QCF: Spelunky

I hate Spelunky. I absolutely despise and utterly hate this game. However, I cannot seem to stop playing it. This bastard offspring of Dark Souls and Super Meat Boy is the most punishing gaming experience that I have ever encountered, but it is so charming and on rare occasions rewarding. I say rare because of the simple fact that I die all of the time. With each new start, however, there is another path that may lead to the victory I so desperately need.  For a game to be as cruel and brutal as Spelunky, it is still a great game that has so much to offer just so long as the player has the fortitude and patience to see it through to the end.

This Xbox Live Arcade exclusive is actually an enhanced port of the free-to-play Flash game of the same name. At first glance this title seemed like a fun-loving, carefree platformer where the main character climbs down into the unknown to find his or her fortune. But once the tutorial has commenced, Spelunky begins to show it’s true nature as the walls of the mines shift and multiple enemies converge to put an end to the exploration. Each level is randomized so the player will never be able to truly anticipate what the next area will have in store. Each jump or rope climb can very easily lead to the character’s death, and true skill and having plenty of luck is the only way to survive to see the next world.

When the dust settles and the last ledge has been climbed in each world, we finally reach the elusive Tunnel Man. This gentleman is the only person who creates shortcuts to the beginning of the cave, allowing the player to quickly travel to each cleared world. He will ask for three items on three separate occasions in order to clear the way. "Heartbreaking" is the only world to describe the feeling that comes when the Tunnel Man asked for a shotgun to clear the way, only to find that the weapon was carelessly dropped several minutes before the meeting. 

The game is so deceiving, because graphically it seems like a love letter to the 8-bit platformers of the past. It’s almost as if Little Nemo crossed over with Indiana Jones, which in writing seems like the best thing ever. Even the music is catchy and enjoyable, such a contrast to the brutal hell of what the gameplay offers after each continue or quick restart. Cooperative play with three other players is also available through the adventure, or battling it out for all the riches in a free-for-all deathmatch. I would not dare play with other players in the adventure -- even people I trust wholeheartedly. I have experienced these so-called "cooperative" games in the past like New Super Mario Bros., and I know the possibility for trolling is extremely high, if not guaranteed. If I'm going to constantly be thrown into spikes or devoured by bats and yetis, I’d rather suffer the fate alone. But if you think your friends and families can be trusted, the cooperative aspects should be helpful throughout the journey.

For the player who loves a challenge, Spelunky is the game to beat on any platform. Even after dying over 300 times I still find myself going back to try just one more time to make it to the next world. Unless a miracle happens, I cannot see myself ever beating the game. Not for lack of trying, but just because I'm not skilled enough to take this challenge. I'll continue to train my mind and body to climb higher, run faster and jump farther to achieve the impossible. Mossmouth has certainly made their console debut an impressive one. I just hope that maybe the next game will be just a little bit easier. Perhaps I can buy DLC to help through just a few levels? Please?


Three.Five out of Five Hadokens



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