Snake To Death: The Majesty Of Spelunky

The sum of RPS coverage of Spelunky: a single news post mentioning that it existed and was pretty good, maybe. Secret fact: If you read that post very slowly and in a totally silent room you can actually hear the sound of Kieron phoning it in. The closest thing to hyperbole in the post is him calling Spelunky ‘clever and neat’, which is analogous to calling sliced bread, uh, sliced, or saying that war is bad. I mean, what I’m saying is that the man’s an asshole. You dropped the ball, Kieron! The ball is currently rolling away from you! There it goes, rolling through the door to the old people’s home! You’d better chase it!

[We should mention that Kieron now promises to grotesquely murder Quinns analogs in his forthcoming comics – RPS] [Is there even an artist alive capable of putting that much handsomeness on a page? – Quinns]

Here’s the flashbulb, 1+1=highscore truth: In the dwindling field of PC games that have not yet and will not ever show up on a console, which is to say in the field of PC exclusives, Spelunky is… well it’s my game of 2008. So go play it!

A couple of months ago I said I’d write something about Spelunky for RPS and got as far as writing, uh, maybe 50% of… something. I had pretty big plans for it, plans I’ve completely forgotten since and so now have like a thousand words of the most unbelievable nonsense in a Google Document. Check this shit out:

104 deaths. 0 wins.

Obama’s in the corner. He’s on our big, powerful TV giving his inauguration speech.

“America… is… FUCKED”, he shouts, narrowing his eyes in hatred until the muscles around them become taught cords. I barely register. I’m whipping a snake to death.

“Oh, God. I can’t even. You know what? Fuck you guys” says Obama. “Best of luck in 2009. I’m outta here. I quit.” And with that he turns on a dime, ice cool, popping the collar of his jacket before walking slowly away from the podium. The audience falls into stunned silence. Out of the perfect stillness that the would-be president leaves behind a single shot rings out, our expensive surround-sound system capturing the noise in perfect detail. I look up briefly at the TV before returning my eyes to the game. Did it hit? He seems fine.

Yeah, I’ve got no idea. So I guess I’m starting from scratch. Deep breath time!

Here’s why, as a PC gamer, you should really know all about Spelunky:

Spelunky is a flawless marriage of two well established genres, okay? It’s a frothing alchemical mix clutched in the calloused hand of a beaming mad scientist- the upsettingly talented Derek Yu. This man operates TIGSource as well as illustrating, designing, coding and writing music for games that are his and his alone.

Spelunky is his attempt to take a platformer and blend it with the key elements of roguelikes- randomised levels, exploration, and a permanent need for caution due to the constant risk of brutal death that’ll dump you right back to the start of the game. I say Spelunky is an attempt- Spelunky’s not notable because it’s just some experiment. Spelunky is notable because it’s a /brilliant idea/ that, for whatever reason, exploded into the head of Derek Yu (maybe he took a trip to a cave that day or ate a particularly unforgiving sandwich) and he was just the kind of multi-talented, single-minded savant to not rest until he had that idea physically represented in front of him in the form of a freely distributed videogame. Honest to God, this guy is the videogame industry’s own Richard Miller.

As to why Spelunky is actually good… okay.

First and foremost, it’s a tight platformer. The premise is as perfect as you like. In the opening cutscene you see a lone adventurer arrive at a cave following a long trek through the desert. The fact that he’s alone and heavily equipped tells you everything you need to know- that he’s come here to explore the cave. When control is transferred to you there’s no need for the game to say another word. There’s also an instant attraction formed between the player and the character on screen both because there’s the underdog pull of this figure being so tiny and alone yet so determined looking and the emotional bond of neither of you knowing what’s inside the cave.

Your avatar controls perfectly for the challenges the game sets in front of him, the jumping, climbing, fighting or some combination of the three. The speed available to you and the fact that there’s like, 10 whole buttons to memorise means a lot of people dismissed Spelunky as fiddly (probably pronouncing it “fuddluh” because at the time their mouth was full of very unhealthy foodstuffs). Spelunky isn’t fiddly. A decent player will have that sprite doing what he wants to the pixel every single time. What Spelunky’s controls are is manic and precise. The speed that’s available to you, that run key that causes you to dash across the screen like a man possessed, is simply an option you have at all times.

