But for all the joy of discovery in 1001 Spikes, there is just as much agony in defeat. You're allowed a couple mistakes in early levels, even with Aban’s one-hit death weakness; a missed jump often just drops you to a lower platform. By the game’s final levels, though, the magic wears off. Even after learning the depths of Aban’s movements and the game’s traps, you’ll be faced with pure, rage-inducing difficulty. Like a receiver weaving through a defensive line, you have the slightest of gaps to move through, and until you memorize the location of every single trap, you have no hope of finishing. As levels begin to sap hundreds of lives from you, fun is replaced by frustration.
That’s largely because 1001 Spikes has its fair share of cheap deaths. The opening stages serve as tutorials--you won’t know to test platforms for spikes until a few take you by surprise. But there are still instances where what you learn doesn’t help. There are times when the layout of the level becomes too much for muscle memory or on-the-fly trap recognition. Trial and error isn’t inherently a bad thing, but after dying just inches from the level’s end dozens of times in a row, that final push to the finish becomes a slog.
Intense difficulty aside, 1001 Spikes provides a way to blow off steam with local multiplayer. These multiplayer modes, unlocked as you move through the story mode, are an absolute blast. The same spike-shifting, dart-spitting mechanics are in place, but they have more open space and fewer traps overall. Golden Vase is a keep-away game, where the players collect coins while the titular vase is in their possession; Tower of Nannar is a multi-level climb, where players must reach the top of the tower together. These modes are quick and enjoyable, resulting in shouts of “just one more round!” across the couch. And for each of those rounds, you’ll earn coins that can be used to purchase additional lives, costumes, and characters. Better yet, those characters often come with unique abilities--Zombie can lob his ranged attack, while Commander Video has different jump physics altogether--that add some variety to how multiplayer plays out.