Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Aban Hawkins & the 1000 Spikes - 8bits Fanatics (Video Game)

He's even hotter than Harrison Ford!
I've been wanting to write about this game for a while, but what with the new systems being launched and the relative disinterest in the indie games on Xbox, I thought maybe its time had passed. Recently, however, a friend of mine sent me an article explaining how Aban Hawkins is getting another shot at life on the Wii U, so I had to jump on the opportunity to tell you all I loved it first.

Well, love/hate is probably a more accurate term to describe my relationship with Aban Hawkins. Love, because it is one of the most tightly-designed, true-to-form 2D platforming titles I have ever had the pleasure of playing. Hate, because this game is harder than an ultra-diamond. I don't know what an ultra-diamond is exactly, and maybe that's because I just made it up, but you can bet an ultra-diamond would be really hard.

The dollar I spent on Aban Hawkins & the 1000 Spikes has the special distinction of being one of the most well-spent dollars of my lifetime. You are a treasure-hunter named Aban Hawkins. You have 1,000 lives. Throughout the game I estimate you get maybe 500 more, but that's it. If you run out of lives, the game ends and you have to start over (or simply throw away your Xbox, as the case may be). 1,500 lives might sound like plenty, but once you realize a single level easily can eat over a hundred, you start to realize that it's a scant ration. To give you an idea of this difficulty, I'll tell you how many lives I ended up beating the game with: eight. I've never been so proud. Every enemy, and nearly every obstacle, represents instant death if touched. There are some traps you cannot know about until after they have killed you. You are basically required to memorize the levels in as few runs as possible, executing your knowledge perfectly. One difficult pitfall might be responsible for thirty or so lives. You may need to resist the urge to throw the controller through the screen on occasion.

The game does indeed have many spikes.

The game starts you off in a wonderful Engrish tutorial which explains one of the key functions of the game: two different jumps. You must learn to utilize these two jumps and your ability to throw knives to navigate the ancient temples where Hawkins hopes to make his fortunes. The tutorial is quirky and weird, and gives a glimpse inside the mind of the game's twisted creators. They encourage you to "be the gamer," meaning that you should save every time you are done playing (even if all you accomplished was throwing some lives away). They also explain that "here is no checkpoint" because checkpoints make you weak and prevent you from being "the gamer."

Just looking at this shot is giving me PTSD-style flashbacks.
Anyone who is a game purest will find their home here, and not just because of the quaint 8-bit graphics, but also in the way these levels have been so carefully crafted. The creators know where your head is, it seems, and push you (as a potential "the gamer") to the very edge of what you would be willing to put up with. The reward--a shower of coins you can't spend and gems you can't sell--comes at the end of the game. But the real reward, of course, is just having conquered the thing. The beast.

Good luck!

-MA 6.11.13

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