Before the boom of indie games on the internet. Before the explosion of retro-styled rogue-like-likes. Before gaming culture truly started its appreciation of hard games, there was Spelunky.
Spelunky is one of my most played games in recent years. Shockingly, I’ve never really dedicated any post about this gem of a game on this blog. I’ve never played the XBLA version, so I can’t say much about it. This post is going to focus on the original freeware game, while I keep hoping for a PC version of it to come out in the near future.
Even during the many situations in the last few years where I didn’t have a PC of my own, I still had a USB stick with me that had the game on it.
It was a tough love. Where most games try to explain to you as much to you as they possibly can before cutting loose and letting you go and rise up to the more challenging aspects of the game, Spelunky just throws you into the deep. You get a quick tutorial that explains the basic controls. And then, that’s it. The game begins.
What’s amazing about the way Spelunky handles this is that, besides having really smooth controls, that the basics of the game are incredibly intuitive. You can figure out how most of the monsters and traps work immediately. If you don’t, the game will punish you for your lack of knowledge or skill in a way that never feels unfair. Death is always your own fault, and if you’re paying attention and commit to the game, you will always learn something from the experience.
Like all good rogue-likes, Spelunky is all about learning in failure. If you can have fun in a game without being frustrated about your character being crushed in all sorts of ways, then Spelunky turns into a gigantic playing field.
Throwing around damsels, running on top of rolling boulders, finding the Secret Shop, killing enemies by throwing other enemies at them,jumping from explosive frog to explosive frog, killing shopkeepers with their own shotguns…
All things that, while incredibly fun to do, can bring you quick and painful deaths. But if you find ways to apply what went wrong into your playing style next game, you should get further and further into the game.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t get overwhelming. Especially at first. There’s so many different enemy types, different types of traps, different items, weapons, objects you can use to your advantages, gameplay aspects, things you can try if you just know how… Spelunky, although a short game if you know how to beat it, is packed with a gigantic amount of content.
Initially, it took me well over a month before I even got to the dark blue caves with UFOs. Not just because I sucked, because I really did, but I also refused to look up any help or online footage. Spelunky’s one of those games where I wanted to figure everything out myself. To this day, I still haven’t even beaten the game yet, as it’s never really been my main focus as of yet.
Originally I wanted to do nothing with online spoilers of any kind. At least, until it got streamed on one of my favorite streaming sites, Vinesauce. KY, a streamer with a passion for the game, streamed himself playing the game a few times. Every time he played, there was so much new stuff I learned about the game that I’d never even realized before. And this was at least 2 years after I’d initially started playing the game on and off.
Spelunky is one of those insane games that lets you do all sorts of insane things on a regular basis. At least, if you have the guts to do so. It even rewards you greatly if you pull it off. If you don’t, the result is usually a game over.
If you want an insanely in-depth article on Spelunky, you should really go and read this one right here from Critical Gaming Network. Even if you’re quite familiar with the game, you’ll be amazed by just how much good design you’ve been taking for granted while playing this gem.