Posted: November 1, 2013
Spelunky is an exquisitely designed hybrid roguelike/platformer that is simple to learn, but very difficult to master. Often a single mistake from certain death, you must depend on your own skills and knowledge to progress through the procedurally generated caves, uncovering the treasures and secrets that lie below. Death comes often, especially to newcomers, but every death is a learning experience that improves your chances of survival in subsequent attempts.
Spelunky is a game that is simultaneously merciless and fair. Even with multitude of threats you'll face, almost every death you experience is preventable and the result of poor judgment or a lack of skill. All of Spelunky's mechanics and enemies follow a persistent and predictable logic, each element a tiny cog in a massive interlocking machine. Learning about the inner workings of Spelunky's world is necessary to venture into the deeper reaches of the caves.
Those that are looking for an easy game to breeze through should look elsewhere, but those that desire a game that will test their skills as well as the speed and accuracy of their decision-making will likely enjoy Spelunky. Like many roguelikes, the initial difficulty is very high, and may be offputting to some, but those that persevere will be rewarded with an incredibly satisfying game that has nigh-infinite replay value and keeps even experienced players on their toes.
Below is a short story inspired by Spelunky, which may give a potential player an idea of how the game plays and what I find so appealing about it.
/----After carrying both the valuable golden idol and the defenseless pug to the exit, I turned back to recover the shotgun that I had left on a perch high above, but partway through my journey, I felt a shiver run down my spine, and the air grew cold. It seemed that I had overstayed my welcome. Seconds later, I spotted the translucent spectre effortlessly slipping through solid wall, approaching me with single-minded determination. Having dealt with this ghost many times before, I was undeterred. I grabbed my shotgun and nimbly weaved my way through the twisted caverns as the sluggish spirit fell behind. However, as I neared the exit, something caught my eye: a lone supply crate sat at the end of a corridor, begging for its contents to be revealed. My desire for treasures overwhelming my senses, I made a dash for the crate, and within it I found a parachute. “Hardly worth the effort”, I muttered as I turned towards the exit, but as soon as I began to make my way back, I realized what a terrible mistake I had made. My unnecessary detour had allowed the ghost I had previously danced around with such confidence to corner me. I scrambled to blow open an escape route, but the walls that surrounded me were too thick, and the fuses on my bombs too long. Realizing the inevitability of my fate, I turned to face the approaching phantom and awaited its deadly embrace...
...And as quickly as I felt my life being sucked away, I woke up at the cave entrance, no worse for wear. After taking note of my own death in a dusty old journal and etching another tally mark into the nearby stone wall, I journeyed yet again into the mysterious caves below, tightening the grip on my trusty whip as the surrounding rocks and dirt shifted under my feet. “This is the one” I assured myself as I entered an abandoned mine with renewed determination and a newfound respect for the ghost that haunts the caves below. “I just know it.”----/