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I have a terrible memory, which is sometimes an asset. It means that every now and then I get to experience a jolt of joy when I remember that Spelunky 2 is a thing – a thing that I’ve little doubt will take over my life in the same way that both the original freeware and the remaster did. If you somehow haven’t played Spelunky, you should know that it’s a 2D platformer that sits atop the throne of systems-driven roguelikes, capable of spinning story after story from parts that click together in masterful ways. You should also know that I envy you deeply, because I’d give up a lot to play Spelunky for the first time again.
Except I just remembered, I sort of can! Spelunky 2 was announced at last year’s Paris Games Week, with a trailer that gave away very little. So little, in fact, that any murmurings from lead developer Derek Yu on the subject count as news in my book. He recently murmured all over the Tone Control podcast with Fullbright’s Steve Gaynor, and said a little about how becoming a father has shaped development. (more…)
Sometimes you need a hand to hold, so we ve updated our list of the 25 best co-op games to play on PC with a headset-wearing friend or a muted stranger.
Everything’s better with a pal or two in tow, from collaborative puzzle solving to sublime double stealth takedowns. Equally sublime are when those takedowns go awry, your partner shrieks in panic and all hands are needed on deck to clear up the mess. Whether local or online, co-op games offer some of the best fun you can have in 2018.
Progression is so often an illusion. Many games use the idea of permanent progression as a way of tickling our lizard brains with a growing pile of loot or numbers which constantly tick up, so that we feel like we re achieving something while we sit in front of a computer and repeat the same set of tasks over and over again.
The beauty of permadeath is that it does away with all this. Characters grow and collect things, but then they become permadead, and it s time for a new explorer to begin their adventure. The only thing that progresses is you, the player, slowly learning a set of systems with each failure. At least, that s the theory. We spoke to the designers of Spelunky, Into the Breach, Dead Cells and Rogue Legacy to learn more about persistence within a permadeath mould.
Sexy Hiking was the original game about having to climb obstacles with a hammer controlled by a mouse. It was infuriatingly difficult. Back in August of 2007 Derek Yu, now known as the creator of Spelunky, wrote it up for his website TIGSource, saying "every new area seems totally impossible at first, and there is NOTHING THERE TO HELP YOU SAVE YOUR OWN GRIT."
This strange game about a cartoon man with floating hands was made by an enigma from Poland known as "Jazzuo". Jazzuo released a string of B-grade games online, small and ugly and odd things with control schemes that seemed designed by aliens. While rarely remembered today, they were an important influence on the indie games that would follow—most obviously Sexy Hiking's spiritual sequel Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy.
We asked Yu and Foddy to talk us through the strange world of Jazzuo, and B-games in general.
PC Gamer: How did you get into Jazzuo's games? What was the first one?
Bennett Foddy: I read about Sexy Hiking on Derek Yu’s TIGSource website back in, oh, 2007 or so. Even then it had been out for a number of years, but Derek revived it with this post. As he anticipated, it was an extremely controversial title in the TIGSource community. Adam Saltsman (of Canabalt and Overland fame) called it "the single worst game I have ever played". Honestly, at the time I dismissed the game, but it became something of a meme among indie game developers, and I never really forgot about it. Years later, I changed my opinion of the game when I showed it to my students at NYU, as part of a class on games by European developers, and I realized how timeless the design was.
Derek Yu: The things I loved about Sexy Hiking are what I assume people love about Getting Over It now—a unique and frustrating challenge coupled with a bizarre premise. Sexy Hiking does beat Getting Over It in one particular category, however, and that's the title. While "Getting Over It" is a good name and Bennett was, for a long time, considered an expert namer of games on the TIGSource Forums, I think even he would agree that "Sexy Hiking" is one of the best game names of all time.
BF: Definitely one of the best titles! Other than Sexy Hiking, the best ones are Sexy Hand and GM Golf. Be careful, some of his games are in extremely poor taste!
What are the most essential ones to play—what's 'the Jazzuo canon'?
DY: He created another game in 2007 called Hermies the game that was very similar in concept to 2016's Genital Jousting. I have no idea if the creators of Genital Jousting played Hermies, but either way it's proof that Jazzuo was ahead of his time. He made the game for the TIGSource B-Games Competition (which was partly inspired by him) and it won 4.5% of the votes but did not win the competition.
What makes Jazzuo's games so special to me is how raw they are. When I play a game by him or a similar creator, it always feels intimate and honest. As a game developer, it's tempting to start obsessing over polish and making sure the player has a nice, comfortable time, and his games are a reminder that we're also artists trying to express something of ourselves. I think Getting Over It is great because it brought outsider art to the masses in a respectful way. But it's still worth experiencing the original, since there are some aspects that can't be polished without losing something.
