Tuesday, July 29, 2014

1001 Spikes of Fun

It's been a while since I blogged about video games in any way but it was something I used to do rather frequently whether it was iRacing, NHL, or Bejeweled Blitz. I've always been a fan of games but there's been a game I recently discovered that will always bring a smile to my face as I remember it.

A couple months ago a game by the name of 1001 Spikes got released for the Xbox One. Haven't heard of it? Many people haven't and the reviews for it, well, many users hate it for being, "highly difficult." Typically, if I see people complaining of such a thing, I know those words are a sign I'm going to love the game so I had an impulse purchase and I started playing it and right away nostalgia hit as the game looks very much like Mario did on the NES.

As I progressed what seemed like a simple platformer like Mario quickly became a true test of skill and determination. Do any search on YouTube of 1001 Spikes and you'll see people flying through the levels but let me assure you the difficultly factor is extreme. There's traps, there's penguins (they aren't as nice as you'd expect) and there's scorpions that want nothing more than to destroy you. And did I mention traps? Spikes are set below certain spots on the map and if you trigger them BAM! you're toast. And oh, by the way, spikes can be shot by things in the walls so a situation can develop like this; the exit is in front of you protected by a scorpion so your attention is on that. You make the jump over the scorpion only to have missed out on the fact that the wall spike shot trap is right there.

When you lose on 1001 Spikes you go back to the beginning of the level. Most levels are 30-60 seconds, but the amount of stuff done within those seconds is a lot and the sensation of time is much greater. By the time I finished each level I knew each placement of each trap and could navigate the map with ease. It really is a test of multiple skill sets. The first is determination as if you're easily frustrated this game may result in a thrown controller. Secondly, one has to have the ability to have precise eye-to-hand coordination as there is zero margin of error. Thirdly, there is a need for memorization as the traps, while on the outside may seem unfair, are perfectly fair and set in their ways.

So why would I like a game like this? I have always loved things that are difficult and challenging. Many people on the autism spectrum are like this but there is a very important point, and this is why I'm blogging about a game like 1001 Spikes, and that is there's a difference between a challenge and impossible and if something is deemed impossible we can quickly give up and never try again. I guess I'm tenacious in my determination to finish something hence how I was able to finish the game, but I always knew I had the ability to do so. This is something, however, that has a very thin line.

Very thin line? I'll go back to when I was in school and the fact that math came easily for me. It was too easy, actually, and the teachers would often give me more difficult problems to solve and I loved this. Then, fractions happened and my love of all things numbers ceased. I never caught on to fractions and it wasn't that it was difficult for me but rather it was impossible and my motivation to do anything regarding fractions was zero. The difference, to me, was from being difficult yet knowing I could do it to being impossible and knowing I would fail and, if failure is a guarantee, what is the point of trying?

There was one level on 1001 Spikes I failed over 300 times but with each failure I got more determined. There was one jump on the level that I knew I could do but I was always off by a fraction of a... wait, let's not talk about fractions... I was always off by just a hair each time and I would try again, and again, and again. I personally can't believe the fail-set mindset didn't kick in, but I knew I could do it so I tried and eventually I did it and I'm not normally excited when playing games (outside Rob, Travis, and my dominance on the NHL series. They can attest to that) but when I got to the exit my fist went up in triumph. I had done it and I had conquered the hardest level I had ever played on any game.

1001 Spikes isn't for everyone. All you have to do is read the reviews to find out how much people hate things that are difficult. For me it wasn't just a game but a test of will and I'm thankful that they (Nicalis) made a game with an unrelenting difficulty. If you try it you have to go in with the mindset that you will lose. And you will lose again, but if you stick with it that exit is just right there to the next level past the penguin, the scorpion, the fire breathing wall, the flying spikes, wall spikes, ground spikes, and falling platforms. 


  1. Aaron, could the adults in your life have done something differently regarding fractions to help you become determined instead of certain that you would fail? Being able to harness this response can lead to a huge difference in outcomes. Thanks for any insight that you can share.

    1. That's a tough one to know. I think if a method had been presented that I understood would have been big. Since math had come so easy I had a hard time dealing with the fact that it was no longer easy.