Basic: The New Nightmare Mode
This game wants you to suffer. It disguises itself as an unassuming 2-D arcade platformer with its charming little beeps and blips. It lulls you into a false sense of security with its colorful 16-bit aesthetic and simplified design. Don’t let your guard down. As addicting as it may be, Spikes Are the Enemy wants you to crumble into a billion diamond-shaped pieces in pursuit of just one more life. It leaves one to wonder, is the pleasure worth the pain?
Spikes are the Enemy by indie developer Squiden aims to be the 2-D platforming candy that every retro gamer’s sweet tooth craves. Having published three other premium games on Google Play with the same style of graphics and mechanics, Spikes are the Enemy is just one more stroll around the block for Squiden. Consequently, anyone who remembers the heyday of arcade and NES console gaming will fall back into memories of simpler times. That is, if they can keep their cool long enough to get past the second zone.
Spikes are the Enemy stays true to its category in both form and function. Though it may not break any barriers in the world of platformer gaming, that’s not to say it doesn’t have its own charm. The graphics aren’t revolutionary, but they work well with the other elements of the game to give as close to an authentic arcade-style experience as one might get through a mobile device.
The stylized curvature of the window border and the bouncy synth music add to the look and feel that Spikes are the Enemy appears to be aiming for. There are no frills when it comes to the level design, so players looking for flashy effects or captivating environs (or a clearly marked level exit) may be a little disappointed. On the bright side, there are no paywalls or ads to distract you from over 80 levels of colorful action, floating gems and all those glorious spikes. Can’t forget the spikes.
What Spikes Are the Enemy lacks in visual flair takes a backseat to the action. Players won’t have much time to take in the sights while they’re trying to keep from sliding around like Mario in the ice world of Super Mario Bros. 3. The controls have been calibrated to give that floaty moonwalk feel that is synonymous with other games of its kind. The real challenge though is trying to long jump between pixel-sized platforms without frisbeeing your phone in anger like an Olympic discus champion. Movement buttons while comfortably sized are oddly spaced resulting in failed maneuvers and misses. A little extra challenge won’t kill you, but with mechanics like these, the same can’t be said about your mobile device.
Touchy gameplay aside, the elation of sticking the landing after your 47th attempt gives Spikes Are the Enemy incontrovertible replay value. You receive 10 lives for every zone, and 10 lives only. Beneath your remaining lives indicator the game tracks how many times you die as well. This adds another facet of challenging gameplay: can you clear a zone with zero deaths? I sure can’t.
By collecting gems throughout the levels you can earn additional lives. Super helpful, if it weren’t for the lack of coherence in difficulty progression. One level may consist of a hill made out of blocky platforms. The next may drain your remaining lives with its complexity. A more fluid escalation of difficulty would enhance replay value while lessening the probability of players feeling stuck and frustrated.
Spikes are the Enemy may not leave an indelible mark in the annals of indie mobile platforming history. Still, it successfully executes a many-times proven formula spanning generations of players that continues to delight and enrage to this day. Interested? You can find it in the Google Play store for a paltry 99 cents. Give it a shot, but just be sure to keep an eye on your blood pressure.
Is It Hardcore?
Spikes Are the Enemy ticks all the boxes of its genre with oodles of ad-free replayability for under a buck, but it will test your patience.