So with the fact that Spelunky’s a neat platformer in mind let’s start looking at why Spelunky is absolutely not just some neat platformer thankyouverymuch, starting with level randomisation. The randomisation in Spelunky is vitally important for the exact same reasons it’s important in roguelikes. These are games about exploration, and a player can’t explore a space he’s seen before. An equally important part of the randomisation is that when it’s done well, like it is here, it eliminates most of the negative emotions of being dumped back to the start of the game with each death. There’s none of the Megaman style horror of having to play through all that crap again?! When you die in Spelunky you don’t have to retrace any steps, you’re not punished, you simply lose what you’d achieved which (just like in the best Roguelikes and arcade games) will always manage to get off the screen and right under your skin, and it’s horrible, and you’ll scream, and the world will stop turning for a second and your mother will ask you if you’ve done your homework and you seriously haven’t. But all of this happens with a minimum of frustration or annoyance. Because it’s you and only you who fucked up, there is no resentment. Once the dust settles the only thing left is a gnawing desire to kick the game’s ass right back.

This is real knife-edge game design, the kind of risky business for renegade mavericks that we’re seeing less and less of in the mainstream. You can draw any player further into your game by giving them something they can actually lose (an item, an NPC, or in the case of roguelikes absolutely everything), but you need to make sure the player feels like it’s their fault when they do inevitably lose what’s at stake. To safely give the player the emotional high that comes from succeeding when something tangible they care about is on the table, the tornado of emotional pain that bursts into life when the player does fail needs to be focused entirely inward- the player needs to be angry with themselves with minimal splashback on the game.

The way Spelunky achieves this is simple. First of all, it makes you achingly vulnerable. In most contemporary games you can fail. In plenty of those you can die. Spelunky’s a little bit different. Spelunky is a game that just fucking murders you.

In the first world alone you have to watch for spikes, snakes, bats, arrows, spiders, boulders, GIANT spiders, ghosts, bombs, skeletons and traps, all of which will silence the game’s soundtrack and dump you to a high score screen if you so much as dare to fuck up. Most awesomely for a game about travelling ever-downwards, there’s also falling damage. Derek Yu even pulls the dick move of coupling falling damage with you being knocked unconscious for a few seconds, your wheezing body a beacon to any roving creatures you happened to fall near.

But here’s the thing. Not one of these individual elements is that hard to deal with. Move slowly and traps don’t get you. Time your whippage right and you’ll vapourize most monsters. Jump to get over the spikes. Approach corpses slowly and if they leap up as skeletons you’ll be out of their attack range. If any of these obstacles ever get you, and they will get you, it’s because you were dumb and so the rage gets focused inward. The game’s lack of a big ol’ health bar is just as important- if you could take a lot of damage and keep going then when death finally came around you’d be left with a greasy taste in your mouth that it was the game’s difficulty, and not any one error on your part, that killed you.

Another interesting pose Spelunky strikes is the wealth of equipment and options it gives you. As well as your default whip attack you start with a limited number of ropes that can be thrown upwards and climbed, and a few bombs which can be either thrown or dropped in the name of killing, destroying or digging. You can actually throw just about everything in the game- rocks, corpses, chests. Then there’s all the gear you can stumble across- the pickaxe, jetpack, climbing gloves, pitching mitt, shotgun, teleporter, web gun, jumping shoes, machete, glasses, glue and much more.

But the thing about all this crap is all it does is gives you alternative means of interacting with a world that’s still unbelievably dangerous. All of this equipment is yet more elements to Spelunky that follow very clear rules and aren’t that dangerous unto themselves, yet are painstakingly designed to give you the opportunity to fuck up.

Take the machete, a bonus item you can stumble across. The first thing I did when I got it was go sneaking up to a spider the size of a minivan that was sleeping right next to a ledge I quite wanted to drop down. My plan was to cut that thing to ribbons before it could wake up, which it turns out was a flawed plan because the machete is /balls./ What followed was the scariest chase sequence I’ve ever experienced in a game before I was finally left staring open-mouthed at a screen showing this spider jumping up and down on my corpse.

My friend had an even better experience with the teleporter. Following an experimental trip shifting himself up into some open air he began zapping himself about in blind glee. The world was his for the taking! Not even walls could stop him! Ten seconds later he’d misjudged a jump and fused himself with the insides of a rock.

