Death comes often and quickly in Spelunky. Bitten by spiders, crushed by boulders, eviscerated by arrows, blown-up by bombs, spewed on by mummies, chewed to death by piranhas – the list of ways you can die is as long as they are funny to watch.
Indeed, just lasting for just five minutes in Spelunky is an achievement to be proud of – it can be finished in eight if you’re good enough – and it’s a testament to Derek Yu’s skill as a designer that when you do die in Spelunky (and you will) you never feel cheated over it.
If you are unaware of the original PC game on which Spelunker is based, allow us to give you a brief breakdown. Your aim is to simply explore numerous environments ranging from Ice Caves to Mines and Temples, while hovering up as much treasure as possible.
Each area is split into 4 levels, while numerous items can be found and bought along the way, which will make your survival in the dank caverns that little bit easier.
Aside from its extremely tight controls (which have been greatly improved over the PC original) Spelunky’s brilliance lies in its randomly generated levels, meaning it feels fresh and challenging every time you return to it. And it certainly is a challenge.
There are no save points in Spelunky, no respites, and even the ability to unlock level shortcuts is a double-edged sword, as you’ll rarely have the equipment to handle the tough challenges found on them.
Like Demon’s Souls though, you’ll learn from those many deaths, and will get ever closer to Spelunky’s end every time you return to it.
Should you get stuck in Spelunky, dropping a bomb will give you an alternate new route.
And you’ll certainly want to reach its end, as exploring the always-changing levels of Spelunky is a joy unto itself. Mossmouth has hidden all sorts of amusing and useful secrets in Spelunky’s cavernous innards, and it’s this discovery of the unknown that keeps you pressing ever forward; even when you’ve died for the fortieth time in a row.
Add in an enjoyable multiplayer mode that allows you to explore the caverns locally with friends, and Spelunky easily becomes one of the best platformers of recent years, and certainly the best on Xbox Live Arcade.
The new visual look lacks the charm of the PC original, but it’s a small quibble when you consider the utter brilliance found underneath. An essential platformer that sets exciting new standards for the genre.