Game Reviews

Spelunky 1 & 2

The following review was written by Nex.

Spelunky or Spelunky HD is a remake of the classic Spelunky game. It was developed and published by Mossmouth in 2013 and took the world by storm. The game has influenced the genre and is widely considered as one of the best rogue-lite platformers ever.

Spelunky 2 is the long-awaited sequel. Made by Mossmouth and BlitzWorks and published by Mossmouth in 2020, the game builds upon the creativity and randomness of the first game and improves in practically all aspects. In my opinion, it was the best indie game of 2020.

In this review you will learn about the world of spelunky, hardcore gameplay, speedrunning, collecting gold, and much more. It might be a bit longer than usual, but it’s going to be worth it if you buy the game!

The World of Spelunky

As the name suggests, you are a spelunker (funnily named Spelunky Guy). You explore caves in the search for gold and find a mysterious journal. It belonged to a person named Yang (who also happens to be a spelunker). As it explains the basic mechanics through a tutorial, you realize that the cave is magical, and each death brings you back to the entrance, and the layout changes. This is known as procedurally generated gameplay.

You cannot explore the levels forever though. After a certain period, a ghost will spawn and follow you around until it consumes you. The Ghost travels slowly, moves through walls, and can only be stopped by exiting the level (or delayed a few seconds with a camera).

Every run starts the same: You will have 4hp, 4 bombs, and 4 ropes. Your only weapon is the whip. This means, your character doesn’t improve, there aren’t permanent bonuses, no cheats or tricks. The only thing improving with each run is your understanding of the game and your ability to play well. You will explore the world, acquire powerful items, earn gold, avoid traps, kill monsters before eventually dying.

Spelunky 2 has slight alterations but continues in the same direction. Its story describes a young girl named Anna and her dog Monty flying to the Moon in the search of her parents (Spelunky guy and Tina). The idea is the same, a magical cave where upon death you wake up at the start and begin your journey anew. The execution is far better, levels have multiple layers, aren’t as straight-forward and there are branching paths.

Spelunky

The Journal

Everything you do will be recorded in the journal. Every enemy you encounter, every trap you trigger, item you find, area you explore. Every death will also be marked as one in the journal, along with a small message of what killed you or how you died. The journal also keeps track of your success rate, fastest win, most gold collected in a run, and other important information.

Standard run

Your journey through spelunky will not be an easy one. Each attempt will begin in the mines, the starting area. You will face enemies like cavemen, spiders, snakes, and bats, as well as spike and tiki traps. Starting from level 1-2, which is the second level of the mines, a shop might spawn. You can spend your hard-earned gold here to purchase items that will help you reach the end. But you are a spelunker, you want all the gold for yourself! So you have to steal. Be warned though, shopkeepers hate shoplifters more than anything else. They are difficult to kill and starting from the next level, one will wait for you at each level exit. Killing shopkeepers is well worth it as they drop the shotgun, one of the most powerful weapons in the game.

Once you manage to beat the caves, you will find yourself in a jungle area. You will face even more powerful cavemen, the tiki warriors. They carry boomerangs and will kill any unsuspecting spelunkers. Other enemies include blue and orange frogs and man-eating plants that will kill you instantly.

The jungle

Past the jungle is the third area known as ice caves. Its unique enemies are yetis (which cannot be whipped) and aliens. This area might seem simple at first, but it’s quite tricky. Random explosions that you can’t influence will sometimes end your runs abruptly. Or you might drop down to realize the caves don’t have the bottom layer and you find yourself falling into a bottomless pit.

The final area is the Temple and it’s by far the hardest one. The powerful Hawkmen and Crocodilemen await you in the temple. As well as mummies, crush traps, scorpions, and lava pits. Each of the enemies has its weak point, learn them and use them often.

At the end of the temple, you will find the statue of Olmec. Olmec is the boss of the game. It will try to crush you if you are within its range. It’s intimidating at first, but once you learn how to kill him, he should be trivial. Occasionally he will spawn enemies that might ruin your plans, but you can always take a break and deal with them first.

Secret and hidden levels

Sometimes you might encounter a level feeling, that will be marked with a simple text when entering the level. They can be different depending on the area. In the caves you might get level with an increased number of spiders, in the jungle, there is a chance that there is a water section in the bottom layer, in the ice caves you might find a king Yeti and so on… There are several level feelings, try to find them all.

