Day 118: Aban Hawkins & the 1000 SPIKES

Posted: 2011/03/07 in Indie Games

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and are not well represented in the top 50 lists on the Xbox Dashboard. Today is day #118, and today’s game is “Aban Hawkins & the 1000 SPIKES”.

Some games I complete before reviewing them (“FishCraft”, for example). Others are too long (such as “Aphelion”), or too open-ended (such as “Final Rift”), and cannot be reasonably completed for my daily review (as I review each game the same day I buy them. But there is another category, games like “Soul”, which are simply too dang hard to beat in one day (while working a day job, and doing all the other things that I have to accomplish in a day). Aban Hawkins & the 1000 SPIKES is just such a game. The difficulty level reminds me of games like Commando on the Commodore 64, Super Meat Boy, or the aforementioned Soul. But it’s a game that reminds us that the rush of finally completing a difficult level makes it all worth it in the end.

First, from the developer:

” “Aban Hawkins & the 1000 SPIKES” is an 8-bit retro style Hardest Extremest Craziest Platform Action Puzzle Adventure. Simple & intuitive rules. Elaborate level design. Various fierce traps, traps, traps! Return to the Golden Years of Video Game. No one can BEAT this game…except YOU!!”

The first thing I had to was stop myself from calling the game “Alan Hawkins…”, it’s definitely “Aban” and not “Alan”. I am paranoid I’m going to get it wrong in this review, so please forgive me if I slip. The game is amazingly challenging. This game is for those old-school gamers who knew of the Konami code, but made a point of never using it. It’s refreshing to see some games coming out that aren’t on training wheels, for those of us who appreciate a challenge and don’t need the hand-holding.

If there’s something that may frustrate some gamers, it’s the amount of memorisation that is required to beat each level. Some of it you can predict simply by observing the level before tackling it, but other elements (crumbling blocks, and other unexpected hazards) will require some trial and error. Thankfully, the lives keep coming (1000 in all, one life for each of the 1000 spikes I suppose, plus the ability to earn several hundred more lives throughout the game) making this a game of perseverance. I’m told it’s 20 levels can be beaten by an average human being, but I haven’t been able to yet. I didn’t need to, though, to know it was a game worth buying. I haven’t beaten the game, but I’ve already long since got my 80 Microsoft Points worth out of it, and intend to come back for another attempt at completing the game.

The Japanese developers that brought us Tempura of the DEAD have now delivered Aban Hawkins to us (and what’s with them capitalising the last word in their game titles?). The game has you navigating through corridors, moving blocks, jumping from platform to platform, avoiding spears and other weapons thrown at you (sometimes with very little warning), reacting quickly to the ground unexpectedly crumbling beneath you, and more besides. Your character sprite is smaller than a lot of games, which helps give the game a huge sense of scale, and allow puzzles to sprawl across the level in some cases. In motif and in difficulty, it reminds me a bit of Ghost ‘n Goblins.

You’re not defenseless. You can throw knives, and use your knife to block incoming arrows. You have two jump buttons, one that jumps you twice his height, and one that jumps you three times his height. At first I was confused by this, but it soon became clear why: this game is so hard that knowing exactly where you’re going to land each time you jump is necessary for the speed and precision this game demands.

This is a game that (I suspect) is beatable, despite its steep difficulty level, but beating even the first several of its levels provided a lot of satisfaction so you might get your $1 (give or take, depending on where you live) out of it whether you beat it or not. Not recommended for those who have been known to throw their controllers across the room in frustration, but highly recommended for those who miss the rush of finally completing a difficult section of a hard game from times gone by.

For a second opinion, check out Kobun’s review of Aban Hawkins & the 1000 SPIKES.

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  1. This is an awesome game! Well worth the money!

  2. I really don’t like this game. Far too much trial and error for my liking. It doesn’t frustrate me, it just gets tiresome.

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