PC Gamer

Why I Love

In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. Today, Phil explains why he loves Spelunky's biggest asshole.

Spelunky's Tunnel Jerk is an asshole. Seriously, screw that guy. Here's why I love him.

First, let's backtrack a second. I love so much of Spelunky, so deciding what particular element to hone in on should be difficult. The procedural generation is a given: it makes the game what it is, and allows for a difficulty that's based on learning systems over memorising routes. Those systems are brilliant too. Everything that happens in Spelunky makes sense, and is the result of its individual elements interacting with each other. It can be surprising, but it is so in a way that's consistent with its rules.

There is bullshit in Spelunky, but it's traceable bullshit. You can enter a level, hear a distant explosion and be informed that the shopkeeper is very angry with you. Make no mistake, this is bullshit—but it happened because a Fire Frog was caught by a Tikki Trap and the resulting explosion caused a rock to fly into the shopkeeper's face. Chaos theory. A Fire Frog jumps in the jungle, and now a shopkeeper will murder you in 3-2.

Spelunky, in so many ways, is perfect. Infuriating, but perfect. It's a bundle of nasty surprises waiting to punish any mistake, and a series of rewards designed to tempt you into making one. For me, Tunnel Jerk is the personification of this principle.

Tunnel Jerk—referred to as "Tunnel Man" officially—is an ostensibly helpful NPC. He appears in the transitions between worlds, and offers to create a shortcut to the world that you're travelling towards. This is helpful. Most people's experience of any unfamiliar world in Spelunky is to die within seconds. New worlds take on a semi-mythical property. They are the unknowable land of death beyond the comfort of the familiar. Spelunky is always difficult, but knowledge is your shield against its most homicidal tendencies.

Tunnel Jerk offers a way to kickstart that familiarity. Learning the jungle is hard when you can only get there by first traversing the mines. But if you can skip straight to the jungle, you can more easily absorb its tricks. And it's not like Tunnel Jerk is asking for much. Two bombs? Fine, whatever. Given that you'll probably die in the first three seconds of entering the jungle, it's not like you'll be using them.

It doesn't end there, though. Oh, you want ropes now? Yeah, okay, I guess? And now you want... wait, what? $10,000?! Seriously, dude?

At this point, you have a goal. Spelunky is great at this. In addition to its primary success state, there are multiple potential goals along the way. Jetpack? Nope, I'm $5,000 short and the ghost is here. Alien base? Maybe, but it's a long shot. New character? Only if I stumble across a coffin. Well, I guess I could always give Tunnel Jerk the thing that he wants.

Completing Spelunky is an achievement to be proud of, but it's also a long-term battle. I'd played it hundreds of times before I ever completed it. I'd reached the damn City of Gold before I ever completed it. I would never have brought down Olmec if it wasn't for the smaller successes along the way; if it wasn't for the feeling of progress, no matter how small. Reaching a new world is an obvious mini-triumph, but so are Tunnel Jerk's most absurd challenges. They feel impossible. $10,000?! That's a lot of money when you're starting out, and a lot to blow on a shortcut.

From there, it escalates. A shotgun? You want me to take a shotgun to the ice caves and then just give it up?! Are you a crazy person? Well fine, I'll do it. I'll do it to prove I can. See, Tunnel Jerk, I was prepared to give up a shotgun. What else have you got?

Chaos theory. A Fire Frog jumps in the jungle, and now a shopkeeper will murder you in 3-2.

The reveal of what else Tunnel Jerk has got is almost beautiful in its audacity. If you've not experienced it, consider this a spoiler of sorts.

Tunnel Jerk's final request—the one that unlocks a shortcut to the Temple, and an end to his dominion over you—is a key. The key that unlocks the chest to the Udjat Eye. The Udjat Eye that lives on one the last few levels on the mines. It's so wondrously arbitrary. Away from the chest, the key does nothing. It has no use. Worse, it stops you picking up genuinely useful items like the shotgun, damsel or idol. To take it all the way from the mines, through the jungle, and to the end of the ice caves? It's the definition of pointless.

But it's also a goal, and so you try it. You lose the key in the rivers of the jungle, and you lose it in the void of the ice caves. Maybe a boulder crushes it, or you die trying to retrieve it after leaving it in a "safe place" in order to rescue a damsel. Every time you fail, you curse that Tunnel Jerk's stupid request. You curse him over and over, until the glorious day when you finally bring him his idiotic trinket. All in all, he seems pretty happy about it.

For me, defeating the Tunnel Jerk was more satisfying than completing the game. He's an asshole. Seriously, screw that guy. That's why I love him.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Marsh Davies)

Vagante is Italian, if you   re wondering. Or rather, if you   re wandering. It means    wandering   , is what I   m saying. So, that   d be a hard    g    with an audible trailing    e   .

