LifeisXbox’s Spikerman review | Nowadays, the online marketplaces for games are pretty clear cut. You’ve got the juggernaut that is Steam, the Epic Games Store which is rising to challenge it and loads of smaller, publisher-specific storefronts like Uplay, Origin or GoG. This, coupled with the downfall of Flashplayer left a bit of a gap for the smaller hobby developers of times gone. And while the times of sites such as (for me at least) Funnygames and Kongregate have passed, there is still a place around for smaller hobbyist devs to share their work with us. Today we’ll be taking a look at Spikerman, an RPG available on Itch.io for PC and Mac. It was developed by someone also going by the name SpikerMan, who published it via Itch.io by himself. In it, we’ll be playing as Spike and his friends who live on the planet of Spikon 4. Over the course of 9 chapters, you can join him and his friends on adventures across the universe.
Most Memorable Moment
That would be after I had finished the tutorial section of Spikerman and you are let into the garden of Spikon city’s castle. There the game opened up a little and allowed for some exploration to happen. Eager to see what could be found I darted from corner to corner before looking at what was to be found more in the middle of that map. I came across a graveyard with 5 graves, 4 for in-game characters, and one lone grave for what I can only assume must have been a close friend of the developer. I never fail to get that warm and fuzzy feeling inside when loved ones get honoured in video games, and this was no exception.
ℹ️ Reviewed on PC | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion from the writer.
What we Liked!
- Radar | When playing Spikerman you’ll have access to a radar straight from the get-go. Most games go for either a map or a minimap, but here the radar allows you for a quick and clean oversight of where you need to go. It’s quite in line with the technologically advanced setting Spikerman takes place in.
- Good intention, bad execution | Spikerman is has a lot of good ideas that are poorly executed. I want to commend the developer for trying to implement them but can’t due to how they’re often not thought out. Here are a couple of examples: There’s a dog and a cat in Spikon City. Speaking to them gives you the option to pet or groom them, but when you select it nothing happens. You can at certain points around Spikon city find graffiti. Great to add a bit of variety into the mix and liven up the place, but it’s weird that the same thing appears in so many places.
What we Disliked
- Combat | Spikerman and his friends will have to face a lot of foes on their travels across the universe. Battle starts in typical RPG fashion when you and an enemy touch sprites in the overworld. This then transports you to a 2D space to do battle in using a Linear Motion Battle System, which is a fancy term for a battle system that lets you move around on a field. However, much to my dismay, I found the entire combat aspect of Spikerman to be sorely lacking. The movement is stiff and slow, allowing you to only reliably move in the four cardinal directions. You can jump diagonally, but I found it hard to pull off with my Xbox controller. And while I’m on the topic of jumping: this was very poorly implemented. A single up input would launch my character into the stratosphere. Like, probably the equivalent of 4 meters if not more. Attacking in combat is done via either normal or special attacks where special attacks draw from your MP pool. These attacks can range from normal slashes to shooting projectiles and even some flashier attacks. But be sure to commit, because any attack you do will fire off the entire combo and lock you into the animation. The combat also lacks any form of weightiness as pulling off combos just isn’t possible since enemies don’t really respond to taking damage aside from a small getting hit animation. The combat encounters are also quite unbalanced, from as early as chapter 1 I ran into several encounters that would easily stun lock me or be so weak I could let my companion do all the work. I feel like a turn-based combat system would work better.
- The world | Nowadays, we see a lot of games with big open worlds to explore. These are often filled with landmarks or interesting locales. Spikerman sadly has none of this. While the cities and indoor locations are often furnished and inhabited enough to make it appear like an actual location, some of the outside areas can see you walk aimlessly through landscapes devoid of landmarks or points of orientation. Inside the cities this gets a bit better, seeing as there’s always at least a bush or plant in sight to fluff up the location. The buildings are also poorly made, both inside and out. On the outside, to only name one example, you can see a lot of places where certain parts are simply superimposed on other building parts. Generally, this isn’t an issue if done well, but on more than one occasion we could see wall tiles clip through parts of rooves. The interiors are generally the most full of life but are still decorated in a weird way. One such example of this is the Hospital in Spikon City. The inside of that map is roughly equal to the entire downtown area that leads into it, yet most of the space inside is empty, with the same pseudo room copied a bunch of times. I feel like Spikerman would do a lot better with a smaller, more optimally used and carefully crafted spaces.
- Audio | The soundtracks and sound effects in Spikerman are serviceable at best. They’re all roughly 40 seconds long elevator music clips that don’t really follow the atmosphere of the place or situation you’re in. With the sole exception of the generic combat music being a bit more exciting, yet equally short music. On that note, at the end of combat, you get some celebration music. At first, I thought this would’ve been another track, but it’s actually more of a jingle, seeing as it stops playing after completing and gives you back the drab and rather default overworld music.
- Art style | The art direction is all over the place. For a start, there are more than two different visual styles at play here that don’t gell well. On the one hand, you’ve got a lot of RPG maker assets that come with the engine, these assets all harmonize quite well with each other and keep a consistent style. The problem lies with all the clearly handmade assets. These assets don’t match the RPG Maker ones one bit. Shading, where present is drawn directly onto the characters, almost making it appear like they’ve got different light sources. Any shading on the skin of characters is thusly off hue so that it looks like they have blue or grey skin. Then you’ve also got the signs that indicate what a certain building may be. These are often either too simplistic and busy at once, or simply spell out what a building is, without trusting the player to know via common signs. For example, the Hospital in Spikon city is has a giant sign stating it’s a hospital on it, which draws the attention away from the medical cross sign placed just below it. This kind of design makes for a lot of visual clutter.
How long to beat the story | 12-ish hour
How long to get all achievements | There are no achievements.
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Hey there. Thomas is the name, Sci-fi, action and (J)RPG’s are the game. I strongly prefer co-op over PVP games. Whenever possible, you may find me run wild at a convention in western Europe. Certified anime enjoyer.