And while we’re on the subject I remember the moment I first realised you can set off traps with thrown objects. I saw an arrow-shooting face in the distance and, pleased as punch, threw my pistol past it to trigger the arrow. Yeah! What I neglected to notice was the snake pit just past the trap, although I did spot it just in time to watch my pistol disappear into it.

Anyway, so far so videogame. Now think this one through. You’re Derek Yu. You’ve just built a tight, randomised platformer with tons of freedom and plenty of juicy secrets that’s ridiculously tense and engaging through player vulnerability and the harsh penalty for death. The game’s tough but fair since the only causes of player death are idiocy, ambition, encountering something for the first time and just plain fucking up.

So riddle me this: What’s the move you can now pull to make your game addictive, satisfying and rewarding? What’s the move you can pull of to make the whole thing a rounded, desirable package?

No idea? It’s so simple! You litter levels with treasure and structure the whole thing around a high score. That way the player knows exactly how well he’s done at the end of each damp-armpitted playthrough, but most importantly it makes the entire game, a game that’s fundamentally about caution, reliant on risk-reward. Buried gems, protected idols, locked chests and loose gold nuggets all scream out at you as you make your way through levels where the only way to survive is to play it safe. Spelunky is like walking a tightrope with notes of money suspended by string on either side of you. A tightrope with cute 2D graphics and a great soundtrack.

Okay, that should probably be enough to make you sit up and play this fucking game properly, which means I guess I’m done. Although I will say that there’s so, so much I haven’t talked about for spoilers’ sake.

I’ve just noticed the Spelunky thread on the RPS forums is three posts long, which is a serious disgrace, with the saving grace that IncognitoGBG spends his post calling it one of the greatest achievements in the platform genre. Still, three damn posts. Fix this! Start comparing high scores and dumb deaths. Somebody cause a scandal by saying they’ve finished the game when they actually haven’t, or something. I’m going to make myself some coffee and then continue playing Resident Evil 5 co-op with my flatmate.

Hey, did you know Resident Evil 5 is fucking terrible? It is! It really, really is. It’s like Capcom hand-picked the entire team out of employees they knew wouldn’t cross a street that’s empty right up to the horizon until they were told to walk by the little green man. It is at least as awful as Spelunky is good! Go play Spelunky!


  1. BooleanBob says:

    I definitely agree with the thrust of the article – this game is a gem! But with some significant reservations. Ergo, an anecdote (sort of): I’ve managed so far to scrape enough money (and scrimp through the first eight levels enough times) to buy the shortcut to Ice World. Of course, although it feels like progress – much like the shortcut to Grass World – it’s completely useless.

    Why? Because as well as needing the 5+ hearts, handful of bombs, shotgun you nicked off the corpse of a shopkeep and springy shoes required to successfully navigate Grass World, you now also need a metric shit-load of ropes to have any hope of getting to the bottom of each level, because from here on in the randomiser will throw in many, many drops that exceed the fall damage distance, offering the player no other recourse or means to progress without a stack of (fairly expensive) consumables.

    The point I’m trying to illustrate is that while the first world gives a remarkable impression otherwise, this is not a “tight platformer”: there are several sloppy design elements that Yu still needs to address (I realise it’s still not a 1.00 release yet). The big drops are a bugbear, but in Grass World the player will already no doubt have been aggravated by the trees, the upper branches of which are some times inexplicably just out of jumping reach of the canopy, acting as an effective but oddly interactive barrier to any player who’s been too bomb or rope happy early on.

    Something else that really annoys me is that I have yet to see any mention in the extensive – for an indie game – coverage of Spelunky of the fact that the jump mechanic isn’t quite perfect, insomuch as you can’t sprint all the way to the edge of a platform and leap out towards another ledge – any attempt to do so will see our little tomb raider dashing lemming-like over the precipice, much to the player’s chagrin. Being able to eek the absolute pixelmost out of a platform en route to another is part of the platformer’s genetic (generic?) code, so how this doesn’t feel like an unexpected slap in the face to anyone who has ever tried a Mario Bros. game is beyond me.

