The premise of Aban Hawkins & the 1001 Spikes, the exceedingly difficult platformer from Japanese indie studio 8bits Fanatics and American developer-publisher Nicalis, is that you have 1,001 lives to get through the game. During a hands-on demo of the PlayStation 4 version this week, we found out that it's a lot more fun to share those limited lives with friends.
You can play through 1001 Spikes with as many as three friends. The unforgiving platformer hits you with hazards everywhere you go, so in one sense, it's easier to play in co-op because you can sometimes hang back and let your cohorts be the canaries in the coal mine. The way stages are completed in 1001 Spikes offers another way to take advantage of your compatriots. You always have to grab a key in the level and open a door to exit it, so feel free to let your teammates do the hard work of picking up the key while you mosey over to the exit.
The main drawback to playing cooperatively is that you share the game's pool of 1,000 lives. So if one or more of your buddies aren't as skilled as you, they can drag you down by eating away at the total lives. You do have the ability to collect relics in some levels, whereby the pool will grow by 50 lives.
We found co-op in 1001 Spikes to be a frantic, competitive endeavor akin to the four-player mayhem you might see in New Super Mario Bros. Wii or Rayman Origins. We were shouting at our teammates throughout the stages — friendly fire is enabled, and it's possible for your actions to lead to the deaths of your buddies. But we also encouraged each other along, especially when everyone had made it past a particular hazard except one of us.
Aban Hawkins & the 1001 Spikes will be available on PS4 this year, and "shortly thereafter" on other platforms, including PlayStation Vita, according to Tyrone Rodriguez at Nicalis. For more, check out our PS Vita hands-on from E3.