Remember those “impossible” games that came out in the NES era? I’m talking about games such as Battletoads, the ones that made you grit your teeth as you pushed through them, just for the sake of getting to the next level. Well, that era has returned with Spelunky, an HD revision of Derek Yu’s indie release for PC. Though the updated graphics may throw off those expecting a retro appearance, there’s no question that this is an old-school gaming experience through and through. You’ll have a ball with it, provided you’re prepared for what lies ahead.
Putting you in the shoes of a miner/explorer, you’ll work your way through a series of randomly generated dungeon areas, using a few bombs to blast your way through areas while also collecting treasure and defeating enemies (well, some enemies, anyway) by bopping on their heads or blowing them up. As you go further into the game, the challenge scale picks up heinously, resulting in you dying – quite often, at that. It’s just part of the thrill of learning what Spelunky has to offer, though. The patient will truly persevere. Everyone else will go looking for the “easy” option in the menu system.
There’s nothing wrong with Spelunky’s gameplay. In fact, it’s a little more balanced than you’d expect for an old-school platforming adventure. Not only are there some great tactics to learn here, but there are also items in the environment that can easily work for or against you, depending what you do in a stage. One minute, a rock can come crashing down on enemies, giving you a clearer shot at the next room. The next, that rock becomes your worst nightmare when it crushes someone you were intending to save. Who says you should have things easy?
With its various rooms and infinite replayability with the “never the same level twice” approach, Spelunky definitely sits in a league by itself. But, again, it helps if you’re fully prepared for it, because you will die often – especially by the time you get to the ridiculous final boss. If you’re looking for something to do outside of that, the game does offer a four-player local co-op mode, though it’s only fun for carefree party sessions, not serious players looking to move forward.
While Spelunky has updated from the original 8-bit-style version, Yu and his team have done a splendid job with the game’s presentation. The graphics, in all their HD glory, are excellent, with solid animations and plenty of colorful enemies to encounter and secrets to find. The caves look great too, even if their terrain tends to repeat later on in the game. As for the music, there are some awesome tunes, as well as a few that you won’t have a problem skipping, just for the sake of sounding like elevator muzak.
For a ten-dollar download, Spelunky will give you your money’s worth, especially if you grew up in the NES era, where no Mega Man was ever too tough for you to tame. Though the multiplayer mode is somewhat unnecessary and the difficulty pushes way too far forward at times, there’s value to be found here. Like the main hero, you just gotta dig for it.