    I don’t mind the perverse difficulty, or the ‘complex’ controls (don’t oft we revel in the complexity of PC games??), and anyone who uses either as a base point for criticising Spelunky is… well, I’ll say misguided, as I want to keep this polite. The randomisation does work wonderfully well; Yu has quite masterfully crafted this and all other game elements – enemies, powerups, level hazards and the interactions between each – to make a game ruthless but fair, highly replayable and fiendishly addictive. With a lovely aesthetic as well (if that’s a proper synonym for ‘music and spritework’; I don’t think it is). That it all stems from such a simple idea should be an inspiration for all us would-be, arm-chair designers and commentators. But when the game stops being fair, and presents scenarios where a great deal of painstaking effort can be wiped out not by the player’s ineptitude (however slight) but by punitive and unfair design, I’d expect to see those same industry and press types singing Spelunky’s praises to the rafters to be ready to point out areas in which it has yet to attain blissful, Messianic perfection.

    As an aside, I know this is just me being an over-sensitive, hand-wringing wussbag, but did anyone else pick up on a sort of… misogynistic vibe from this game? The way you can beat up on the damsels – I realise this is to provide feedback to the player warning them that these poor lasses have limited health, but the abandon with which you can whip them and their slapstick reaction (I’m sure the prone frame of the sprite has a black eye) seemed a little off-colour. And don’t get me started on the ‘kissing parlours’…

    (Edit: from Heliocentric’s suggestion above, it would seem that my quibbles are rendered rather moot).

  2. Benga says:

    giant spiders = grenade in the web beneath ’em! Kills everytime!
    I love the random 3 lines of plot generated everytime you start.
    Cant make it past level 5 yet :(

  3. psyk says:

    How difficult compared to I Wanna Be The Guy?

  4. Tei says:

    Complexity is a bad thing. Is like living on the desert. You need something else to show, really cool, to balance the problems of complexity. And there are people on the PC world, that is triing to streamline the interface, to make complex stuff feel simple. Often is just having context, and defaults that make sense. Like this textarea. You can make so [enter] send this textarea. It will be evil, and lame, … having [enter] just enter a newline it just make sense. Good defaults MAKE. You don’t need 8 buttons if you have 8 different actions that don’t mix, and the action can be read from the context. Thats how a lot of games work, a single “action” button, and everything else is context. You don’t need a special button on L4D to get ammo, a differnt one to use tha autogun, … I don’t know, but maybe the same button also open doors.
    I am commenting other comments, I have still to play this game.

  5. Helm says:

    This game is a gem, indeed. However it still needs a bit of balancing I think, mainly in the health mechanism. I finish the game in 100 lives after slaving away at 300 lives before simply by adopting techniques relevant to murdering the shopkeepers. The game isn’t finishable by me without doing that and I feel it sorta should be. I’m not saying it should be as easy, but it wasn’t even possible for a lot of months for me. The health scheme could stand some reconfiguration, but otherwise, best game of last year easily, yes.

  6. radomaj says:

    @Seniath: That just means one is insane in the membrane.

  7. Jahkaivah says:

    Spelunky made me realise just how much better Left 4 Dead could have been.

    Come SDK, where are you….

  8. Bas says:

    Psyk: this is a cakewalk compared to IWBTG. It’s still hard as nails though.

  9. Markoff Chaney says:

    I’ve been off and on playing this for months. Good fun, it is. Can’t beat a roguelike when you have a little time to kill and want to do some killing of your own. It’s still a bit stiff (Hard to put a finger on it, maybe I should try a gamepad one day) as far as its platforming, but it’s still great fun.

  10. Quinns says:

    BooleanBob: When I said Spelunky started with the structure of a tight platformer I was kinda referring to the weight, feel, timing and speed of the game. You’re totally right- there are still issues with the level randomisation (like the big drops, like the trees) that really need fixing.

    As to the level shortcuts, they were added in a pretty late version of Spelunky and my guess would be they’re a quick hack Derek threw together after seeing everyone whinge about losing their progress with each death. I could be wrong. In any case I’m not going to criticise them since most players can guess exactly what they’re paying for before they hand over their cash to the tunnel guy and we all happily pay it anyway.

    It’s just nice to be able to earn something permanent in a brutal game like this, even if (like you say) it’s useless. It’s one of the little touches that stops Spelunky from ever descending into heartlessness.

  11. Dracko says:

    Best article on RPS, ever.

  12. Quinns says:

    I know!

  13. BooleanBob says:

    Quinn(s?): Fair enough, really. The first levels are so good that it would be a shame were the shortcuts to make it advantageous to skip them anyway. Just wanted to add to the general sentiment in that I thought the article was a good read; the Kieron baiting was the parsley on the Vol-au-vent.

