Wot I Think Of Spelunky’s PC Port

By John Walker on August 13th, 2013 at 9:00 pm.

Update: Fantastic news! All the main issues below have now been resolved, so Spelunky is nicely at home on the PC.

First impressions are pretty important. Especially when you come sauntering over to the PC after a year of absence. Spelunky, beginning as a PC game, upped and left for the 360 as an advanced version last July. And it was brilliant. It’s now back, promising an even more advanced version for PC. So how is the transition?

Like I say, first impressions. And they’re not good. I know what’s to come after them – I’ve spent ludicrous numbers of hours playing the game on 360 over the last year, and have absolutely adored it. But since I’ve already got my working 360 version on my nice big telly, finding myself faced with a selection of resolution options that don’t offer my native desktop, fail to include 16:10 options, and don’t offer a windowed mode for anything over 1280×720, smacks of the laziest porting we’re used to seeing from big-name publishers who just couldn’t give a shit. Why would a two-man indie team come across like they don’t give a shit?

It’s hard to think of a game more obviously suited for a windowed mode. It’s a game played in short bursts, a roguelike built of failure, where rather than extended engrossing periods spent buried in its world, you’re much more likely to need to look away every five minutes. Doing that on my machine led to the PC having an epileptic fit as it flailed between resolutions, and after three switches the game gave up entirely. Great.

So instead, I try to run it in the largest window available, and I get THIS on my 2560×1440 display:

Er, brilliant. Does Oculus Rift do binoculars?

Yes, it’s a big desktop (which I got all cheap on Alec’s advice), but even on my more standard 1920×1080 second monitor it still takes up barely a third of the screen. So why wouldn’t I just load up the 360 version on the TV behind me?

Okay, get over it, move on. Let’s set up the PC controls, see what it can offer over the 360 pad.

Oh.

While your mouse will work for menus, it’s not an option when configuring controls, so forget any obvious notions of aiming your whip and thwicking it with the left mouse. Nor just plain using it as your other hand’s basic controls. It’s all keyboard, or all controller. So, the 360 controller then with its obviously vastly superior analogue controls. Again, why is this on PC?

So, run in a miniscule window, using the 360 pad, I’m not exactly getting the PC experience I’d hoped a year of potential porting time would bring.

The tortuously slow opening screens are still unskippable. You’re still forced to play through the tutorial the first time you run the game (or twice through if it crashed the first time).

But then, into the game, and… Am I… am I maybe falling out of love with Spelunky, too? Not because of some lazy porting, but maybe because since my dozens and dozens of hours playing it last year, I’ve experienced Teleglitch, Rogue Legacy, Don’t Starve… Games that run with the same imminence of death, but twist on it, develop it, enhance it. Spelunky, as pure as one could argue it may be, feels particularly retrograde from this year-on perspective. Its deliberately clunky (some say “precise”) platforming feels like the source of too many deaths, and its blank-faced disinterest after failure strikes now as lacking in features. Why not let me try the same set-up again? Why not give me a greater purpose in playing?

Yes, yes, you’re screaming at your monitor now. You’re right – that’s not what Spelunky is intended to be, and there’s no reason why it should have to deliver any of it. I’m a terrible person for even asking. But the reality is, as I’m playing it now, I’m asking.

The big difference between this and 2012′s console version are the daily challenges. It’s a lovely idea – the game randomly generates a series of chambers, and offers it to everyone playing. You get one go at it, and see where you come in that day’s leaderboard. I died in the opening 30 seconds because, as I went to get something to throw in front of a spike trap, I walked in front of another spike trap. I suspect that accounts for about 50% of my deaths in Spelunky. But amazingly, Dan Gril did even worse today.

Okay, so I just spent another two hours playing it. Spelunky still has that. That crazed need to play again, and again, and again. And I’m rusty, and I never got out of the first location today. But I kept going, despite swearing at the bats which are FIXED, FIXED I TELL YOU, and stupidly blowing myself up, and caring only about boomerangs – they are all that matter. Spelunky still has that.

