And here it is! I mentioned this game as one of the notable games that have been released this week, and I said that I would review it because I liked the trailer music, because I simply love a good beat while I play a casual game. Well, casual might not be the right word for Spike City, as the game becomes quite hard later on, but still, it’s a cute little game that deserves a review, so let’s dig in.
Firstly, let’s say that I appreciate that the game was made by Nitrome’s very own Joseph Gribbin – a developer and an artist with quite a bit of experience in the industry. And while Nitrome publishes games made by others, as well as those developed internally (naturally), this one is the latter, and it’s a gem. Being an artist, Joe Gribbs has quirky and funny designs, so it doesn’t come off as strange that the characters are ridiculous and creative. The protagonist sports a spike of sorts on his head (which can be modified, but more about that later) and all he does is stab himself into walls. Nitrome has always had ridiculous characters for protagonists, so this one is just another one to join the long line of those.
Before I go into the details about the game and its gameplay, I have to say a few words about the publisher and the developer, as I always do, so if you aren’t interested in that, skip this paragraph. Nitrome is a British indie studio, now already some 13 years old, so that’s a testament to their ability to stay afloat as an indie group; not many can boast this – they either get bought off, or fall apart in the first few years. They have been developing games in Flash for a long time (so all of their games are actually very small) until they started using Unity, understandably. Their games don’t require them to use Unreal engine, and Unity is a perfect fit as it is easy to use and has a ton of support going for it. The games that this studio develops are all somewhat unique in style, as they focus on cartoonish graphics or go for pixel art. They use chiptune for music (if you don’t know what that is, Google it, this isn’t the place for me to explain just about everything, right?) and have a jingle of sorts at the start of every game. Most of their characters, even though well-designed, are inspired by popular characters from cartoons, other games, and TV shows. Nitrome releases their games as Browser and mobile games (they were focused on the browser part back when they developed in Flash mostly, which is understandable and what everyone else did, successfully at that). Their website is made to look like a pixel art game, and it’s great.
So, let’s get back to Spike City. Let’s dig into what everyone wants to hear about: gameplay. This vertical platformer (like many others) lets you gather collectibles (coins and the like) while trying to surmount the obstacles on the level to reach the end. Spike City is intuitive and the control scheme is simple but very effective. What makes this game different from all others? Well, now comes the genius part – since your character has a sword on his head, he uses it to stab himself into walls. You can stay ‘stuck’ to the surface that you have stabbed however long you like, which is essential because sometimes you have to wait for certain danger to pass so you can continue flying about and sticking your head into other walls.
Let’s break it down: you swipe in any direction and your character moves until he hits a wall (or another spike and dies; you don’t have health in this game, so once you take damage you start over, or from a checkpoint). Most of the obstacles are spikes from the walls that you have to find a way to overcome, but there are also different types of enemies, some of which you can easily defeat, some of which are harder. There are bosses and timed levels, too. The game is broken down into ‘worlds’, and there are four of them if I counted right. At the end of one world, a boss awaits. At first, it’s a cute spider that doesn’t fight back, but it starts getting harder from there on. Without spoiling too much, you’ll see for yourself. The game requires some skill, so it’s not all casual and relaxing (I had spots in later levels where I was freaking out, though I just have to gather all of the coins).
As you go, you collect coins, which you can use to unlock a checkpoint (you might have ‘checked’ the checkpoint, but you won’t respawn there if you don’t pay for it in coin – yeah, I know, scummy), or tons of other upgrades and cosmetics. So you can buy power-ups, and you can also customize your character so much that it’s ridiculous. You can also unlock and play as one of the other Nitrome protagonists, too, so there is that. And you can, for example, change the face of your sword guy, or put on different types of spikes on your head. It’s great!
There is an endless mode as well, so for those who want to compete, there is a leaderboard for you. The levels there are completely random, so there are no predesigned levels for you to learn them. The game is Free-to-Play but features ads – which you can remove if you pay. Honestly, I absolutely hate ads, but they aren’t as bad in this one as I have seen in many other games.
In conclusion, Spike City is a fun little game that you can play over the course of a few days or dedicate an afternoon to it, but be ready to think and be fast. Until the next review, see you guys!