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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.

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The best living room PC games
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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.
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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.

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It was less than two months ago that top Spelunky streamer Bananasaurus_Rex smashed through Spelunky's $3,000,000 barrier to take the high score world record. It's an achievement I thought would hold, thanks to the incredible luck of finding a plasma cannon and jetpack on the first two levels. It wasn't to be, as now YamaYamaDingDong has broken that record by just $3,975. More impressively, he did the majority of the run without the level-blasting power of the plasma cannon.

You can watch the run via the archived Twitch stream. Be warned, though: it's over four hours of highly methodical ghost shepherding, gem collecting action.

Thanks, Kotaku.
PC Gamer

It was teased a couple months ago, but it's now been released! The Metroid Mod for Spelunky slickly brings the sci-fi world of spacefaring Samus Aran to the subterranean perma-death platformer. It's the best of both worlds: monsters, items, pick-ups, character skins, music, background art, and even the title and menu screens have all been Metroid-ified. The core game, however, is still pure, unfiltered Spelunky. Fans of either game -- or both -- will love it.

From the intro movie to the splash screen to the selection menu, it's clear that modder joey4track did his best to squeeze as much Metroid as he could into Spelunky. Everything from the color scheme to the UI to the music, including background art of the cavern carvings, has been given attention. It all looks great, and is clearly the work of a real Metroid fan.

Can you figure out what everything is before it kills you? If not, after works as well.

Another great touch is in what the modder didn't touch: the gameplay. As far as I can tell, the changes are all aesthetic, and nothing about the core game has been altered. It's still 100% Spelunky. Controls, weapons, enemy speed and behavior, it all still works exactly the same while looking completely different. I found I was immediately running around, jumping, climbing, fighting (also, dying) without ever feeling like I was playing a different game. However! There's a little bit of learning to do.

Spikes look the same. Everything else has gotten slathered in Metroid.

For instance, you might spot a zebesian pacing around below you. You can tell it's a space pirate... but what did it used to be? A skeleton? A caveman? A tiki man? What about that sova (or nova, depending on which Metroid era you come from ) walking back and forth? Is it a reskinned snake, easy to defeat? Or is it a scorpion that's going to leap onto your face? After observing a creature's movement patterns for a moment, you'll probably be able to guess, but re-learning which monster is which becomes its own little mini-game, and freshens up the experience for those of us who are now completely familiar with all of Spelunky's threats.

Behold the Moai! Or maybe the Moaitroid! Or Metromoai. Whatever. It's the thing the thing is hidden in.

Even once you start learning who is who, it can be tricky. Little spiders are now skrees, which give them the appearance of bats while they're hanging from the ceiling, which means even when you know it's a spider, you'll keep thinking it's a bat until you get used to it. Actual bats appear as wavers, and are much harder to spot while roosting, adding a little extra challenge. It's just enough confusion to slow you down and make you think, which might be a welcome change for players who have become accustomed to letting their reflexes do all the work.

The shopkeeper has changed into a kihunter. Unchanged: still a dick if a boulder touches his shop.

There are some other wonderful touches. The ghost appears as -- naturally -- a giant spectral metroid. Instead of sacrificing to (or angering, as the case may be) Kali, you're now paying tribute to mighty Kraid. Instead of stealing a golden idol from a boulder-trapped carving, you're now stealing a Varia suit upgrade from a carving of a Chozo. Unfortunately, you don't get to wear the Varia suit, it's still just an item to sell. But I love the incorporation of the Metroid themes into the Spelunky ruleset.

High Jump Boots for sacrificing a dog to Kraid? The deity has changed, but not the reward for evil.

And, of course, items common to both games, like bombs and high-jump boots, now look like they did in Metroid. Pickups, loot, and items like rocks, crates, gems have all been replaced with Metroid-style images. And, naturally, all your weapons from whips to shotguns have been replaced, again, just aesthetically. Ropes are still ropes. Good old ropes.

Anubis becomes Ridley? That makes a good amount of sense.

Naturally, I didn't finish a game in the time I played, as I'm not particularly good at Spelunky. Last I heard, Olmec was still Olmec, but you're welcome to confirm or refute that for yourself. In terms of playable characters, you'll have a few different versions of Samus to choose from, and one green bug-lookin' dude whose name I don't know. The modder has mentioned he may add more characters in the future from other games, such as Mario or the Castlevania guy.

Don't do it, Samus! It's not what you think it is!

Look, I can keep on describing how great this mod is while showing you pictures, but it's not really going to come across until you play it. So, if you're a seasoned Spelunker looking to spice up your Daily Challenges, or just a long-time Metroid fan, give it a try.

