The Emotional Highs and Lows of Spelunky


The Emotional Highs and Lows of Spelunky

Overall Rating
  • Difficulty
  • Replay Value
  • Graphics

Are you having one of those rare days where everything seems to be going right? A day where you feel like you’re on top of your game and you can’t lose? Well, if so then DON’T play Spelunky because Spelunky can CARE LESS about how great you think you are. Spelunky laughs at your false confidence. In fact, Spelunky is here to bring your ass back to reality, grab your smiling face, and smash it into the muddy ground over and over. Only after it’s smashed your face into the mud 15 or so times do you realize that isn’t mud on your face, its feces. Then and only then is Spelunky satisfied.

If you couldn’t tell from my rant, Spelunky is hard; unapologetically hard. I couldn’t tell you how many times it took me to pass the first zone. You will die, A LOT, and every time you die you restart the level all over again. Joy. To take a little of the monotony out of the equation Spelunky’s levels are randomly generated. This means every time you fall on spikes, get attacked by a bat, eaten by a piranha, shot by the store keeper (yup, even NPCs designed to help you will kick your ass if you’re not careful), and die any of the other 100’s of ways possible, the level changes and the experience is slightly different.

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When I first heard of Spelunky I said to myself, “Oh hell no!” I even reiterated this sentiment on the first episode the first ever ProGameReviews pod cast. You might be wondering why I would think this without having even played Spelunky. Well friends, the reason is that it sounds a lot like another sadistically hard game from my childhood called Spelunker. I’m not sure if the creators of Spelunky were inspired by Spelunker but I can tell you this, they are both really honking hard and take either a great deal of patience or a great deal of medical marijuana to keep you calm.

OK fine Krampus, we get it. Spelunky is hard. Now stop whining and tell us about the game already.

OK, but don’t come crying to me after your hundredth death tough guy . As previously mentioned, Spelunky is an indie rogue like platformer developed by Derek Yu. The game was originally released on PC but has since received updates and ports to the PS3, PS4, Vita, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

You play the game as a Spelunker, exploring caves in search of treasure. Your default load out includes a whip, a few bombs, and a few climbing ropes. I say default because through the course of the game you can acquire other interesting items to help you on your way. You can also pick up and throw pretty much anything that’s lying on the ground or blast your way through most obstacles. As you traverse each level you’ll encounter all sorts of traps and monsters designed to ruin your cave exploration by breaking you in two. As I mentioned in my rant section above, in Spelunker when you die you start back at the beginning of the zone. However, each time you perish and return the level will be entirely different. This mechanism is one of the things Spelunky does best. The world changes each and every time you play it giving it a fresh feel. The level design, items, and enemies are all different each play through. This fact is the biggest reason you’ll most likely keep playing Spelunky rather than throwing your controller or Vita across the room in frustration. Well that and the fact that PS Vita’s and console controllers aren’t free.

The Graphics in Spelunky are actually really well done. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t Unreal 4, but the pixel art is colorful and detailed. For the most part, I played Spelunky on the PS Vita and you know what? I actually prefer playing the game on the Vita rather than the PS4. The game just feels better on the handheld, like it was made for a mobile experience. The game also felt more responsive on the Vita. I felt an odd lag or impreciseness when playing on the PS4 I did not feel on the Vita.


Spelunky also offers two different local multiplayer modes: Death Match and Co-Op. I finally had the chance to play with two friends recently and it is an entirely different experience. In Co-Op, multiple people can play through each level together. Where the single player experience is slow and calculated, the multiplayer experience is much faster and free flowing. You see, the thing with multiplayer is you can kill each other. So instead of dozens of computer controlled enemies trying to kill you now have to deal with your friends “mistakenly” whipping you and throwing bombs at you. The end result of Co-Op is the same as single player though; get the loot and make it through each level without dying. If anything, multiplayer seemed a little easier then single player just for the mere fact that even if you die the others can continue on and beat the level. Whoever makes it through then has the opportunity to open a coffin and resurrect one of his fallen comrades.

If you thought Co-Op was fast and funny wait until you play death match. Death match pits each player against each other in several small arenas. You can set different variables and timers and even include computer controlled bots. The action is super quick and matches are usually decided in 30 seconds or less. It’s really an entirely different experience and a much welcomed change of pace if you happen to have a few friends over and have enough controllers.

A Gamers Opinion

As hard as Spelunky is I didn’t come away from the game hating it and I don’t think you will either. There’s a good amount of variety to be had in the game. Throughout your explorations you’ll run into merchants, damsels in distress, sacrificial alters, and tons of other things that will make you laugh in surprise or curse in anger. You’ll discover different way to circumvent problematic situations (read RUN AWAY) and eventually learn to look before you leap. After you die 1000 times you start to become numb to it and begin to actually appreciate the ridiculous ways in which the game can and will kill you. You also have to appreciate the level of detail and imagination put into Spelunky. There are tons of interesting little things the developers came up with that you’ll discover throughout your adventures to keep things fresh and entertaining. In the end, if you can tolerate its difficulty, Spelunky is a pretty good game and worth a try.

The Good

  • Entertaining multiplayer experience. It really becomes a different game when you have the opportunity to play with or against others.
  • Great level design.
  •  Very polished game. I had a hard time trying to quantify this thought but here’s what I mean. The game is packed with little things that will make you pause and say, “nice, that’s pretty cool.” You’ll most likely play this game for a while and continue to find new things every so often. In short, the game will surprise you continually if you give it the chance.

The Bad

  • This game is HARD with a capital H.
  • Multiplayer is limited to local play. This is unacceptable at this point in my opinion. The multiplayer in Spelunky is great but since it’s limited to local play there are many people that will never experience it.
  • Even though the levels change after each death the theme of each stage remains the same. This limited the replay value for me. Since you will be stuck in the stage for so long the experience eventually starts to feel stale.

About Krampus

Gaming has been a passion of mine as long as I can remember. I started playing PC games while many of you reading this were probably still sucking your thumbs. I grew up during the birth of home computing and the the great console wars waged between Nintendo and Sega. My magazines of choice were Nintendo Power and EGM. Needless to say, I've been a part of the gaming community for a long time and bring this experience to my reviews and articles here at ProGameReviews.

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