Spelunky – Exploration and death go hand in hand. But in a fun way.

Spelunky

Spelunky has finally arrived on the PSN, after first making its debut on PC and then moving to the Xbox 360.

A spiritual successor to Spelunker, Spelunky is a 2D platformer from Mossmouth in which you take your unnamed explorer and set him off through a series of caves in search of adventure, treasure, and damsels in distress.

In your way stands a host of dangers. Bats fly down from the ceiling to strike at you. Spiders from small to giant drop overhead to deliver a lethal bite. On the ground, you have snakes, scorpions, and the occasional walking skeleton to contend with. You can encounter cavemen and crazed gun toting shopkeepers. And those are just some of the living menaces.

You also have to contend with perilous drops and sharp spikes waiting to skewer you. Try to steal the golden idol, and a large boulder comes rolling through, a la Raiders of the Lost Ark (one of the explorers you can choose to play as even bears a passable resemblance to Indiana Jones). Accidentally damage a sacred altar, and Kali can unleash its wrath in the form of a swarm of spiders. And then there’s a ghost who haunts the area, bringing instant death if it gets you in its clutches.

As you can tell, you will die a lot in Spelunky. Making things even worse, when you die, you lose everything- all of your equipment, your treasure, and you’re put back to the start of the game. It sounds foreboding and unforgiving, and it is. But it’s never unfair. And it’s never the same twice.

You seespelunky3, each time you die, the game randomly generates a new environment, changing things up. This keeps things fresh, since you will die often, and keeps you from having to traverse the maze in the exact same way. Paths change, the location of the all important exit shifts, and so do all of the hazards.

Each area contains four stages, at the end of which you meet the Tunnel Man. For a price (funds get more difficult to procure as you advance through the game) he will make a shortcut, so you don’t have to always start at the beginning. Getting there is half the trick, though.

The environments are nice yet simply detailed and varied, taking you through a mine, an underground jungle cavern, and an ice cave, among others. Each area has hazards particular to its environment. The mines have bats and arrow traps, the jungle has leaping piranhas and deadly Tiki statues, and you’re bound to encounter a yeti or two in the ice caves.

For all of this danger, how does the game play?

It plays quite well, in fact. Deaths are rarely cheap, and you get a variety of equipment to aid you in you journey (among them bombs and ropes, as well as boots with springs, guns that freeze your foes, and even a boomerang). You start each stage with four bombs and four rope coils. Find a shopkeeper in the stage, and if you have the money through the treasure you’ve found, you can purchase these and other items. Just don’t anger the shopkeeper, or he will go off on you, generally resulting in yet another way for you to die.

As you encounter each enemy, trap, or item, your journal logs everything, making each trip through a learning experience and each death adds to your knowledge of these mysterious caves. Find a damsel in distress and get her to the exit, and you gain an extra life for each one you save. You can speed through each stage, but exploration can be quite rewarding.

The game also has a somewhat silly sense of humor, and its cartoony graphics lend a lighter tone to the otherwise grim dangers you face throughout. Some may be put off by its difficulty, but if you take your deaths in stride, Spelunky can be quite addictive, always spurring you on to just one more try. It’s simple to learn, yet challenging to master, making this platformer well worth your time. So go and explore.

Know that you will die. And have fun every step of the way.

 

8/10

Thomas Juretus

Born in 1963. Enjoy videogames, movies, comics- anything that tells a story. Have written three novels (The Zarchler Chronicles Book One: The Cassandra Crisis, Shalgroth The Zarchler Chronicles: Book Two, Madman's War The Zarchler Chronicles: Book Three) all published and available through PublishAmerica. Currently working on my fourth book, a sci-fi/murder mystery.

Thomas Juretus

Born in 1963. Enjoy videogames, movies, comics- anything that tells a story. Have written three novels (The Zarchler Chronicles Book One: The Cassandra Crisis, Shalgroth The Zarchler Chronicles: Book Two, Madman's War The Zarchler Chronicles: Book Three) all published and available through PublishAmerica. Currently working on my fourth book, a sci-fi/murder mystery.

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