Welcome back to Spelunky. Prepare to die. Again. And Again.
I discovered the original Spelunky about a year ago and it promptly captured my attention for a good couple of months, combining action similar to Super Meat Boy and the procedurally generated destructible environments not-unlike Minecraft. If you know anything about me from past posts or our podcast, you’d know, I was instantly hooked. So when I heard Spelunky was getting a refresh and coming to PS3, I was pumped.
Spelunky is a rogue-like platformer where the player is trying to descend in to a cavern to find the secret Aztec/Mayan/Alien treasure. Each time you play, the cave system is entirely different, with secret paths, weapons, tools, enemies, and traps. When you die, and you will, that’s it. No extra lives or any redo’s. When you restart, it’s an entire new world generation. This is great because it makes each playthrough fresh (ala Minecraft or The Binding of Isaac, though it should be noted, the original Spelunky came before both of these titles).
The updated PS3 release has some significant improvements over the original title including revamped graphics, tutorial elements, tighter player controls, additional items/areas/content, local multiplayer, and new game modes. I’ll touch on some of these below.
FYI, I haven’t beaten the new Spelunky yet, but I’ve beaten all of the old one. Based on my experience so far, I expect the new game has all of the old elements and more. Don’t expect any big spoilers here.
Improving on the Original
With fate guiding my every move,
I dismounted my camel,
And thought of her one last time.
Spelunky’s goal is never explicitly stated in the original game. Only a randomly generated three line monologue (example above) gives any purpose to the player character’s intentions. This remains in the new version, but is augmented with a tutorial character named Yang who clarifies details about the great treasures that lay in the caves below. While the tutorial was largely unnecessary for me, the commitment to the underlying narrative helps to draw the player in… Yang’s “notes” got me this far… will he be waiting for me at the end of the journey? Just another mystery to add to Spelunky’s lore.
Overall, Spelunky is the same old PC game, refined. Notably, subtle control queues have been changed, like crawling onto ropes/edges not dropping a held item. Using a controller is in itself a huge improvement for the game. On PC, the game was unplayable on the keyboard due to the complexity of the controls, so I self-configured a PS3 controller. My control scheme was similar to that of the new version, but the PS3 version nailed it. No more unnecessary item cycling!
New items, enemies, and areas have been added to the game as well, many of which I haven’t found yet. This is cool because it gives long time fans a reason to come back to the new version, but nothing I’ve found so far seems to beat the old jetpack/shotgun combo. The Teleporter item is still bogus, often glitching you into a wall for no damn good reason. Fuckin’ teleporter. In terms of new areas, I once found myself inside a spaceship, where I promptly died horribly. New challenging areas like this are why I keep coming back.
Perhaps the most important feature is the Quick Restart button. Upon death, you can immediately start a new game (no load screen, etc.) by pressing Square. Boom. This is great for the game because often I die unexpectedly and the adrenaline from that shock/anger doesn’t get a chance to wear off before I smash Square to start another game. In short, a brilliant design decision bound to fuck up my sleep schedule for weeks to come.
One final feature to touch upon is local multiplayer. This is for me the weakest new feature, but I’m glad it’s there regardless. Up to 4 players can play together, but only locally. This is cool, but it would be amazing if the game were online, allowing me to use my headset (or not?) to communicate with teammates. My other peeve with this feature is that the first player is the “primary” player, the one the camera follows, with all others having to stay on his screen or they die in like 10 seconds. This combined with players being able to hit each other makes the mode seem unlikely to yield successfully reaching the end. For example, how could one ever use the jetpack, if the other players will get left behind to die? That said, when a player dies, they become a ghost who can subtly help the remaining survivors, which is cool.
If you’re reading this, you’re not playing Spelunky. That should bother you.
I praise the new Spelunky for taking a great original and refreshing in a way that both veterans and new players can get the most out of. It’s a worthy purchase at any price, and it’s out on all kinds of platforms (XBox 360, PS3, PS Vita, PC), so go play it already.
Berg rates Spelunky: 9/10
What do you think of the new Spelunky? Want more reviews like this one? Stroke Berg’s ego and leave a comment below!