Spelunky is a game I have complicated relations with. Being an impatient and frankly incompetent gamer, I get angry at games that go out of their way to ruin my day, but there’s something about the original that didn’t make me mad. Ok, it did, but the feeling wasn’t lasting, and I kept going back to it again and again. Did I go far? Not really. Did I have a good time? I don’t know. Was I hyped for the sequel? You bet.
And boy, do I have a revelation for you: this one is even harder! It’s also more polished than the original. You can see the love and dedication of its creator, who aimed to make something that feels both fresh and familiar. But before we go on describing just how many times we died, let us take you back to 2013 and explain just what kind of game this is.
Like the original, Spelunky 2 (now finally out for Nintendo Switch, where I’ve been playing it for the last few weeks) tells a story (if you can call it that) of a spelunker who gets lost in seemingly never-ending underground tunnels. After a while, a dark and unwelcome caves make way for something else — something even deadlier.
In short, it’s a 2D platformer where everything wants to kill the player. It’s unforgiving (you can’t save anything) and unpredictable due to levels being generated anew after every death. So, it’s hard, but it’s also very rewarding. Every death gives you a clue to what you were doing wrong, and every new meter of unexplored world gives you idea of what’s expecting you next. Knowledge is indeed power — it’s better than any weapon you can buy at the in-game store, and there a lot, believe me.
Am I bad at this game? Extremely. Am I a good guide for a new player? Not at all. But I’m what you’ve got, and I am here to tell you why this game is actually quite good. Excellent, even.
Like I mentioned, it’s what you call a roguelike — a game where saving is not an option. You go in, you die, you try again. After a hundred tries or so you might discover a whole new area. It’s quite a feeling, let me tell you! Spelunky 2 is all about discoveries: a new monster to kill you, a new tool to use, a new world detail you might have missed. Even a glimpse of something unseen brings you real joy, and you feel, despite the simplistic graphics, like an actual spelunker on an alien world.
Spelunky 2 is also about freedom. It’s bigger and badder than the original, and the cast of monsters and traps has been massively expanded. It feels like an actual living world with its own twisted rules: a mole will try to eat you, but might just die in the process without your involvement. A caveman will charge at you and impale itself on spikes. Water and lava can and will kill you if you aren’t fast enough: new physics really add a whole new level of horror. Oh joy.
I can describe Spelunky 2 in incredible detail, but really there’s no point. You either feel it or you don’t. You either want to be stuck in an endless loop fighting for scraps, or you don’t. But even if what I described sounds unpleasant, trust me, you’ve got to give it a chance. Even though the roguelike genre has been overdone to death since 2013, there’s a certain quality that allows Spelunky to stay in a league of its own. It really is a lightning in a bottle, except that Derek Yu actually did it twice, the madman. You’re not supposed to do that!
As far as sequels go, Spelunky 2 is a rare instance where the fans have absolutely no reason to be salty. It retains all that’s made the original great and adds fantastic new features. If you loved the first game, this one will make you very happy.
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