You play Spike, out to climb a mountain. First, you walk through the Meadows, jumping over bears and muddy waterfalls, and hiding from eagles by ducking into caves. Then you climb up the Rocky Ledge, dodging rockslides and a boulder that flies back and forth across the screen. Then you walk or climb through the Ice Cap, dodging avalanches and the Abominable Snowman. Finally, you walk to the peak and plant your flag.
Along the way, you score points by reaching higher altitudes, collecting gold and ice diamonds, and killing the Snowman with your ice pick. Getting hit by rocks or avalanches can take away points. Every hundred thousand points, you get an extra life, for a maximum of three.
Spike's Peak provides examples of:
- Bears Are Bad News: Bears running from cave to cave in the Meadows.
- Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti: He wanders around the Ice Cap.
- Bottomless Pits: The boulder will knock you down these. One of the earliest examples in video games.
- Collision Damage: Bears, eagles, the boulder, and the Snowman.
- Corridor Cubbyhole Run: The Meadows. The path is the corridor, the eagles are the threat, caves are the safe zones, and the bears give you advance warning of the eagles - when they are both in caves, one above the other, eagles are coming.
- Critical Annoyance: When you get too cold.
- Crouch and Prone: In the caves in the Meadows.
- Death Mountain: The titular peak.
- Difficulty Levels: You can adjust the difficulty with the Atari's difficulty switches.
- Endless Game: If you reach the summit, Spike lies down for a rest, then walks down the mountain to do it again.
- Every 10,000 Points: Or rather, hundred thousand points, an extra life.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: Bears, birds, waterfalls, a flying boulder, and the Abominable Snowman. You can also freeze to death in caves in the Meadows or by running out of time on the Ice Cap or the peak.
- Fake Trap: Cactus on the Rocky Ledge.
- Follow the Money: Gold on the Rocky Ledge, and ice diamonds on the Ice Cap.
- Game Levels: Five, one screen each: The start of the trail, the Meadows, the Rocky Ledge, the Ice Cap, and the peak.
- Game Over: If you lose three lives.
- Grimy Water: Waterfalls in the Meadows.
- Heal Thyself: The ice diamonds on the Ice Cap replenish your body heat.
- Hit Points: Your body temperature. It's shown as a Life Meter, and falls when you hide in a cave in the Meadows, or with time on the Ice Cap and the peak.
- Homing Boulders: Rockslides and avalanches.
- Platform Game: The Meadows is a zigzagging platform, you can jump over bears and hide in caves. The Rocky Ledge and Ice Cap have platforms, but not only can you jump, you can climb the wall up to the next platform.
- Powerful Pick: You can kill the Snowman with your ice pick.
- Scaling the Summit: The point of the game is to climb a huge mountain all by yourself.
- Space-Filling Path: The Meadows, Rocky Ledge, and Ice Cap. On the last two, you can avoid the path and climb straight up.
- Skippable Boss: The Snowman. Just move off the path a little and he walks right past.