    I wouldn’t take so great offense at the Spelunky forum thread; from what I’ve gathered not many threads make it past three posts. The forum lacks a critical mass of users that would make it worth using, so no-one does, and besides, everyone knows the comments threads are where the real action is.

  14. Ian says:

    I got this now since I hadn’t realised before it’s all for frees.

    Oh. My. God.

    Best video game music for years. This is love.

  15. Meat Circus says:

    Instadeath is not fun, it’s just shit game design.

    Jesus, Quinns does go on a bit. I hope no poor fucker pays him by the word.

  16. undead dolphin hacker says:

    I deeply respect Spelunky but find it difficult to consistently enjoy for two reasons:

    1.) The controls. I had to dig my gamepad out just to make it moderately playable.

    2.) Dark levels. Most of the time I hit one of these I just give up. They suck. Light sources are poorly handled and it just stops being fun when the dark hits.

  17. Dominic White says:

    Meat Circus: There’s no instant-death trap in the game that can just arbitrarily kill you. EVERYTHING is telegraphed, and has a foolproof way around. If you know what you’re doing, it’s quite possible to consistently beat the game start to finish again and again. Death being sudden to the unwary is the cornerstone of the roguelike genre, though. There wouldn’t be the satisfaction for managing to dance your way through a trap-packed hallway otherwise.

  18. Ian says:

    I’ve never insta-died on anything I didn’t see coming well in advance and could have avoided if I’d been a bit more careful.

    Unlike Zangband (which I also like, in it’s own quirky little way) which killed the hell out of me all the time and I didn’t always know to see it coming.

  19. Meat Circus says:

    It still shouldn’t instakill you ever, where death is permanent.

    It’s just an ill-conceived thing to do, and makes games irritating. It’s remarkable how much excess, overwrought verbiage Quinns went to in an attempt to hide this irritation, but at core is a very bad game design decision.

  20. Ian says:

    It bothers me much more when I insta-die in something like Half-Life when insta-death means replaying the same bit of the game, possibly many multiple times if I’m being particularly hopeless.

  21. Wisq says:

    First time I found the woman, I didn’t know what to do with her. So I whipped her.

    She proceeded to run away shrieking, as I guess I should’ve expected. Eventually, she found herself in a one-wide pit, running back and forth. I felt a bit guilty and still didn’t know what to do with her, so I pushed a conveniently-located movable block above her. It fell into the pit from up high, and put her out of her misery.

    Only later did I realise you’re supposed to pick them up, literally. Oops.

  22. Ian says:

    I picked them up and was pleased to discover you can kill enemies with them.

    Although I sorta wish I had the “whip her and see what happens” story.

  23. Lambchops says:

    I like the game but I only wish there was an option for mediocre platform players. As much as I enjoy some 2D plaatformers I’ve always been a bit crap at them and as such the furthest I’ve managed to get is the first grass level (my tendancy to accidentally shoot shopkeepers with their wares whilst I peruse them probably doesn’t help!).

    It would be nice if the game had an option for shit gamers kids which gave double health just so the less adept player could progress a bit further.

    For a game which I know I’ll never complete i’ve enjoyed it quite a lot but ultimately it has just reminded me that it might be nice to play Aquaria again now that I’ve got a shiny new laptop.

  24. Lambchops says:

    No edit option! I must remember to close those tags!

  25. Dominic White says:

    Meat Circus: You what? You think he wrote this honking great article because he secretly doesn’t like the game, and doesn’t want to admit it to himself?

    Seriously man, have you ever played a roguelike before? Or even tried to win an arcade game with online one credit? It’s old-school gaming. Going for the high score, and seeking to better yourself each time. Not every game needs to be an inevitable progression towards a happy ending. Sometimes people WANT a challenge.

    People wouldn’t want to climb mountains if it was easy.

    And for those grumbling about the controls, they really are not complicated at all, you have:

    Arrow Keys (Movement/Look)
    Cycle Item

    And those are all the essentials right there. There’s a run button, but that’s only needed very occasionally, and a bunch of hotkeys to select items which you could otherwise select with the Cycle Item key.

    If 8 (9 at a stretch) buttons to control a fairly complex game is too much, I just don’t know what to say.

