Spelunky Review

By Alex Rubens - Posted Aug 01, 2012

Spelunky is a brilliant 2D cavern explorer that reminds us of the old days of gaming, where one foul move spelled the end of that run and the complete restart of the game that you had worked so hard on. It isn't for everyone though, the difficulty can be infuriatingly hard and means that some players won't ever make it to the later levels.

The Pros
  • Beautiful 2D graphics
  • Difficulty will be welcomed by fans of hardcore gaming experiences
  • Multiplayer deathmatch is very fun
The Cons
  • Spelunky can be extremely frustrating
  • Multiplayer is local only, there's no online

Spelunky Review:

In a world lacking beautiful 2D explorers, Spelunky is a shining light at the end of the tunnel signaling that there is hope. That isn’t to say that Spelunky is for everyone though. It’s brutally difficult and will have you screaming in frustration when you are killed and see the taunting ‘game over’ screen. If you have the dedication and patience to enjoy the challenge, Spelunky is one extremely rewarding experience that teaches us to slow down and soak in the game world around us.



A relaxing day with Spelunky

If you’re looking for an easy, relaxing 2D platformer, Spelunky isn’t for you. It isn’t made for casual gamers, or even hardcore gamers. Spelunky is perfect for the Demon Souls-loving masochist gamers that love the challenge of figuring out why they died and how they can do the whole thing over again. Though it is still easy to enjoy if you aren’t that type of gamer, it just requires a different mindset that you might not be used to.

You play the part of an explorer who finds a cavern while wandering through the desert. Once he enters this cavern he finds that he isn’t the first to discover this wondrous place, and quickly learns of its secret through the diary of the explorer before him. It details the caves ability to change constantly, resulting in randomly generated levels.

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Seriously? I died from that?!?

It doesn’t take much to die in Spelunky. You start with four hearts at the beginning of each game that account for your life throughout the entirety of the game. Once you run out of hearts, the game is over and you have to start again from the beginning. There is a Damsel placed throughout each level though, and if she is brought to the exit alive, she’ll reward you with an additional heart.

Don’t let that fool you into a sense of false security though, as you’ll lose hearts even faster than you’ll gain them. The treacherous levels are filled with enemies and traps looking to take your well-earned hearts. The randomly generated levels provide difficult paths to the unknown endpoint that are filled with spiders, bats, snakes, and a half-dozen other enemies all looking to end your life; or at least distract you so that you run right into an arrow trap.

Perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects of Spelunky’s levels is that you can’t look beyond your basic field of vision, so you never know how far a drop actually is. I don’t know how many times I fell too far and either lost half of my hearts or fell right onto a pile of spikes, resulting in an instant death. However, this did teach me to explore alternative paths, using bombs to blow away chunks of dirt and ropes to reach new areas of the map.


Spelunky the Explorer! Go Spelunky, Go!

It’s all about exploration, but you can’t take too much time either. After a certain amount of time, your character says that they’re getting chills down their spine and a ghost appears on screen. The ghost slowly chases you around the level until he finally grabs you and sucks the remaining life out of you, or you can make it to the exit unscathed. It changes the pace very dramatically and increases the stress level exponentially.

Once I saw that ghost coming toward me, I seemed to forget all level of caution and aim to get to the goal as quickly as possible. While it worked out for the best some of the time and I was able to make it there without losing any hearts, I found that more often than not, I end up losing most of my hearts or dying all together. It’s a major incentive to not spend too much time looking through every nook and cranny of the level and actually make it to the exit.



Spelunky is fully playable with up to three other players as well, but the downside is that it’s local only, so there’s no online play. That’s a huge oversight considering how well the gameplay suits a quick online match. There’s four different characters unlocked from the start and they take on a different color if you choose the same one, so you shouldn’t have to worry about getting them mixed up.

There’s also a competitive deathmatch mode that is just as wonderful. Again, it’s local only, but that doesn’t stop it from being extremely fun. Matches generally take less than 30 seconds to complete and feature non-stop bomb throwing until things have cooled down enough to attempt to grab one of the weapons. Things get really hectic, really quick, but it all balances out and works wonderfully in a party atmosphere.


Is Spelunky for you?

If you aren’t sold on this yet, then Spelunky might not be for you. It’s catered to a very specific audience of gamers who are looking for more of a challenge in their games. It’s been around for years on the PC, but 360-owners are receiving the best version of Spelunky that you can buy. Spelunky is a beautiful 2D platform-explorer meant to trick you into thinking that it’ll be easy and fun, that isn’t a knock against it though, that’s part of it’s brilliance that makes it so much more satisfying to conquer.