The grappling hook is an age-old gaming staple. It is a reliable tool, one that is usually easy to acquire, but difficult to master. And it is this tool that is the main focus of Spike Mtn, the latest game developed by WorldForm. Hailing from Australia, WorldForm is an indie studio that wants to suck its players into the games they create. Using atmosphere, scale, and attention to detail, they plan to immerse their player base into all manner of digital worlds.
Before continuing, for the sake of transparency, I do wanna say that Elliot from WorldForm did provide me with a re-release code to get this review out for the launch date. So thanks for that.
Take the challenge
Overcoming the challenges of Spike Mtn entails using precision movement to conquer each obstacle. Grappling hooks are used to swing back and forth, and build momentum. Gain enough and the player can then launch themselves a fair distance through the air.
If things go horribly wrong, the end result is a swift and merciful death. And I can guarantee things will go wrong. Many, many times. In the same vein as Celeste or Super Meat Boy, Spike Mtn is a game of trial and error. It requires quick reflexes to navigate, and an iron will to succeed.
Control-wise, it’s fairly simple. Spacebar to jump. A and D to move left and right, and W and S to move up and down when appropriate. Mouse is for aiming and left click to deploy a hook. There are some slightly more advanced combinations of presses to do but it’s all fairly accessible.
Two grappling hooks can be deployed one after the other each time the character leaves the ground. They will then detach after a few seconds. This adds a nice bit of fairly unique movement to the game. Getting the timing right for building momentum was a little frustrating to get used to. After a few minutes, I got the hang of it though. There were handy little tutorials included which was a sweet little touch. The number of grapples available, and the time until they detach, are displayed discreetly above the character. The indicators even flash when there’s enough momentum to long jump. All this helps communicate information to the player without being too distracting.
A haphazard charm
The art style is a little too minimal for my taste, although overall it does work. Some assets are more detailed than others which gives the game a slightly haphazard uneven look. There’s definitely a charm to it though and there’s enough visual depth. It’s also very easy to see what the grappling hooks can attach to.
The overworld is actually pretty sweet. Initially, I thought the game was sectioned off into different levels. There are markers that go up the mountain periodically, a little like a classic Mario game but no! These just represent flag checkpoints on the journey, ticked off as the traveller carries on. Each checkpoint also has a tally of how many times the character died during that particular stretch too. A nice little touch. Later sections also do start to get creative with the environment without straying too far from the original mountain setting.
Perth-based musician Macks Martin provides the soundtrack. From the funky little beat on the overworld to the slightly more suspenseful music that plays when playing, it’s all pretty easy listening.
To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of this type of twitch gameplay. I find it a little too frustrating to truly find entertaining. For someone who does enjoy these types of games though, Spike Mtn is a solid addition to their library. For the price, I’d be hard-pressed not to recommend it. Whilst not as pretty as similar games, it still comes out swinging. If you want to find out a little more about the making of this game, I would recommend reading this interview I did with Elliot about his new game.