BF: People also talk very fondly about his Star Wars Episode VII, but it’s not online anymore and I haven't tried it. I recommend his other 'Sexy' game, Sexy Hand II, which is a golf game with a similarly unusual control scheme, and GM Golf which is like a fusion of Sexy Hiking and Sexy Hand. He made games that were completely unconnected to this series, but personally I think his experimentation with mouse controls led to the most timeless work.
Bennett, how did those students at NYU react to Sexy Hiking? And what is it you hope they get out of it?BF: They reacted in much the same way as indie developers did in 2007—they were polarized. Some of them became angry at it and refused to continue playing it, a few were captivated by it. I have showed so many old games to students, and honestly usually they can only take a dry academic interest because norms of user interaction and game design have moved on so much from the 80s and 90s. If they get really engaged in playing a game for enjoyment you know it must be timeless. Those games are really in the minority… obviously people still enjoy Mario and Mega Man, but it's a real joy to me if I can find timeless games that American students are entirely unaware of: Alexei Pajitnov's Shawl, David Braben's Zarch, Mike Singleton's Lords of Midnight.
What is it about Sexy Hiking in particular that appealed to you?
BF: I'm a big fan of messy, realtime physics puzzle games, going back to Elasto Mania (the original Trials physics game) and Ski Stunt Simulator. That's a huge area of inspiration in my own work. But more than that Sexy Hiking just makes a very arresting first impression; there's something really unusual about how it looks, even though the quality is very low. I'm a big believer in the power of games that have an original and powerful 'first screenshot'.
Sometimes people who make B-movies end up becoming almost folk heroes, like Ed Wood or Tommy Wiseau, but that doesn't seem to happen in games. We don't have the same appreciation for B-games we have for B-movies. Why do you think that is?
DY: Videogames are still young compared to movies and it takes time to foster that kind of appreciation. But Jazzuo is certainly a folk hero to a lot of people in the indie game community and there's a YouTube video of someone beating Sexy Hiking which has over 128,000 views as I'm writing this. Hopefully Getting Over It will keep bringing him to people's attention.
BF: Culturally we just don't recognize the individuals who make games, even in the cases of solo-authored games. Of course there are exceptions, like Jonathan Blow or the great Japanese auteur designers, but generally game reviews and previews don't talk at all about the designers, game players don't know who the designers are, and game designers work actively to make sure their identities are invisible in their games and sometimes even in the credits. This is one of the main reasons I decided to insert myself in Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy.
Jazzuo's a bit of an enigma, having disappeared from games entirely. Would you like to follow in his footsteps some day, just move on and leave a baffling legacy?
BF: Well, times are different, and I have given enough interviews now that I think people would have a pretty good idea of who I was and what I was trying to do, if I suddenly broke contact and moved to the mountains. But no, I hope to potter along making games, most of which will be pretty unpopular.
DY: I plan on staying in games for a long time, but I understand wanting to dissociate from the industry at times. I try to only read and interact with the parts of gaming that are positive for me mentally. I realize that I'm fortunate to be able to do so—not everyone has that luxury. A baffling legacy sounds awesome, though!
What are some other B-games you think are interesting?
BF: I think the other god of B-game development from Jazzuo's period is MDickie, whose magnum opus is The You Testament, a game about Jesus. Other than that, well… B-game is a pretty loosely defined term, which blends into other groupings like "kusoge", and I think the heart of it is games that are deliberately unpolished. I love Pajitnov and Pokhilko's Magnetic Crane from 1989, but it predates developers who thought of themselves as making B-games. I like that Cactus game Dungeon, and Messhof's game You Found the Grappling Hook. I love the Japanese B-Game Super Panda Ball, kind of like a B-game version of Zany Golf. And I guess even though it costs money, we could also count Justin Smith's Realistic Summer Sports Simulator, one of my favorite games of all time.
DY: I highly recommend checking out the work of Ikiki, MDickie, and thecatamites. If I had to pick a game from each to try first, it would be Nikujin, Hard Time, and Space Funeral, respectively. Ikiki's Hakaiman is also great and was a major inspiration for Hotline Miami.
What Works And Why is a new monthly column where Gunpoint and Heat Signature designer Tom Francis digs into the design of a game and analyses what makes it good.>
I love Deus Ex, System Shock 2, and Dishonored 2, and the name for these games is dumb: they’re ‘immersive sims’. If you asked me what I liked about them, my answer would be a phrase almost as dumb: ’emergent gameplay!’
