Aban Hawkins & the 1000 SPIKES

"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!!

I'm on level 3-4. To my right is a very long hallway I must run through. There are spikes constantly stabbing down through the ceiling, but thankfully the path is tall enough to fit through without having them touch me. Unfortunately, there is some Aztec head statue on the left side firing deadly arrows into the clearing, forcing me to time several short hops to jump over these fatal volleys during the brief moment the spikes above me retract. I make my way to the right, feeling good about myself, until I catch glimpse of another stone head, this one firing arrows right toward me, surrounding me with death. This is Aban Hawkins & the 1000 SPIKES.

Aban Hawkins & the 1000 SPIKES is the second game from 8bits fanatics, the Japanese development group which brought us the fantastic platformer, The TEMPURA of the DEAD. Aban Hawkins features a similar soundtrack and overall style but is a vastly different style of platformer. Whereas The TEMPURA of the DEAD was a mildly challenging adventure game, Aban Hawkins & the 1000 SPIKES is a masochist's dream, a 20 level gauntlet which will force players to both memorize the hundreds of traps which await and have the skill to avoid them. It's a tough game whose unforgiving level design should appeal to fans of I Wanna Be the Guy, Ghosts 'n Goblins, R-Type, and other such memory intensive, difficult games.

The level design is absolutely brutal, and 8bits fanatics champions this style. The brief tutorial leads the player to an open area with a flag but quickly notes: "Here is no CHECK POINT. It is annoying TEMPTATION! At first it is nice but gradually transforms you into a lazy gamer!" Lazy players have big fat heads which are unfit to wear Aban Hawkins' stylish beige fedora, and the lack of checkpoints means those accustomed to a more modern pace of playing may find themselves having to sit this one out. Despite the warning, the game is hardly impossible, and the Developer grants the player 1,000 lives to complete the challenge. PSP platform game fans may be familiar with the 1,000 Prinnies allotted in Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero?, another tough platformer whose high difficulty has scared off many potential players as well. Rest assured that with just 20 short levels and a boss finale plus opportunities to pick up a bit over 400 extra lives along the way, when the Developer says the game is beatable, it isn't lying. It's just going to take some time. Time and abuse.

Aban Hawkins can jump two and three blocks high, and there is a button assigned to each jump height. Platformers generally allow the length of time the jump button is pressed to determine how high the character will leap, but the game's obstacles requires far more precision than that would generally allow. It can be a bit off-putting at first, particularly for platform game fans used to the generally accepted method of jumping, but as the game moves onward and the stages become more devious, the ability to press a button and know the exact jump height is appreciated. I wouldn't mind the option for more traditional platformer play, but I suspect the added difficulty would infuriate people more by having to account for that additional gameplay element.

Hawkins can also toss out knives to defeat the few enemies which stand in his way. The knives can also be used to block arrows, something I wasn't aware of initially on my first playthrough seeing as I skipped level 1-5, the stage which introduces that concept to the player, and thus making my example playthrough of level 3-4 in the introduction all the more frustrating. The Developer has given the player all of the tools required to complete each level, and despite the tutorial protests otherwise, it still allows players the option to skip through a limited number of levels. I initially took advantage of this feature when I caught myself burning through my lives since I didn't know how long a game this is and feared I'd run out. Now I know better, and though Aban Hawkins may be a bit too much for some people and induce numerous shouts and swear words, it's completely doable. As the Developer notes: "Don't worry. You can beat! :-)"

The pixel artwork is just as well crafted as in The TEMPURA of the DEAD, the bit of English text is charming in its own way ("You Gatta Lost Artifact!"), and the game's bite-sized levels will have players gritting their teeth but never giving up. Aban Hawkins & the 1000 SPIKES is a digital mountain, a challenge one accepts and conquers just because it's there. While not fun in the loose traditional sense, few games can reach the sense of satisfaction achieved after conquering its peak.

January 31, 2011
January 18, 2011 | 80 points
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