Games today have a problem. They will coddle you. The interface will tell you what to do, where to go, and how to get there. A map is given to players to show them exactly where they are and what they are doing at all times. At times, it feels like us gamer’s are watching events unfold, instead of unfolding them ourselves. It’s with this that I am happy to report that Spelunky is a true homage to what gaming used to be. A standout title in this man-baby ridden tutorial snooze fest. Spelunky is a dirty, mischievous, and painstakingly difficult platformer, and I loved every minute of the punishment.
The hook in Spelunky, is something that very few games offer. It is infinitely replayable, due to the fact that every level is randomly generated. You will never play the same level twice. This adds a layer of challenge to the game, as there is no way to memorize how to get out safely. Players get one life, with four hits, and that is it. The enemies are plentiful and vast in numbers, and all have the intent of not letting you get to the door at the end. Everything is thrown at the player to make sure that he/she is not victorious. Throw in the fact there are no checkpoints, and you have one challenging game.
Players control an unnamed character, known only as the Spelunker. The Spelunker makes their way through levels, finding treasure, making pathways, and rescuing damsels in distress for extra health (or dogs in distress if dames aren’t your thing). You are given a whip to attack enemies with, but you can just jump on their heads to finish them off. Other random items will be laying around the levels, such as rocks and skulls, for the Spelunker to throw at enemies and set off traps. And at the beginning of the game, the Spelunker is given a limited supply of bombs and ropes to traverse the terrain how you see fit, or get you out of being stuck. Crates are scattered randomly through out levels to resupply your items, but ultimately you will be limited.
To help players traverse levels, NPC’s (non-playable characters) offer their services. First is the shopkeeper; a man who sells items to the Spelunker in exchange for money. There are a wide variety of items he sells that not only make movement easier, but getting rid of enemies easier as well. These include jet packs, shotguns, freeze rays, bomb paste, and many more. Spelunkers trade gold and gems for items, so make sure to pick up every sparkly object you see. There is another way to get items free, but don’t expect the shopkeeper to sit by and do nothing! Second is “Tunnel Man”. He will build a shortcut at the end of a zone. These shortcuts have requirements though, and getting them isn’t a walk in the park. Each time you complete a zone (a set of 4 levels), the Tunnel man will ask you for supplies to help build a shortcut. If your out of the supply he needs, then you just move on, making no progress on your shortcuts.
If spelunking caves alone seems like too big of a challenge, players can jump into co-op mode. This mode is for up to 4 Spelunkers, all working together to get to the end. While it unfortunately doesn’t currently support Xbox LIVE, having a friend by your side can be the best way to get past a level you couldn’t manage alone. Of course, for those of you who can’t stand to work together, there is a Deathmatch mode. This mode pits up to 4-players against each other, and is incredibly hectic. Bombs flying everywhere, guns being shot, you name it, it’s happening. These frantic matches will have you and your friends jumping and screaming in no time.
Overall, while Spelunky is challenging, it is never unfair. Not once did I feel that it was the games fault for me dying. There is always a safe way to traverse the level. NPC’s help make the journey easier, and friends make the journey even more hectic. The fact that no level will ever be the same gives this game a huge replay value. Pro’s will be able to complete the entire game in under 10 minutes, and Newbies will be playing for days. Spelunky is truly unique and charming, and we here at B-Sides loved every minute of it.
MSRP: 1200 Microsoft Points ($15)
BONUS!: Download the original Spelunky for windows for FREE here