It's difficult to review RCMADIAX's new title SPIKEY WALLS in a rational fashion – without any context, one could easily write, "This is a Flappy Bird clone," and it would be exactly correct. SPIKEY WALLS accomplishes everything it sets out to do. You control a flappy bug by pressing the A button to navigate a never-ending series of (you guessed it) spikey walls. And that's about it. In a way, it's a missed opportunity; the developer could've taken the bare-bones Flappy Bird concept and built on it to create a more rewarding experience, but instead we're left with the same repetitive structure and a difficulty "curve" that's less of a curve and more of a perfectly straight line.
RCMADIAX, the studio behind the polarising low-budget Web Framework titles BLOK DROP U and POKER DICE SOLITAIRE FUTURE, has embraced this rip-off label, even calling out Flappy Bird by name in its official press release. It's all firmly tongue-in-cheek:
"The new title is called SPIKEY WALLS, and many of you will recognize it as a popular spin-off of the famous “Flappy Bird” games that are dominating the mobile app stores these days. SPIKEY WALLS uses the state-of-the-art precision of the Wii U GamePad’s physical buttons versus the lag of a mobile devices touch screen. You will enjoy hours of fun trying to score the highest and brag on Miiverse when you’re finished each session. To make it easier to keep track of your highest attempt, RCMADIAX developed an in-house, state-of-the-art, “HIGHSCORE” tracker you can see right on the title screen. “WOW”!"
As the masterpiece press release notes, your high score is recorded and displayed on the main menu, and as a huge upgrade from previous titles, SPIKEY WALLS also offers a language select option with English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. The gameplay is smooth enough, with clean, simple graphics and RCMADIAX's signature "single short catchy electronic song" playing on repeat. Unfortunately, there's no parallax scrolling in the background, so the illusion of movement in your flight between walls is a shallow one.
The floating title on the main menu is pleasingly animated, but RCMADIAX falls into the easy indie trap of totally neglecting sound effects – navigating menus with no aural feedback feels very low-budget. Awkwardly, the main menu is touch-screen only, while the gameplay itself is button-only. There's also no sort of death animation; when you run into a wall, the "UH-OH!" game-over screen pops up, and that's it. The game-over screen tells you to "share your score on Miiverse," which would lead you to believe there's in-game Miiverse integration... but unfortunately no, it's just a suggestion to take a screenshot and post it on Miiverse manually.
Taken on its own with no point of reference for Flappy Birds, SPIKEY WALLS is dirt-cheap and can be addicting in a mindless way, with no load times hindering your ability to try over and over and over. But taken in context, it's Flappy Birds with a different coat of paint. It brings up all sorts of ethical questions about game design plagiarism and the nature of the shovelware industry in gaming. This has rubbed plenty of fans the wrong way, and RCMADIAX even took to the Nintendo Life forums to directly address critics. It's worth reading the entire post, but most pertinent to our review was this comment:
"This title was made after seeing titles such as "The Letter" and "IQ Test" climbing the charts despite getting really low review scores. My latest title, SHUT THE BOX, received a 7/10 from Nintendo Life and is my highest rated title developed so far, yet it was outsold 100:1 by these games people were calling crappy. If they were so crappy, then why did you buy them? You made TreeFallStudios and NinjaPig very wealthy by joking around and purchasing those titles. As customers you have so much power over companies because you can vote with your wallets.If you don't like a game...THEN DON'T BUY IT."
It's respectable that RCMADIAX is trying to make a statement about Miiverse culture and the eShop with SPIKEY WALLS. And game quality aside, placing a focus on communication between developers and players is a great way to help bridge the divide in light of certain recent gaming controversies — GamerGate being one. But at the end of the day, RCMADIAX is still asking you to give it your money for a title it acknowledges is not a good product. Whether this symbolic trolling statement is worth your eShop credit is up to you.
SPIKEY WALLS is a purposeful rip-off that accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do, providing some bargain-bin fun for those who seek it. In a way, RCMADIAX's focus on community interaction over review scores is a liberating sentiment; a breath of fresh air from our Metacritic-obsessed gaming culture. Still, taken totally at face value, this isn't a great game — and regardless of what kind of comment the developer is trying to make, that is surely all that truly matters at the end of the day.