Spelunky Review: Independent Gaming By Derek Yu


In my recent articles, I have mentioned several games known as “Roguelikes,” which are generally fully-designed, highly-detailed role-playing games with a dungeon-crawling aspect. Using numerals and letters in a computer system database, the player is the at (@) symbol who fights monsters and hordes treasure all in the vain hope that you will reach the end? Why I say “vain”, you may ask? Because Roguelikes are HARD. These games, not for the faint-at-heart, tend to set you up against monsters and monster hordes that whittle you and your resources down, in addition to insidious traps which degrade your equipment, lower you to different floors, and teleport you. You have to learn from each death, plan out each of your next moves carefully, and pray that the random factors of each game don’t screw you over.

This leads most people I’ve talked to about “Spelunky,” a independent platformer by designer Darek Yu, to ask a very simple and reasonable question; why am I talking about roguelikes, a completely different genre of games entirely, when referring to a platformer?

“Spelunky” combines the two genres so cohesively that neither genre is appropriate without the other. This Roguelike platformer puts the player in control of a nameless Indiana-Jones explorer, searching through caves and Incan-equse ruins for gold and adventure. Gold is a major resource in the game, as it’s carried over from each level to purchase items, weapons, extra life and shortcuts after a player reaches a certain point. As with all Roguelikes, this games’ platformer elements are not to be underestimated or taken for granted, as this game is HARD. At the start, your abilities are limited to really low jumping and wall-hanging, with more abilities that develop throughout the game. Monsters and traps cause damage with a very limited health, and there are more than enough ways to kill yourself in one hit. Hell, you can’t even stay on a level for too long, or else a “Bubble Bobble”-equse ghost will chase you down and kill you … and don’t even get me started on night levels. Despite all of this, this game is fun. You develop strategies to survive for longer and longer periods of time, defeat enemies of increasing difficulty, and continue to grab money and items as best as you can.


The graphics are generic, 16-bit work combined with upbeat and engaging music which the player could easily hum for hours. It’s charming to watch pixelized enemies explode into blood droplets, and the occasional ghost break into a thousand pieces after I die. However, after many subsequent entrances into the caves, the music gets pretty annoying to deal with, to which I thank Darek for a mute button. Also, the music just abruptly stops when you die, which just cements the fact you’re dead; insult to injury makes me unhappy.

All in all, “Spelunky” is a well-made game, with a consistent following. It’s a fair bit challenging for the average player, and includes new and exciting improvements with each version released. It’s a very addicting game; so addicting that you’ll wish you had more time to kill giant spiders than to play any other games in your library, and that’s after all the work you have! I feel sorry for you, but I can’t judge. I’m right there with you.

- Engaging atmosphere and gameplay keep the player coming back more and more.
- Consistently updated, the game is improving upon it’s mistakes every time, and adding new content and gameplay challenges.
- Death isn’t a chore; the multitude of ways to kick the bucket keeps the player annoyed, but entertained.
- A successful combination of genres has paved the way for new ideas to come forth as a new foundation. I encourage developers out there to follow in Derek Yu’s footsteps.

- You’re going to die. This game is very hard, and it likes to remind you of it every time you load it up. Be very cautious when playing.
- Shopkeepers. Fear them. They sell you stuff, but take revenge on a divine scale. Be prepared when you face one.
- Although I understand the difficulty is supposed to be pretty high, I find it a massive embarrassment to be beaten by things I have thrown, bouncing off walls and entering my skull.
- Derek Yu is really going to have to just up what he’s got next time he makes a game. “Spelunky” is a game that will keep you coming back and keep getting improved. Will he stay there forever?

Download “Spelunky” Here

Rating: ★★★★☆

“Spelunky” is an independant PC game that was originally released on 12/21/2008 and is still in its Beta state.

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