of its difficulty is very much in the vein of the aforementioned Rick Dangerous, only there's more of it here. A whole lot more.

The six areas that make up the first section of the game are similar but loosely themed. You start in a leafy area outside the main caverns which features few hazards and serves as your training. Soon you'll enter the caverns where there are far more hazards. After this is a watery area followed by a fiery one with lava flows and fireballs. The theme of the next area seems to be purpleness, not to mention insane hardness. If you manage to get through here, it's on to the shorter sixth area which features a boss fight, many treasures, and collapsing ruins. After such an arduous challenge you'd be forgiven for needing a rest, but after some more story-related bits, it's *coughspoileralertagaincough* on to another whole set of levels based in Antarctica and they're even harder!

Suffice to say, this is a game which completely lives up to my initial impressions of it. There's no time limit so you can be as careful as you want, but once you pass the training area you'll start losing lives frequently regardless, and you'll have to start a level from scratch when that happens. They aren't big, of course, so this isn't a huge deal, but you'll probably have to restart some levels many, many times. You can spot many hazards before you reach them but there will always be many others you get caught out by, and that vast stockpile of lives that at first seemed amusingly unnecessary will start to dwindle. If the main game (Story Mode) does prove too tough for you, however, there are three other modes which can be played by one to four players - The Golden Vase (compete to collect more coins than other players on single-screen stages), The Tower of Nannar (a series of vertical levels) and The Lost Levels.

The latter is a series of even harder levels, believe it or not, and I guess these along with those found in the other two play modes contribute to that 100+ levels. Anyway, however many there actually are, is it worth the effort? That's a tough question actually. Being the type of gamer I am, I love the small, cute, pixelly graphics. There could be a bit more variety between the area themes but the style is lovely, as is the excellent chiptune soundtrack. How much most will enjoy playing the game, however, depends on the amount of skill, not to mention patience they might have. Quick thinking and quick reflexes are essential, and even then, all but the most gifted of players will lose a lot of lives. If you have happy memories of old memory-test games like Rick Dangerous, you'll probably like, even love this, but everyone will likely tire of the repetition sooner or later.

RKS Score: 7/10

1 comment:

  1. Heads up, the main story can be played with up to 4 players as well - you can even see the prompt in the screenshots!
    (Press Start/Jump during a stage to join)
    It takes one life per player(!) though, so be prepared to grind for lives.
    Other than that it looks like a blast, since you can knock each other around with your attacks. (Or it can even be used for TASing,

    I've beaten the game a few times (around 5 if I remember correctly), beaten the Tower of Nannar, collected all Golden Skulls (without the Skull Detector) and unlocked all the characters so I can help clear some stuff up.

    The Golden Skulls (for the most part) are just for collectionists, though they do unlock cameo characters after collecting enough. The rest are unlocked either through the shop (Aban's Costumes) or story progress.
    I don't think they're worth it unless you're looking to make the game easier (or harder with some!) or trying to 100% though, since some characters do share the same abilities. (though the "clone" always has an extra ability to compensate)

    Only counting the truly notable stages (No X-6 nor the deathless World 6/10 "levels"), Tower of Nannar (10 Stages) and The Lost Levels (Which I've yet to dig my teeth into but I BELIEVE it has the same amount of levels as the main campaign), it totals to 106 Stages.

    I absolutely love this game to death (34:17:27 and counting!), but even I'll admit that it feels like a very bullshitty game at first and clearly not something for the impatient. (I beat it without skips my first time so I can confirm, I think you need no skips to reach Antartica anyways)

    Would still absolutely recommend though, even if you've got more casual friends, The Golden Vase and (maybe) Tower of Nannar look like absolute bangers in multiplayer.

    Also, the Vita version is kinda broken apparently. Avoid it if you can.
    (Nothing major but from what I've seen throwing knives at the sawblades doesn't change their direction sometimes)

    Best money grind method by far is Tower btw