But then the truth is, just as I was back in the swing of it, just as I was accepting that yes, there’s still enough here, I had to switch out to respond to an email. “Error loading texture pack” it informed me when I tried to go back. Yeah, I’ll play it on my 360, thanks.

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242 Comments »

  1. Hahaha says:

    So John is going full sterling now?

  2. Mr Peck says:

    The part about the lack of mouse-controlled “whip aim” being a sign of a bad port shocked me.

    Cave Story was originally a Freeware PC game with entirely digital non-mouse controls. A console remake without analogue controls was released, and the remake was later ported to the PC. It still didn’t have analogue control or mouse control.

    The same thing happened with La Mulana, and the same thing happened again with Spelunky. Does this make them all lazy ports? Were the original PC freeware versions of these games lazy ports too?

    If Mega Man 9 was ported to the PC, would it be lazy if Capcom didn’t give you 360 degree aim using the mouse? If Super Mario Bros was ported to the PC, would it be lazy if you couldn’t aim your fireballs with the mouse?

  3. trjp says:

    Couple of things

    It’s years since I played it – but from memory the original PC Spelunky has NO resolution options and is windowed-only IIRC? As it’s pixel-art – that’s not surprising – my guess would be that the ‘new’ version is also ‘pixel art’ but at XBOX resolution (1280×720)??

    The ‘epileptic’ fit your PC is having is because you’ve got a MASSIVE resolution on your desktop – changing res involves moving/resizing everything and reallocating a tonne of RAM. How well your PC does this will depend on how much free RAM you have (both system and GPU), what else is running on the desktop and what other processes are running in the background.

    Generally speaking, a PC which struggles to switch resolutions is a PC which is working a bit harder than you’d like it to be – e.g it’s upgrade time or you need to close some stuff down.

    More generally – this is why I avoid massive resolution monitors. Partly because you need a lot of GPU RAM, partly because some games don’t support their native res but mostly because some games will force a fixed-res and I don’t like playing games in a postage stamp.

    I have a 1920×1080 but my old 1440×900 monitor is still here because it’s got an analog input (that can force fullscreen for any res – then there’s my laptop :)

    • Mr Peck says:

      It’s a while since I’ve played the freeware Spelunky too, but I think it had x1, x2, x3 and x4 window resolution scaling options. Certainly nothing as high as 2560×1440.

    • Hypocee says:

      Thanks for telling John what a screen resolution is! I’m sure that helped. If we presume that he’s used a computer before and read the words, we’ll find that the game tried to switch back and forth between two resolutions for three cycles. This is not the same thing as ‘struggling to switch resolutions’.

  4. noodlecake says:

    No. I’m not screaming at my window. Why would I want to play a platform game with anything other than a 360 controller? I’m not a masochist. And I have a normal 1080p monitor so the res options aren’t an issue. The vector graphics are nice and I’ve wanted to play this on PC for ages and now I can. Not only that but it’s much sharper in 1920 x 1080 than it is at 720p on the 360, Sounds pretty good to me.

  5. Leebo says:

    Regardless of the fact that you are complaining about “the port” and not “the game”, calling the developers lazy and suggesting that if it doesn’t have your specific checklist of features it shouldn’t even be available on PC is unnecessary.

    I don’t have a 360. I cannot “just play it on console.”

    The game runs fine for me and most importantly… it exists. If it didn’t exist, sure, it wouldn’t be pushing your buttons with its disregard for PC gamer nitpickery, but I, and surely many others, wouldn’t be able to play it at all.

  6. Steed says:

    Hey, sweet, I have the Hazro as well (the stripped down version with one input and a power button). Lovely bitta kit, and a pleasure to play game is a big window – poor show Spelunk, huzzah Rogue Legacy

    • fish99 says:

      In terms of gameplay, Spelunky is a notch above Rogue Legacy to me. It’s faster, more skill based, the controls are tighter, the platforming better, the combat more fun, there’s way more mechanics to the game and unpredictable stuff that can happen.