Installation: It's easy, though you're going to be overwriting Spelunky's original assets, so you'll first want to back up your data folder. On Steam, you can find it in Steam > steamapps > common > Spelunky > Data. Just make a copy of that entire folder and store it somewhere safe. Download the mod from this forum page: just scroll down past the screenshots to the Dropbox link. (I don't want to link directly to his Dropbox). Extract the contents (three folders) into your data folder and replace the files when it asks. Then just start the game and say hello to Samus!

To get your old Spelunky back, you'll have to re-overwrite with your original Data folder contents.
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Spelunky high score

Spelunky was our 2013 Game of the Year, and this is why. Streamer/legend Bananasaurus_Rex has beaten the previous, piddly world record of $2,980,000 with a titanic $3,105,850, and all it took was seven-and-a-bit hours of incredibly patient play, a deep understanding of the game and its systems, and a ton of skill. Man, Spelunky is easy. It's the polar opposite of Rex's recent full speedrun, which he completed in just under seven minutes, and you can watch it below if you have most of the day spare (alternatively, you may want to skim it instead). Rex's other achievements include killing the ghost, and making the first successful solo eggplant run.

If you're a Spelunky player and you've not yet plumbed its infinite depths, then for heaven's sake don't watch this video, which reveals almost the full scope of Spelunky's secret-packed world. Achieving that 3-mil score relies on a technique known as ghost mining, which accounts for a good deal of the run and is perhaps not tremendously exciting to watch. The amazing thing about Spelunky is that, even when you know the outcome, watching a run is still a tense-as-hell experience, particularly after so many hours of investment.

Thanks, Eurogamer.
PC Gamer
Metroid Spelunky Mod

My favorite thing about Spelunky, our 2013 Game of the Year, is how endlessly replayable it is. Between randomly generated levels, Spelunky Death Roulette, and the daily challenge, there's always a reason to come back. If those modes aren't enough for you, an upcoming conversion mod will add character skins, music, levels, and enemies from Metroid.

The creator of the mod, Spelunky forum user joey4track, is still finishing the conversion and will release the mod when all four worlds have been remade. So far, two of the four worlds are complete. Here's what the mines look like so far:

Video via YouTube user AGamerInBrooklyn.

The Spelunky Metroid Mod is a great example of what dedicated fans can do to extend the life of a game for a community. Samus can be skinned in either a couple of variations of the classic armored suit or you can just go as Zero Suit Samus. Equally impressive is the inclusion of a music pack that replaces Spelunky s natural tones with Metroid s 16-bit era midi music that continues to haunt my childhood memories. joey4track says he'll release the mod once all four worlds are complete. In the meantime, you can get the mod's music pack at the Mossmouth forums.
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Spelunky update

Image via YouTube user BaerTaffy.

Spelunky, that addictive roguelike that stole our hearts to win our Game of the Year last year, is getting a bit of a facelift. A new update will include an option to enable a smaller, more streamlined user interface, as well as various tweaks and bug fixes. The update is available as of today for download on Steam.

The biggest change in update 1.4 is the optional Pro HUD, which streamlines the heads-up-display by making most information smaller and less obtrusive. The Pro HUD also includes a timer and a current level indicator, which is great news for speedrunners. It s also useful for the rest of us, should we choose to mesure our exact terribleness down to the tenth of a second.

In addition to a ton of bug fixes, the update also includes an invert run option, which sets running as the default option. This is, again, perfect for mad speedrunning fools who sprint around levels without regard to safety.

If you ve been away from Spelunky for a while, this is a great excuse to come back. You can read the full patch notes here.
PC Gamer

Spelunky is brilliant. Part of the reason it's brilliant is the random generation, ensuring that each of your many retries are a chance to explore something new. Even the Daily Challenges - which randomly generate a new level each day, and share that level between every player - are brilliant. Here, then, is a community application that lets you completely bypass those randomised levels by setting your own custom creation seed. Will it still be brilliant? It's Spelunky, so probably.

The utility - found on the Mossmouth forum - lets you force Spelunky's level generator to use a predefined seed, which you can then share to other players in the spirit of friendly competition. Alternatively, you can go in the opposite direction: telling the utility to generate a 64-bit hash, thereby ensuring a bigger pool of random levels to draw from.

All of which sounds great, but opens up the possibility that players can gain an advantage on the leaderboards. By finding a seed that has beneficial items early on, or just by being able to practice on a non-randomised level set, it gives less-scrupulous high-score chasers a leg up on their honest competition.

Used in good faith, though, it's a fun little tool. And, short of an official, leaderboard skipping alternative, it's the only way you'll be able to create a special campaign challenge between you and your friends.

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