Friday, April 10, 2009

23 reviews: Spelunky

Name: Spelunky
Author: Derek Yu
Version: 0.99.8 (oh so close to final)
Platform: Windows
Price: Free!
Players: 1
Website(s): Official topic thread, Direct Download(8mb), Spelunky Wiki
Video: Featured

So, it might have seemed like I ran away forever, like a drunken and abusive father who you barely know, but no, I just drank myself in to a stupor while wasting my money on strippers, only to eventually remember my bastard child and decide to visit again, just to ask for more money... metaphorically of course. In reality, between school work, games, and just being lazy, I haven't posted, but now, after months of waiting, here is my almost decent review of Derek Yu's highly addictive and exceptionally fun game Spelunky. Oh, and before you continue, if you decide not to read my rambling and seemingly intoxicated opinions you might just want to skip to Rock Paper Shotgun's great article on this little gem. Anyway, if you're still reading, I have no idea why you would, here's the review:

Title screen, and I'm on top!

Spelunky is what might happen if you squished Mario, Indiana Jones, and Awesomeness into 8mb of pixels and chiptunes. Take the dungeon exploring, cult killing, gem stealing ruggedness of the Indiana Jones series (the earlier ones, that is) and mix it with the frenzied risk taking, goomba jumping, coin collecting cuteness of Mario and you've got the basis of a Spelunky. In Spelunky you are a small spelunker (explorer of caves) spelunking (exploring caves). Why is not completely clear, but what you do know is that there is gold and gems for collecting, traps and creatures for avoiding/killing, maidens for rescuing and a door at the end of the level. Now Spelunky is slightly deeper than this, but as far as story line goes this is about it.

What makes Spelunky special is how it handles gameplay. Spelunky is a very challenging game. This isn't necessarily a negative. Unlike newer games which handle difficulty by kicking you back a few minutes or even hours of gameplay, or by not punishing you at all, (20cc says: I'll have a lot of this is talk about if I ever get around to reviewing Prince of Persia) or like back in the NES days, when challenging meant memorizing levels so you wouldn't get caught by unexpected surprises, and if you died too many times then oh well, back to the beginning for you. You could say Spelunky is more like older games in that when you die you go back to the beginning, the very beginning, but it isn't really the same beginning as before.

Instead of making you memorize each level, Spelunky forces you to actually become good at the game. How do they do this? Randomly generated levels. And it does it pretty damn well. Every level is unique. Unlike some platformers that tell you to jump there, avoid this, kill that, Spelunky makes you figure it out. You have to decide for yourself, "How am I going to get to the exit." Now this may sound simple enough. Plan out an escape route and go with it. But you can't see the whole stage, only a certain section where you are, and while you're exploring there's tons of baddies and traps to take away your 4 points of life. To add to the mayhem, you only have 2 minutes and 30 seconds to complete each level before an invincible ghost comes out and kills you. Yeah, did I mention that Spelunky was tough? (You do get items and weapons to help you on your journey though, I'll let you find out what and how).

Me getting hit with an arrow trap as i fall to my death on some spikes... yeah, you'll see this screen a lot
(btw, that's the damsel in the upper right corner, and that red stuff is blood)

*minor spoiler alert* Every time you die you lose everything, except for your highscore, your death/win count, and your shortcuts. Oh, what's this? Shortcuts? Yes, well, instead of rewarding you for exploiting cheats to find shortcuts (like Super Mario) Spelunky makes you earn them. See, Spelunky is split up into 4 areas, each with 4 levels. The shortcuts, which cost lots of money (probably at least 4 playthroughs worth), will give you special doors to the beginning of each area. Now for the other part of what carries over: Your highscores are made up of your amount of money, kills, and maidens at time of death (not necessarily all in the same session). I'll post a picture below for the highscore room. You might notice the doors, those are minigames (supposedly) that open when you achieve a certain level of awesomeness, (time game is completed in, kills in single session, and highest amount of money at any given point) and yes, the game can actually be won. You might also notice that I have died over 400 times and have not won a single game, but that's okay, because Spelunky is so fun, and every time I die it's either because of recklessness, a mistake, or a new enemy in a new area that I didn't know was deadly, but I get a little better and (hopefully) get a chance to give more money to the shortcut guy, and maybe ever get a new high score!
408... 409...410...When will it stop?!?!

I'm sure you'll have a great time with this game. It's challenging, but rewarding, and every time you play it's a new experience, you're exploring an endless chain of caves, and slowly getting better at it. This game has a strange addictive quality. It never gets boring, and there's always something new, so you won't mind wasting large quantities of time on it. This game isn't perfect, some of the random level generation is strange (such as the damsel being created in a contained square around a spike trap, making it impossible to save her) but mostly it works pretty well. In most of the levels you can reach the exit without using a single bomb or rope. And the traps are comparatively fair, because the enemies can be killed by them too.

Bottom Line: download this game, it is well worth it, before you know it you'll be hitting 100 deaths and might even still be stuck on the first area. Don't be discouraged though, like any good skill, you just need to practice. I'm highly looking forward to the final version of this game and maybe being able to talk to the creator; Derek Yu (I have yet to contact him), who has also made Aquaria; a completely different, but yet good, game.

Alright, I guess that about does it for my rant/review. Hope your eyes didn't burst in to flame, and if they did, you can't sue me. Next up: Finally getting around to compiling the Venbrux interview, and maybe a review of Gish, once I beat it. Keep on gamin'!

P.S. I finally beat Spelunky!!!!! The ending was kinda neat, I won't ruin it for you, but after viewing the credits it kind of gives you an accomplished feeling, as well as being impressed by how few people made it (there's about 5 people total in the credits, excluding the beta testers). I shall post my new stats here: Me: 1 Spelunky: 719

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