      • noodlecake says:

        I agree. I think Spelunky is to roguelike platformers what super mario is to regular 2d platformers. Just perfectly executed and balanced.

  7. noodlecake says:

    As a PC gamer who never reads reviews for console games I am no wiser as to what the differences are other than the graphics between this and the original pixel art version. All I know is that you have to use a 360 pad (good) and that if you use a monitor that is an unusual shape then you won’t be able to play in an appropriate resolution without editing an ini file in notepad. Neither of these things would put me off buying it being that I can still play in a higher res than on a console and would always use a pad on a platform game.

    What makes this better than the free Spelunky?

    • mechabuddha says:

      I’ve seen new areas, new monsters, new character skins. There’s a daily mode, where you play the same setup as everyone else once a day to rank on a leader board. You only get one try. There’s a cooperative mode for up to 4 players, which is hectic in a Magicka sort of way. There’s a deathmatch mode for up to 4 players. Both of these modes are local only, it seems. Additional changes to the engine itself – it seems in the original version, events only occurred on screen. Off screen stuff was apparently simulated. This version seems to let events occur both on and off screen. There are also new graphics and music, which may or may not be a plus depending on your tastes. The controls are still just as tight, the gameplay just as addicting.

    • aircool says:

      Nothing… the square root of fuck all. With all the enthusiasm for this game coming to the PC, I was expecting something… well… good. I’ve no idea what the big fuss is about this game. It’s a shit platformer that’s no fun to play.

    • Hypocee says:

      One might expect a professional writer to put that in, for example, a WIT on the game rather than a remark on initial impressions of the porting job.

      But text is cheap. More enemy types, less-glitchy traps and physics, more variety and fairness in level generation, and an economic rebalance.

  8. QualityJeverage says:

    Even when I disagree with the author, I’m generally on their side as far as defending their right to maybe have an unpopular opinion, and to not get torn apart in the comments over it.

    Not feeling that way here though. This was one of the most worthless, downright toxic things I’ve ever read on RPS. What human is this useful to other than John Walker?

    Yes, I get that it’s Wot *You* Think. No, I don’t think that’s a cheat code that makes you immune to being called out on writing something dumb. I’m sure you’re a lovely person, and you’re damn welcome to write whatever you god damn want. Just like the rest of us are damn welcome to say it’s whiny garbage.

    • Hypocee says:

      That’s nice. Not practically verifiale, but nice if true.

      People who don’t like buying games that crash, or who use hybrid control setups, or who care a lot about lost minutes of their lives.

      In fact, you’re not! ‘Welcome’ is a gift word, not something you can meaningfully claim for yourself without looking like a tool.

      • lovcol says:

        Haven’t seen it crash. It has “hybrid control setups”. It doesn’t take very long to get ingame.

  9. hart says:

    Just an aside: I was able to use ShiftWindow (google it) to make Spelunky play in fullscreen windowed, but it doesn’t have the nice anti-aliasing you get when playing in fullscreen. Might be fixed with graphics driver settings, but I’m not inclined to find out.

  10. HybridHalo says:

    Recent Update :

    Quickstart option added that will let you skip from the intro straight to the Adventure Mode entrance
    Graphics settings menu added with more robust screen options (every available resolution offered, separate windowed toggle)
    Special effects and dynamic shadows can be set to “low” or “off” on the Graphics menu
    Saving is not multithreaded anymore to prevent rare save loss
    You can now exit completely from the game via the pause menu
    Tried to address crashes related to resolution changing
    Framerate drops caused by last update should be fixed
    ESRB logo removed from beginning of game
    Volume settings now affect audio that plays before you reach the Main Menu
    Keyboard controls now display properly on the How to Play menus
    Ninja character no longer has visible ears in his climbing animations

    Ding!