Aban Hawkins and the 1000 Spikes review (XBLIG)
Aban Hawkins and the 1000 Spikes was developed by 8 Bits Fanatics and retails for 80 MSP.
Aban Hawkins is a classically inspired platformer with a penchant for pain. The games protagonist, Aban, has a strange name and an Indiana Jones identity crisis. He is trekking through dangerous ancient temples searching for treasure. Saying his job is extremely dangerous is an understatement as every step tends to bring impending doom upon him. At its heart this is a simple platformer that ramps up the difficulty very rapidly. It is likely to elicit rage and laughter all at once since it is so sadistic.
Here’s what we liked:
8-Bit look – Old school graphics are all the rage these days. Aban Hawkins does a great job recapturing the best of our memories about what games used to look like. It's cute and easy on the eyes. In truth, the graphics are probably closer to a first generation SNES game than anything the NES could have done. The temple looks cool and Aban is animated well. The whole look is very cohesive.
Perfect controls – Anything short of perfect would have been a disaster. Fortunately the controls here are spot on. At first the control scheme seemed odd because there are two separate jump buttons. One is a short jump and the other is a high jump. This seemed strange because we wondered why anyone would want to jump short when you could jump long. But as we played it became clear that each jump was appropriate and even necessary in certain situations. It’s a brilliant addition that works great.
Killer gameplay – The pun is completely intended here. The gameplay is great fun but it will make you pay for anything other than full attention. It's very difficult from start to finish. But as the deaths pile up there is always a sense that it can be done. Rather than frustrating Aban Hawkins really encourages you to get better and succeed.
Sense of accomplishment – Completing a particularly difficult section in this game really feels satisfying. After completing a few stages you will come to the end of a particular area and get a treasure. The treasure gives you additional lives which come in handy for future stages. But once you reach the area that holds the treasure you find there are no traps there at all; it's completely peaceful. That moment makes all the pain before seem worthwhile.
Here’s what we didn’t like:
Gameplay sometimes too killer – As good as Aban Hawkins is, it is not a game for everyone. It's brutally difficult and only some players will find that fun, the rest will be left broken and bitter. At only 80 MSP it does serve as a great litmus test to see who really is hardcore and who is just a poser. Beyond that the faint of heart need not apply.
Occasional lack of explanation – It's assumed from the get go that there will be deadly traps everywhere. What isn’t explained is how to get past them. A good example is trying to traverse a narrow corridor with spikes flying through it. It becomes immediately clear that you are not fast enough to make it all the way through before another spike flies. It is further clear that you cannot duck the spike. The solution ends up being that you have to knock the spike down by hitting it with your knife. That really isn’t an intuitive solution, and the game is filled with those sorts of situations. It feels good to figure them out, but a little prompting would have been nice.
Aban Hawkins is a perfect example of what is really great about the indie game scene. It is a niche title to be sure, but it delivers the goods very convincingly. Everything about it feels polished. Though it will likely be too hard for many, it is an incredible value at 80 MSP. Take this game for a spin and test your mettle.
Score: Buy It