  26. Lambchops says:

    The deaths don’t (in my eyes anyway) really become irritating until you progress a bit in the game when you come across new enemies which you don’t know how to deal with and only have one or two health to deal with it. That’s the only time i’ve felt the game has becomes truly unfair. Sure the mechanics remain the same but you still need a little bit off leeway to learn how to deal with new foes. All it needs is a health boost at these sections to at least give the player a chance to experiment without death being a quick certainty rather than a crushing inevitability. I personally found myself winding up in what seemed like an impossible siyuation (on some vines with a couple of blue bouncy things on the other side and no way backwards). unfortunately because I didn’t get the chance to experiment I still don’t know whether it truly was an impossible situation or not.

    From what I gather from the thread you can get straight to these levels (I presume that’s somehting to do with the tunnel guy – with his arbitary charge for a shortcut – again another thing that would have been slightly galling if I’d saved up specifically only to have the toll rise next time I got there). I guess there’s an incentive there to try and get through the early levels strongly to earn it, get some experimenting done and then go back to the start again.

    However I’m probably just going to have as much fun as I can out of the first few levels, which should be quite a bit, before accepting I’m just not good enough.

  27. Gnarl says:

    Sigh. Another dull game with nothing I find new or interesting using the roguelike (similar to the Chewbacca) defence against instadeath.

    I even tried it again as Meat Circus didn’t like it, so it can’t be bad. But it is. Maybe I had some sort of stroke that killed the part of my brain that likes needless repetition, but I can’t enjoy this no matter how hard I try. Well, at least it gives others joy.

  28. Max says:

    The first time I tried Spelunky I found it fuddluh and frustrating.

    The second time I tried Spelunky I couldn’t stop playing. It’s one of the best independent PC games ever made and (dare I say) one of the best games ever made. I got my first win after about 460 deaths. Easily one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had gaming.

    I’m still playing it to unlock the secret rooms and beat my high score!

  29. DMJ says:

    I tried it last night and found it to be a particularly flavoursome soup.

  30. jay says:

    So much fun! So much pain!

    I love (hate) this game!

    Often changing every few days/hours.

  31. lesslucid says:

    Spelunky is indeed the best game released so far in 2009, and on track to be the greatest game ever created. Wimp out on it at your peril, dudes.

  32. Wulf says:

    @Gnarl: Maybe you’re more like MeatCircus than you realise.


    No, I kid, I actually enjoyed Spelunky but I couldn’t get away from the jarring feeling that it would have benefited from some system of lives, which can be replenished. After all, the best roguelikes out there, or the ones I liked the best at any rate, don’t actually rely upon instant death to be fun.

    What would fix a broken Spelunky is a system like this:

    – The player starts with three rejuvenation items as standard to give them a fighting chance and a feel for how the system works.
    – Rejuvenation items can be found as the player explores, but they’re often in ridiculously dangerous locations, or well-guarded, like the idols. In other words, adding a rejuvenation item to one’s inventory is always a risk in which the player might actually lose one (or more).
    – Rejuvenation items have to be willingly used by the player, and using a rejuvenation item costs the player 5 per cent of their score, so using too many, too often kills the player’s chance of having a decent high score. This mechanism would force a sense of scarcity upon the player, even if they had a lot of rejuvenation items.
    – When a rejuvenation item is used, the player reappears somewhere randomly in the level, so there’s every chance they could appear right next to something that’s going to kill them again.

    This would keep the game ludicrously hard, but at the same time it would remove the feeling that the player is getting annoyed with the game due to poor design choices, as opposed to anything else.

    Whenever I die and I lose everything without the chance to rectify that, I see that as a poor design choice, and it just kills my interest in the game, which is a shame because everything else about Spelunky I love, it really is some good, old retro fun.

    I admit, I’m an old fart and one of the games I’ve enjoyed most lately is Street Fighter IV (why oh why did I ever sell my Saturn… hurry up and send me my USB Saturn pad, HK person!), and I’ve been playing games since Elite and Manic Miner… the latter of which coincidentally Spelunky reminds me of, a lot.

    But you’re right about the instant death thing, it’s just something designed to convince a person with any common sense that the game designer is obviously a dribblingly insane person who’s not to be trifled with, and that their games are to be ignored with due haste. Even the hardest of the hard old home computer games wasn’t insta-death, and if it was then it was so crap because of that that I don’t remember it. Lesson to be learned, there.

    Potential in Spelunky though, real potential, and I’m tempted to mail Mr. Yu with my thoughts.

  33. Ian says:

    So are the anti-instadeath people against the actual instadeath itself or against not letting the player try again from a short period of play before they died?

