Spelunky has been around for over a dozen years and it's finally available for Nintendo Switch so grab your whip and let's descend.
For the unfamiliar, Spelunky is a roguelike that has you play as an Indiana Jones style character who descends through underground environments in the hopes of retrieving treasure. The thing is; nearly everything around him is trying to end his life from elaborate traps to deadly hazards and nefarious creatures to your own explosives; if you're not careful, that is. All of this forces you to gradually learn how to effectively deal with a multitude of tricky situations which boils down to one challenging and rewarding adventure.
Specifically, you'll end up memorizing enemy patterns, learning how to trigger traps without getting snagged, and becoming familiar with the variety of tools that you may come across on your expeditions. That leads me to one of my favourite aspects of Spelunky; its store. As you run and jump around while collecting treasures, you'll earn money which can be exchanged at shops for valuable items. Whether you're purchasing additional ropes and bombs, trying out a new weapon, or equipping a passive ability to make your travels easier; it's supremely rewarding to turn from a basic spelunker to a gun-slinging powerhouse who can jump higher, climb any wall, and stick bombs to surfaces. Of course, once you inevitably bite the dust, you'll have to gradually collect a new arsenal on your next attempt.
I enjoy Spelunky because it's a simple game to play at its core yet all of these complications manage to remain somewhat intuitive and easily-digestible. Having played Spelunky 2 last year, I must say that the original Spelunky is a much more enjoyable experience because the sequel simply felt cumbersome in its approach while nearly every aspect here is handled just right. Also, even though you have to start each run fresh, there are rewarding unlockables such as journal entries and shortcuts that make every attempt fruitful even if you merely make 1 measly discovery. Oh, and the collection of characters is excellent so meeting new chums is always a treat.
Another aspect that's impressive about Spelunky is its frantic multiplayer mode that you can enjoy with up to 4 simultaneous players. The single-screen battle arenas borrow the gameplay from the single player experience to make for some off-the-wall competitive multiplayer matches. Although it doesn't have the staying power of some full-fledged multiplayer games, you'll still have plenty of fun with it.
Of course, there are oodles of frustrating moments in Spelunky. For starters, success often relies on the luck of the draw. Some runs will have you discovering super-useful weapons and upgrades in the very first stage while other runs may end in a matter of seconds as an unexpected trap throws you back into a collection of spikes. Speaking of which, these instant-death traps can be incredibly discouraging, especially when one is undetected and proceeds to immediately end a good run so make sure you have loads of patience.
Spelunky is considered a classic roguelike for good reason. Its hazard-filled structure will have you constantly learning new tricks as you continue to progress further and further. In fact, it even remains superior to its recent sequel so I highly recommend giving it a go.
- + Rewarding gameplay with loads of elements that are fun to learn and master
- + Multiplayer is surprisingly fun
- + Lots of unlockables and treasures
- - Good runs are often dictated by luck
- - Abrupt deaths can be frustrating