Spelunker is back and this PlayStation 4 version is better than ever. If you're new to the series and you love super-challenging retro 2D platformers then keep reading to see why you should give it a download. Oh, did I mention it's free?
If you're a fan of any of the previous Spelunker games (including the fantastic Spelunker HD on PlayStation 3) then you'll be pleasantly surprised to see that the core gameplay hasn't changed much. The most significant change is the level design which is more linear yet discovering all of the nooks and crannies is just as satisfying as ever. In the end, it's a well done balance of difficult platforming and rewarding exploration. Another feature that's streamlined is the online component which makes joining and creating your own sessions a simple endeavor. As of writing this, there are so many players online that I have yet to have difficulty finding people to play with. This is probably due to the fact that almost everyone playing is Japanese and Spelunker is a lot more popular there. I even got a few messages and invites written entirely in Japanese. I still feel bad I couldn't reply, but I digress. Overall, the simplified level design and ease of online play allow you to focus on having some old-school fun for up to six simultaneous players without anything getting in the way.
Paying for content is completely optional
Currently, the only paid content in Spelunker World consists of additional Moon Gems. However, this is entirely optional seeing as I've already amassed about ten dollars worth without spending a dime just by playing through the levels. A lot of free games have a currency that's only available if you pay real money yet Spelunker World allows you to earn the premium currency just by playing the game well. Anyway, you can use these gems to upgrade your character and such so I guess if you were to buy a load of them then you'd benefit significantly but you really never have to. You can also use them to continue if no other players come to your rescue in time which costs barely anything. To illustrate this, I've only had to continue a couple of times so far and I can still afford to do it about fifty more times. I'm very impressed how little pressure there is to pay for gems that it makes me want to buy some out of pure guilt.
Rewarding character growth
As you progress, you uncover Litho-stones that act as puzzle pieces. Once you complete a puzzle, you unlock the corresponding item. There are varying tiers of items to acquire so unlocking substantially better equipment will make you much more confident in your spelunking abilities. You also gain gold and experience points that allow you to purchase certain upgrades and level up, respectively. On top of all this, a huge list of challenges rewards you with additional gold and items whenever you complete one. If that's not enough then you can send your trusty dog out to find items for you after you give him a treat. There are so many ways to acquire a vast armoury of equipment that you'll be compelled to keep playing just to see what you get next.
Everything is dripping with cuteness
Spelunker HD wasn't that charming of a game. In fact, it was rather ugly. Spelunker World more than makes up for that by offering a large cast of adorable characters and animal companions. Unlocking new ones isn't easy so don't count on collecting many early on. After playing with loads of different players, I came across a chibi version of Lara Croft and another fellow who looked suspiciously like Cloud Strife. I'm not sure if he's in the game or if someone equipped their character with items just to look like him, but it was cool to see either way. Anyway, the characters' animations as they march to the next stage, celebrate victories, and even bite the dust are so cute that anyone with an appreciation for adorability will find it hard to hold back a smile. However, the cutest thing in the game by far is the animal companions. You can have an animal explore the caves by your side and they actually assist you in different ways. I've seen dogs and cats of course, but I also played with someone who had a parrot. How neat is that? The most adorable thing I saw was watching my dog jump to stand on my head while I climbed on vines. That made me want to punch a pillow it was so cute!
Spelunker World is a fantastic and free game that anyone who owns a PlayStation 4 and has a fondness for the genre should definitely download. If you do then keep an eye out for me so we can explore some exciting treasure-filled caves together!