  34. Senethro says:

    The instadeath people are against having to engage brain before leaping down a hole they haven’t looked in.

  35. SofS says:

    The shortcuts aren’t useless! I thought so for the longest time, actually, but then I got a win by starting on the last level set and fighting the boss with only my slightly depleted starting items. I’m not a very good player at all, but the game is fundamentally fair that way; with a bit of thought, a bomb or a rope can handle most anything that a better item could, and you start with four of each.

    I think I understand where the people against instadeath are coming from, but isn’t it a stretch to call it a “bad design decision”? It’s a design decision that has been carefully considered and implemented (hence the deep scoring system, the shortcuts, and the careful construction of algorithms that always give you a fair way out of an instadeath trap) and that defines the feel and play of its game. It results in a game that you might not like, but that’s a difference of taste, not a crime against some sort of objective measure of quality.

  36. Wade42 says:

    Not quite 400 plays, no wins yet, but I almost have the 3rd shortcut open… I play a bit carelessly, but that’s how I have fun.

    Things I wish the game did differently:
    – Allow carried items to be added to the Item Cycle rotation. That would make some of the nigh-useless items (machete, bow) a little more useful. Maybe limit to 1 or 2 extra items if it’s a balance concern.
    – Not a fan of the dark levels.
    – Would be cool if you could choose a non-quest item at the start.

  37. Jeremy says:

    This game is so awesome, reminds me of the old school Ducktales game.

  38. psyk says:

    Pretty hard to insta die when you have 3 lives only possible by landing on spikes or getting crushed by a boulder, on the first few lvls a least not managed to get past the forest cave (?) must ration bombs and rope.

  39. Strings says:

    Any criticism should definitely be ported over to the original thread or his E-Mail address. It can only help and make the game better.

  40. Serondal says:

    If you enjoy this game, as I do, I would also suggest Dwarf Fortress. There is a great adventure mode where you more or less so how far you can get before you are dismembered and torn to pieces along with your recruited shoulders. I can’t explain to you how much fun it is to hit a monster and watch it’s corpse fly through the room and explode against the wall when the game is all letters and numbers but it IS FUN! The lack of graphics makes your mind fill in the blanks , much like reading a good book.

    I agree with Psyk about rationing bombs and ropes! That is my major problem but like the review says that is MY problem not the games.

  41. Jeremy says:

    I have already died in so many fantastic ways, I love it.

  42. Serondal says:

    For those annoyed by instantly dieing over and over I submit the game N in which you’re a ninja running about try to get through a door or something. In this game you insta die ALL the time but you have to play the same level over and over again until you get it right, insanely annoying compared to exploring a new interesting level every time. This is just genious. Now if you’re a carebare and don’t like losing any game you play it won’t be for you obviously, go plays a game that auto saves every minute and lets you reload from your last save when you die. No challenge, you just batter your way through the levels dieing over and over again until you get it right, again very boring after a while.

  43. Bret says:

    But in N, you only get sent back a little. And you can figure out how to fix your mistakes and triumph.

    Here, one mistake and the game starts over, and, if you don’t know what mistake you made immediately, you never will.

  44. Serondal says:

    That’s a fair point ^_^ I guess you just have to be a little weird to enjoy perma-death games like this and DF and all those other Angband and Nethack type games.

  45. Jeremy says:

    Spelunky does a pretty good job of explaining why you die. For instance, a large Indiana Jones rock rumbling over you and crushing you to bits, or a huge spider that you accidentally threw a pot at, or a strange bloody altar that you thought might be interesting to blow up with a bomb. All end in the same way.. a mad dash, a missed jump, and lots of blood.

  46. Supertonic says:

    MP, I’ve got it running nicely in Wine, albeit in a ludicrously small window (thank fuck for compiz’s lovely zoom function). Yeah I know linux aint mac but I think you should be able to get it running somehow on a mac via the usual means. If it helps I have dx9 installed on my wine setup and had it run in a virtual desktop.

  47. Bhazor says:

    Nothing else to add ‘cept those spike statues can jolly well fuck right off.

  48. Greg says:

    This is wonderful – my game of the year, probably. Thanks!

    But… I can’t buy things. I press ‘p’ and nothing happens. How do I shot $$?

  49. Pulse says:

    Fuck Yeah SPELUNKY!!!

  50. chris says:

    You must me psyched that Spelunky is coming to XBLA