One of the most popular platform games to ever hit the Xbox-Live-Arcade, Spelunky just celebrated its re-release on PC with a new version on Steam and DRM-free version on GoG. After being released for free on the PC in 2008, then re-created and released on the Xbox-Live-Arcade (XBLA) by Mossmouth, it's become clear that people are loving Spelunky. It makes time melt as if it were nothing; don’t be surprised if you stop playing and you have to wake up for work in 3 hours. And don’t mistake the shiny graphics and cute sprites, either. This is a game that will give even the most seasoned gamer a run for his/her money (literally and figuratively).
Spelunky is a Rogue-like game, a term coined from the game Rogue released in 1980. Similar to its fellow Rogue-like games, Spelunky is completely randomly generated. Every time you load up a new level, you are met with a new challenge and a new level to die on. Make no mistake: you will eventually learn all of the small nuances and irregularities that follow with playing the game for extended periods of time. With experience there is no limit to the small tricks that you can develop and combine with your own play style. Of course, you will only figure this all out after dying over, and over, and over.
Spelunky has a difficulty likened to Dark Souls; you'll likely be surprised when you embark on your first perilous journey into the depths of a mysterious cave you know nothing about, and when the first three of those steps end with your character skewered on a pit of spikes... you'll begin to taste the obsession.
With the new release on PC, Spelunky has undergone plenty of changes: graphical updates, more fluid controls and a new shiny polish smeared all over the rest of the game, but it leaves me with the overwhelming sense that it just might be too polished.
There are hundreds of ways to die in this game. To list just a few: poison shooting snakes, falling spiders, being crushed by oversized boulders and teleporting into walls. With the plethora of ways to kill yourself in the game, whether it be by throwing a rock into a wall and having it smack you across the forehead or having a spider you didn’t see fall on you from above the screen, there is almost no room for error.
While there are plenty of people on the most popular streaming sites like YouTube & Twitch playing Spelunky at any hour of the day and making it look like it is an absolute cakewalk, it boasts the question: is this game too difficult or is the average player just inexperienced? With the randomly generated levels, the seemingly endless ways to leave your character spouting 16 bit blood pellets and the constant temptation of gold bars and gems scattered around players are assured two things: hilarity and death.
The revamp of the XBLA version on PC has most certainly done itself well, and then some. The controller support for Spelunky is effortless and extremely fluent and the addition of Daily Challenges exclusive to the Steam edition offers even new players the opportunity to compete globally or with friends each day on the same maps, leaving no room for the 'You got lucky!' excuse.
And yet, the fact remains: Spelunky is often too difficult, especially for the average player. Though there are four unique areas to explore (not to mention several hidden ones), most players won't move much further than the Jungle before giving up entirely.
How about you? Do you think Spelunky is too difficult, too easy, or just right? Join in on the debate in our forums here.