Each week Marsh Davies shuffles apprehensively into the dank catacombs of Early Access and returns with any stories he can find and/or a faceful of cycloptic bat guano. This week he quaffs an unidentified cyan potion and throws himself onto a bed of spikes, repeatedly, in procedural permadeath platformer Vagante, a particularly Roguish Spelunkalike.>

Did you play Spelunky and think, What this really needs is to be a lot darker, with several additional layers of complication and a much less parseable tileset ? Somebody out there did, and judging by the wholly positive Steam reviews, at least 68 other folk did as well.

I can t claim to be one of these strange, troglodytic creatures, but then I also must confess that it took me many concerted attempts before I finally fell beneath Spelunky s subterranean charm. Maybe it ll happen with Vagante. It hasn t quite yet – although some several dozen misadventures later, I am warming to it. It manages that rare trick, as Spelunky did, of making failure the most entertaining part. It s certainly the most plentiful. My sorties into the underworld have ended in the digestive cavities of man-eating plants, as demon-dog dinners, beneath boulders, in spike-pits and in pieces, thanks to the Bandit King s axe. But throughout, my most dangerous enemy has been myself – my incaution, my stupidity, my insatiable desire to immediately glug every pungent, bubbling concoction I find in the bottom of a barrel. If I discover a helmet made out of jelly, I m wearing it. And then, when I realise it s cursed, I m going to drink my unidentified inventory dry, set myself on fire, and teleport into a pool of piranhas.

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Graham Smith)

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.>

I know the cause of every single one of my thousands of deaths in Spelunky. I died down that snake pit because I frittered away my bombs and ropes, leaving me with no way to escape. I died to that inanimate rock because I drifted down towards it with the jetpack when it was being propelled into the air by a jump pad. I died to that blue frog because I overestimated the extent of its jump.

I died because I am not good enough at negotiating the roguelike platformer’s strict rules. Not yet.

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Graham Smith)

I’ve had a copy of ZZT by Anna Anthropy – a book about the game of the same name – kicking around for six months, but I haven’t yet had the time to read it. That prompted me to almost instantly scroll by news that the same publisher was Kickstarting a second series of books in the same vein: small, independently published, and each focused on a different game.

Then I saw that one of the books in the second series is about Spelunky. And it’s written by Derek Yu, the creator of Spelunky. And the project is already funded anyway.

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Graham Smith)

Spelunky is, I think, better designed than any other roguelike, platformer, or roguelike platformer. It’s not because it’s a work of genre revivalism. It’s not the procedural generation, which jumbles level geometry upon every funny, frequent, fist-shaking demise.

It’s the bats. The bat, found in its opening world, is a dimly flapping lense through which the entire game can be better appreciated.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer
The best living room PC games
PC Gamer
Spelunky


Well this is a surprise. Not just the fact that someone has set a new Spelunky any% speedrunning record with a time of under 2 minutes, but also that you can use the game's Teleporter without immediately becoming fatally embedded inside of a wall. Both of these feats were performed by "Pibonacci", and have now been uploaded for all to see. Just make sure you've turned your speakers down... he becomes understandably, er, animated towards the end of the run.
PC Gamer
Spelunky SD


Spelunky HD earned our Game of the Year award last year, thanks to its systemic difficulty and new Daily Challenge mode. But, should its smooth and unpixelated graphics feel like an afront to the almighty retro gods, you can now enjoy a modification to the game's original (and free) incarnation. Called Spelunky SD, the mod not only offers fixes, but also introduces a 2-player online co-op mode.

"For the past three months I was working on a Spelunky Classic modification called Spelunky SD," writes 'YellowAfterlife', who for the past three months was working on a Spelunky Classic modification called Spelunky SD. "It is a pretty broad project, implementing a number of fixes and improvements to original game, and, most importantly, adding a 2-player cooperative online game mode." That project is now available as a first public release.

It's an impressive change to the game; one available as a standalone executable, thanks to original Spelunky being open source. And 'YellowAfterlife' plans to continue development of his mod: hoping to add a PvP mode and other game-extending features.

Of course, if you don't want to do co-op, Spelunky SD's text chat also lets you narrate (short) campaigns.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Graham Smith)

How does it handle shopping, I wonder?

The original Spelunky – the free, low resolution Game Maker-made Classic version – is open source. That means it can be broadly modified, which is what Ukrainian programmer Vadim has done in Spelunky SD. The project merges features from the polished remake Spelunky HD with the lo-fi original, most notably adding two-player, online cooperative multiplayer.

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

Oh dear, I’m going to have to buy one of those Xbone pads now that they’re PC-friendly, aren’t I? Too often lately I’ve scowled at a game only to find that it improves immeasurably when played with a gamepad instead. Last week it was Watchunderscoredogs (still a bit dull though, innit?), this week it’s indie Metroid/Spelunky mash-up Crystal Catacombs. All ready to dismiss it, I was, as its core wall-jumping mechanic was a miserable and oft-fatal chore when hung around the space bar, but now I’m rather taken with its odd creatures and caverns and its gently punishing aRPG qualities. … [visit site to read more]

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