Crowded as it is with farting massage simulators, it can be hard to find worthwhile titles on Xbox Live Indie Games. That's why we sift through all that rough to unearth a few gems. That way, you get the skinny on quality games and we get to indulge our secret passion for fart machines. This week, we go exploring with 8bits Fanatics' Aban Hawkins & the 1000 Spikes.
We play games for different reasons. Generally, most of us do it for fun. Others, by some alien logic that I don't understand but am all too comfortable with, are in it for the punishment. Aban Hawkins & the Thousand Spikes is their game.
In the words of its Japanese developer, 8bits Fanatics, Aban Hawkins is an "8-bit retro style Hardest Extremest Craziest Platform Action Puzzle Adventure." It might not be the most eloquent of descriptions, but it's certainly accurate.
As pixelated tomb raider Aban Hawkins players start the game with one thousand lives. It sounds like a lot but, believe me, they go very fast. Aban Hawkins is a 2D action-puzzle platformer in the vein of 8-bit classics like Solomon's Key; or, for a more modern reference, like Super Meat Boy. The objective of every level is the same: Find the key and take it to the exit. Just like the platformers of yore, it's much more difficult than it sounds.
Given his profession, Aban spends a lot of time in ancient ruins and, as we all learned watching Indiana Jones movies, such places are positively packed with booby traps and hazards. Essentially, the game does everything possible to make sure that players never, ever, ever let their guards down. I can't tell you how many times I've guided Aban past pits, spike traps and giant scorpions to reach what I thought was a safe location -- only to watch the ground crumble beneath him, as he plunged to yet another death.
Like many other action platformers, the process eventually boils down to learning from your mistakes and memorizing where the traps are. With every life, I was able to get a little bit further, only to be killed by another unforseen trap. Don't think caution will save you, either; Aban is punished just as easily for trepidation as he is for boldness. That said, it's only because of the relentless difficulty that success is so wonderfully sweet.
Sporting a truly terriffic challenge, great 8-bit visuals, chiptune music and an asking price of $1, recommending Aban Hawkins & the Thousand Spikes is easy. Beating it, on the other hand ... that's going to take a while.
If you've discovered (or created) an outstanding Xbox Live Indie Game and think it deserves some more visibility, email Richard aat joystiq dawt com, subject line "Xbox Live Indie Gems." Want to find more indie gems? Check out the archive.