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Jed Whitaker avatar 10:17 PM on 02.04.2011  (server time)
Review: Aban Hawkins & The 1000 Spikes Xbox Live Indie Game

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You are a tan, sweaty man, in a tan outfit with a tan hat. You are inside of temples, filled to the brim with booby traps, spikes, lava, fire, and faces that spit knives. Indiana Jones? No...Aban Hawkins, a modern day hero with an 8-bit attitude.

Aban Hawkins starts with 1000 lives (1 for each spike?), which makes you think it's a joke by the developer (that's right, there is only one if I understand correctly.) but once you start playing you will find out it is no joke. The gameplay is essentially a mixture of the classic game of Simon, or a memorization game, mixed with Super Meat Boy. Now don't get me wrong, this is no where near Super Meat Boy as far as gameplay goes, but more in a sense of the amount of deaths and accomplishment you will feel every time you finish a level. Some pesky stages (3-3 I'm looking at you) took me over 300 lives and at least an hour to finish alone, mostly due to the precise timing this game requires. While these stages did really piss me off, I've never felt such accomplishment as I did when I finally did complete them, and you will find most levels are like that in Aban.

Run through the temple, avoiding (or in this case memorizing) traps, grab the key, and make your way to the door, sounds simple doesn't it? Well you also have to deal with scorpions, which you can throw three daggers into to kill, fireballs you must avoid, statues that spit knives at you, and spinning metal blades...Indiana Jones, eat your heart out! The gameplay, while brutal, is great, I couldn't pull myself away from the TV, I was obsessed with Aban Hawkins until I finished it (finally, thank God, sigh of relief).

The game also builds tension very well, as you will be walking through the temple carrying the key, and walk up to the exit, and as the doors slowly open spikes come out of no where and kill you. I could see this pissing some players off, but it usually made me laugh, like "SON OF A BITCH, this dev got another one over on me!" followed by some deep hearty belly laughs, then rolling on the ground, crying, and then cleaning up the mess I'd made by rolling on top of my cat and killing it. Ya, Aban Hawkins is kind of like that.

As for the graphics and music, they are straight up 8-bit, and pure nostalgia for an age long ago, known as the 80's. This game looks, plays, and sounds like an NES game, not that that is a bad thing, but the retro feel and difficulty may turn some players off, but that's because they were born in the graphics hungry 90's, and don't know any better. 8-bit graphics can still provide some very colorful and fine details, such as Aban's crease in his hat, what looks like a cross on his neck (or perhaps it's his shirt opening up to show off his manly chest?), colorful fireballs, scorpions and...bloody spikes, at least 1000 of them (or it's false advertising.)

Aban Hawkins would have been perfect had it not had some of the issues that old school 8-bit games had, like hit detection, and shaky jumping. For instance, the last actual level of the game (SPOILERS: other than a boss fight) has you jumping between platforms, and your jump has to be super precise, else you bump your head and fall into the lava below. I couldn't believe when I started the level that the dev had put it into the game, an entire level based around what seemed to be the games weakest mechanic, precise jumps and hit detection. While the level didn't take me but around 200 lives, it still felt like it was because of flawed hit/jump detection than user error.

Bastard level mentioned above!

Aban Hawkins & The 1000 Spikes is the first Xbox Live Indie game I've bought, and played through till the end credits. The game is put together very professionally (besides some Engrish, though it may be intended) and is easily worth the 80 MS points (aka $1 USD) asking price, it almost feels like paying a measly dollar for such a great game is ripping off the dev, now THAT is saying something! Aban Hawkins on a scale of 1 to 10 is a must purchase, like seriously, if you don't buy this game you are a big fat twat!

Not my video, but the best gamplay one I could find

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