I always used to think of these as virtually the same thing, but of course they’re not. Immersive sims usually have a whole list of traits, things like: (more…)
There are more wonderful games being released on PC each month than ever before. In such a time of plenty, it’s important that you spend your time as wisely as possible. Thankfully, we’re here to help. What follows are our picks for the best PC games ever made. (more…)
Welcome back to the PC Gamer Q&A! Every Saturday, we ask our panel of PC Gamer writers a question about PC gaming. Tim's answer is usually 'Hearthstone'. This week: which game would you take to a desert island?
Shout out to the enjoyable podcast Final Games, which asks this very question to guests every episode (which have included PCG's Andy Kelly and Samuel Roberts in the past), allowing them to pick six games. Here, though, we've just limited the selection to one game.
As ever, we'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments, too.
I've resisted the temptation to draw Samuel's ire by answering Hearthstone again, but I am going to assume the island has a working internet connection and pick The Orange Box. Between the infinite replayability, the sheer joy of Portal, and the no small matter of Episodes 1 and 2, I'm pretty sure I win on pure value.
Game? How about software? Depending on how ambitious I'm feeling, I'd take either Unity Engine or Game Maker Studio. Then, as I basked in the sun waiting for rescue for the next several years, I could finally see about getting around to building my magnum opus. And let's assume I have all the necessary tools for doing graphics, sound, etc. and that infinite power is available.
The game would be something cyberpunk, but the great thing about having a software development platform is that I wouldn't need to create just one game. I could dabble in all sorts of genres and make as many games as I wanted—or at least, as many as I had time to create before I was rescued, brought back to humanity, and became an instant millionaire with my wildly successful first indie release. Don't pinch me, I'm enjoying my dreams.
Is it weird to bring a game about growing food to an island where I'll be growing food to survive? Stardew Valley could be useful, reminding me when it's a good time to plant turnips or whatever. Plus, since I assume there's no wi-fi on this island, I'd be able to experience it properly. I came to Stardew Valley late so there was already a wiki full of advice on what gifts to give people and where they hang out at any time of day, which spoiled it a bit for me. I never had that experience of waiting outside somebody's door all day just to give them a fish they'd asked for.
Mostly I'd bring Stardew Valley because it would make me less lonely. That virtual village of people would be better substitute friends than a ball with a face on it. Spending time with them makes me genuinely happy. Just filling my dog's bowl, harvesting some crops and walking into town to check in with people lifts my spirits, straight-up sunshine injected into my heart. The only other game that improves my mood as surely as Stardew Valley is Blood Bowl, a game about football and murder, but let's gloss over that.
If I'm trapped on a desert island, escapism is going to be important. So I'd take The Witcher 3 and all the DLC. That's a game you can get lost in, and it's so impossibly huge that by the time I've finished it I'll have forgotten most of it, making it feel fresh when I start all over again.
And when I've absolutely exhausted the storyline and know every quest by heart, I can just focus on getting really good at Gwent. Maybe set myself a goal like beating every single Gwent-playing NPC in the Northern Kingdoms or collecting every card. That should rinse through a few years.
I'm just going to be honest: the only way I'd ever complete a Hell run in Spelunky is if I was trapped on a desert island with nothing to do but play Spelunky. Instead of telling you again why it's incredible, I'll just refer you to its #10 ranking on this year's Top 100, and its well-deserved Game of the Year 2013 award.
Really, even in casual dabblings with CK2, there's always something interesting happening, some curious and enjoyable little stories bubbling to the surface, some random events throwing a medieval wrench into the works, some massive battle or minor yet incredibly personal beef occupying your attention. Every session of CK2 feels completely different, even with the same starting country and scenario. If I can bring some of the full conversion mods along too, I'll never be wanting for great new stories and long-lasting memories. And I play for a few years solid with no interruptions, maybe one day I'll be so on top of things that my character won't be over their demesne limit.
I was having trouble with this one until Wes answered Spelunky. Which reminded me that, despite countless runs, I've never actually reached the bottom of Dungeons of Dredmor and killed Dredmor himself. A trip to a desert island would give me time to finish things once and for all. Plus if I can finagle mod support, or at least download the DLC, I may still never see everything the dungeon has to offer.
I'm half-tempted to pick an MMO I've never had time for, like The Old Republic or Guild Wars 2, but if I'm being honest with myself, MGS5 is the one. Missions play out differently each time, and the more hours you invest, the more tools you unlock to mess around with the enemies and their surrounding environment. Reaching S-rank on every mission would consume plenty of time, and while island life would be lonely, I could always pat D-Dog if it all gets a bit much.
But what about you, kind reader? Let us know below.
Spelunky is a perfect videogame—the perfect videogame, perhaps. Or at least, it is if you forget that the 2012 version shipped with a deathmatch mode. Not many people talk about Spelunky deathmatch, in which up to four players brawl on a single-screen arena, using bombs and ropes and shotguns and rocks to pound the ever loving spe-lunk out of each other. It's adventure mode's weird, less-popular friend.