Some of these levels might lead to other hidden levels. Namely, the restless feeling might spawn a king’s throne which will open the haunted castle door, allowing you to explore it instead of the regular next level. Other times you might use a different tactic to get into the hidden levels as the worm or the mothership. These levels are difficult but have some of the best improvements in the game.

The game also has an alternate route and a true final boss. It’s a complex route filled with mystery and events that must be done in order. I am not gonna spoil it for you here. Go play and find out on your own!

Shortcuts

After reaching the next area for the first time, you will meet Tunnel man. He will offer to make a shortcut for you in exchange for certain resources. Long term these shortcuts will allow you to practice certain regions without repeating earlier ones. Note that certain achievements will not work when using shortcuts.

Unlockable Characters

In spelunky you start with 4 available characters with 16 additional ones to be unlocked, plus 1 extra hidden one (I haven’t even unlocked it myself). These characters are purely cosmetical and make no difference to the gameplay.  There is a random chance you can find them at any level in any run. However, some can only be found in certain levels. For example, super meat boy can only be found in the worm level.

Spelunky 2

The Basics

Spelunky 2 picks up where the original stopped. The essential gameplay is the same, the journal, new unlockable characters, shortcuts, even Olmec! Yes, Olmec appears in all 3 games.

You begin your journey in the dwellings this time and encounter your first boss as early as level 1-4. Due to lack of resources early on, you can either choose to kill him (he drops a small heal and a bomb bag) or simply skip him entirely and move on.

At this moment you are presented with your first pathing choice. You can follow the route from spelunky and go into the jungle, or you can explore the new area called volcana. The areas are vastly different from each other but each hides a special item you need for the alternate ending. That makes either route a potential correct choice.

Basic areas

After completing the second area, you will find yourself face to face with an old friend. Olmec is back, meaner than ever. He has some secrets for you in lower levels, so make sure to explore here. In this boss fight, you are faced with your second pathing choice. You can either go to the temple (similar to spelunky) or into the tidepool, the new area. Each area has options for the alternate ending, so it’s entirely up to you where you want to go.

Going through these areas will not be easy, but if you manage to do so, you will find yourself in the ice caves again. This is a mandatory area and has only 1 level, as opposed to the standard 4. However, this 1 level is very long and always features a back-layer section with the yeti king and queen.

Successfully traversing the caves will allow you to enter Neo Babylon, the final area of the game. You will be faced with traps, lasers, aliens, Olmites, and random explosions. Well deserved the hardest area of the game. At the end of Neo Babylon, you will encounter Tiamat. She sits upon her throne and summons enemies to her aide. She will prove a difficult opponent without resources or planning. Defeating her concludes a standard Spelunky 2 run.

As in spelunky there is an alternate harder path. I will not go into detail and let you find out how to get there on your own.

Major Differences

What are some differences compared to Spelunky? First of all, each level has a ghost jar now. You can break it to get a diamond worth a lot of gold, but it will also activate the ghost immediately. Another important change is that now you can get forgiveness from shopkeepers. Online Multiplayer should be fully functional as well.

Speedrunning

Spelunky and Spelunky 2 are very much perfect games to speedrun. It’s all about the skill of the player, his adaptability and quick thinking, as well as fast reflexes. Certain items allow for weird strategies, such as the teleporter. It allows you to teleport past walls, however, the exact range is random. With this item, the best speedrunners can complete the game in about 2 minutes.

The end? Or the beginning

That about does it for this review. Spelunky HD is one of my favorite games of all time, I recommend it to everyone. Spelunky 2 seems better in every way, but you can’t improve perfection. I still suggest you play it, it is amazing!

Minimum System Requirements:

Spelunky:

OS: Microsoft Windows XP, Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.8 GHz or equivalent, Memory: 2 Gb RAM, Graphics: 3d graphics card, DirectX: Version 9.0c, Storage: 200 Mb disc space, Note: Xbox controller recommended

Spelunky 2:

OS: Windows 10 64-bit, Processor: Quad-Core 2.6 GHz, Memory: 4 Gb RAM, Graphics: NVIDIA GTX 750DirectX: Version 11, Storage: 600 Mb available space, Note: Requires Full DirectX 11 support including a Direct3D Hardware feature 11.0 GPU

4 Comments

  1. As someone who has just beaten Spelunky 2 after 77.8 excruciating hours, I can say it is most certainly worth your money. Never have I found a game that has sucked me in as hard as Spelunky. Its tight platforming, brutal difficulty, and complex secrets make it one of the best games I’ve ever played.

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