Murder, theft, kidnapping...how I became addicted to a game whose title doesn’t sound like a throwback 2D platformer.Spelunky
, a game that looks like it was made by Nintendo and sounds like a special move in an adult entertainment production. To an outsider, Spelunky probably looks and seems like another goofy indie game with cartoony graphics and canned gameplay. That assumption couldn’t be further from reality, Spelunky is a brutal, unforgiving game requiring a high degree of skill and patience, while using it’s innocent, unsuspecting art to promote a violent and criminal plot following a degenerate tomb raider who makes Indiana Jones look like a choirboy.
Spelunky is not only one of the best indie games I’ve played, it’s one of the best 2D platformers I’ve played to date (going back as someone who played terrible platformers on the Atari 2600). What makes Spelunky great is it’s addictive, procedural level design that rewards patience and strategy while punishing recklessness, dying is extremely easy so each death serves as a lesson to hopefully teach your dumbass how to navigate for the next playthrough. People with ADD or those who enjoy being guided through games with relatively no resistance (99% of modern games) will have a tough time with this game as they’ll die 20 or 30 times before making it through the first world and will likely rage quit. There are times where Spelunky is so brutal that instead of getting angry, you’ve reached the stage of delirium where you begin to develop a psychotic laugh when you save up 10 hearts, make it to the ‘last’ level, take a safe step to the right, activate an arrow trap, get smashed in the face, get thrown across the level, bounce of 3 walls and then somehow land in a pool of lava even after your carefully planned and executed run up until that moment. At that point, anger is futile, enjoy the hilarity and get your ♥♥♥ back to the cave.Gameplay
In terms of gameplay, Spelunky is a rogue-like where you aim to complete levels across 4 or more worlds while ‘collecting’ treasure, ‘defeating’ monsters and ‘rescuing’ damsels (stealing precious metals, murdering innocent wildlife and kidnapping unsuspecting civilians). The gameplay promotes careful, thought-out movements and actions but the controls are so tight and responsive that you can hold turbo like an idiot (like I normally do) and try to fly across the map while getting every last resource even if it means a tragic and boneheaded death, that’s the allure of Spelunky, like dating a girl fresh out rehab, the potential is there but it’s likely going to end in disaster. With that said, to maximize enjoyment and effectiveness in this game, I’d highly recommend using a controller, preferably the Xbox 360 one, I couldn’t imagine playing this with a keyboard. During your crime-filled adventure, you’ll come across a variety of weapons, items and powerups, because of the procedural nature of the game, you can’t really plan on getting certain items since there’s no guarantee they’ll even show up, randomization does that. It is a double-edged effect however, there are runs where you’ll get more than you can carry; a jetpack, plasma cannon, all the good boots, 15 hearts (my record is 18) and still have to sacrifice some of it if you want to reach certain areas of the game.
Replayability is at the same level as The Binding of Isaac
, a game that I dropped over 300 hours on Steam into and plan on doing all over again when Rebirth gets released (if you haven’t played Isaac, you’re a bad individual and you should feel bad). There’s so much to do in Spelunky that you should easily have hundreds of hours of gameplay, the average ‘run’ takes about 30-40 minutes if you’re taking your time and trying to get as much loot as possible. Games like these are a great change of pace because they aren’t a huge time commitment like most PC games are (looking at you Civ 5) and they allow you to sit back and relax with a controller (although there’s very little relaxing in this game unless you’re on some strong tranquillisers). At writing, I’m about 130 hours in and I finally reached hell for the first time this past week, just to paint a picture of how much time is needed in order to get good enough to beat the whole game. As if the game couldn’t get any better, it also has a deathmatch and co-op mode, which is likely not as big of a deal for PC gamers since it’s only offline (no online co-op does suck, but is a very small issue), still something fun to play if you’re sitting around with some friends and everyone has controllers.
Another gameplay element worth mentioning is destruction, although explosives are relatively hard to come by, when you stock up enough of them you can start to take chunks out of the level to try and access loot. The levels are varied but consistent, you won’t be able to get all of the loot in every level but if you’re resourceful and strategic you should be able to clear out 90% of the content while avoiding death at the end (play the game to find out what I mean). The items are also pretty well crafted, they all have literal uses and as you play the game you’ll realize they have secondary uses. The design choices in Spelunky were really well thought out and are all there to help improve the gameplay, which is all that should matter. When you’re over 100 hours in a game and still discovering cool gameplay mechanics that only make the game experience better, you know the developers put a lot of thought into the design.Verdict
It’s a shame that a lot of people will never play a game like Spelunky because of their preconceived notions regarding indie games, platformers, colourful artwork, a game that only costs $15 or less (I only paid $3.74 thanks to a trusty Steam sale), or games that sound like degrading sexual escapades. In any event, it’s your loss if you’re reading this and still are not convinced. If you’re too cheap to buy the game for $15, add it to your wishlist and get it on sale, even if you’re too useless to ever play the game, at least you’ll have supported a developer who if more companies took after we’d have a new era of engaging, thought-provoking games that reward skill and strategy instead of spamming you with ‘achievements’ just for booting the game up while it carries you through the entire experience with no challenge