I think I understand why: If you dip into the mode solo using the default settings, you’re fending off three erratic AI opponents, in addition to a laser target which roams the screen smiting anyone who stays still for too long. Oh, and the ghost: the dreaded ghost from the adventure mode turns up as well, so the whole thing just feels like a frantic mess to most newcomers. You’ll likely die within three seconds of spawning (no exaggeration) and then you’ll likely quit the mode three seconds later. It’s about as bad as a first impression can get.
But for the last two years at least, Spelunky deathmatch has been my bread and butter. I’ve played Nidhogg, Towerfall: Ascension, Sportsfriends, Videoball… and none of them are as good a couch multiplayer game. You may believe Spelunky’s finely wrought roguelike adventure mode was the modern classic, but nope: deathmatch is up there with it.
The first step to enjoying Spelunky deathmatch is to ignore its default settings. They’re crap. Turn off ghosts, turn off targets, turn off bots. Never, ever use bots. Then increase the amount of lives per match to 10. Then, increase each player’s bomb amount to 10 (just do it). Now you’ve got at least one perfect deathmatch game, but you might find other settings that work better for you.
The best thing about deathmatch Spelunky is that it inherits all of the complexity of its more popular sibling, while also demanding speed and reflexes the likes of which are rarely needed in adventure mode. For example, most adventure mode players know you can whip bombs to carefully nudge them into awkward places with more accuracy, but did you know you can whip away airborne bombs that have been lobbed at you? It’s tricky, but you can and you’ll need to, because being stunned is a death sentence.
Other tricks you might not use often in adventure mode become crucial in deathmatch, too: for example, learning to lob bombs with precision as an offensive attack, or just as a means to stun an opponent. Bombs are less tools of navigation and more automatic grenade launchers, and learning to predict their bounce patterns and trajectories is one of the first hard lessons you’ll receive—especially if your opponent has lobbed 10 at once.
Elsewhere, ropes are surefire ways to stun opponents from below; the teleporter is a neat portable telefragging device; and learning the maps and the best positions from which to lob bombs becomes more important than mere dexterity. Meanwhile, obscure items from the main game such as the shield—only found in a single hidden area in adventure mode—become powerful tactical tools in the deathmatch setting. Lessons that couldn’t vaguely apply to adventure mode (except map learning, of course) compose the moment-to-moment stouches in deathmatch, where having the baseball gloves, a jar of sticky glue and a full inventory of bombs can prove disastrous to your opponent.
Will the newly announced Spelunky 2 have a deathmatch mode? No idea, but I hope so. I wouldn’t blame creator Derek Yu and co for leaving it out, since it gained no traction in the original, but I reckon even the existing deathmatch mode could have its fate reversed just with a few tweaks to its default settings. There’s so much potential, and if it had online support that would be a dream. I want Spelunky deathmatch to be an esport. I want it to be on ESPN. It would make the world nicer.
Let’s assume for a moment that Spelunky 2 deathmatch exists: how can it improve upon the original? Aside from the obvious tweaks to its default game settings, I’d definitely include a level editor, and I’d be careful to remove items that are utterly useless in the mode (such as the parachute, as none of the maps are high enough to permit fall damage). Player spawns can also be a bit uneven and unfair, especially with four-players. Of course, we don't really know anything about Spelunky 2—its weapons, items, and so on—so apart from those elementary changes, it’s hard to guess at what else might be done.
Even Yu thought deathmatch was underrated, though he admitted he and co-creator Andy Hull were to blame. “I think it was because people just didn’t play it the way Andy and I did while we were developing it, where it was just much more tactical,” he told me last year. “We didn’t chuck bombs all over the place, we’d wait for that perfect opportunity and try to take out the person when they were vulnerable."
“I definitely don’t blame the players or anything like that," he added. "I think a lot of people do have a lot of fun with it, as a more casual thing. It may also be that adventure mode is more compelling than deathmatch mode.”
No, it’s not Derek. And while I’m at it, chucking bombs all over the place is totally a viable strategy.
Keep an eye on the Sony announcements during Paris Games Week, I said. Maybe From Software would pull off a remarkable double-whammy by revealing Bloodborne 2 and saying it’d be coming to PC and that a special edition of the first would be arriving on Steam tomorrow. Maybe Naughty Dog would stroll onto a stage and declare that they’d accidentally made The Last Of Us 2 in such a way that it’d only work on Linux. Anything seemed possible.
Except for an outta nowhere announcement that Spelunky 2 is in development. This is the best possible news because Spelunky is one of the greatest games ever made.