I have a terrible memory, which is sometimes an asset. It means that every now and then I get to experience a jolt of joy when I remember that Spelunky 2 is a thing – a thing that I’ve little doubt will take over my life in the same way that both the original freeware and the remaster did. If you somehow haven’t played Spelunky, you should know that it’s a 2D platformer that sits atop the throne of systems-driven roguelikes, capable of spinning story after story from parts that click together in masterful ways. You should also know that I envy you deeply, because I’d give up a lot to play Spelunky for the first time again.
Except I just remembered, I sort of can! Spelunky 2 was announced at last year’s Paris Games Week, with a trailer that gave away very little. So little, in fact, that any murmurings from lead developer Derek Yu on the subject count as news in my book. He recently murmured all over the Tone Control podcast with Fullbright’s Steve Gaynor, and said a little about how becoming a father has shaped development.
First up, here’s Yu comparing Spelunky 2 to the way Super Mario Bros handled its sequels:
“Spelunky 1 is totally done. It feels to me like a complete package… I think about it kind of like Super Mario Brothers 1. People say to me ‘Oh, Spelunky feels to me like perfect game’, and I understand what they mean. I think a game like Super Mario Bros is perfect, and you don’t want Nintendo to just keep adding to it. You don’t just want them to make Super Mario Bros one, you want them to make Super Mario Bros 2 and 3 and all the way to Odyssey, right? I think it’s the same thing with Spelunky 1. I do feel like it’s perfect with all its imperfections, and with Spelunky 2, I want to extend upon the Spelunky world and upon all the mechanics in ways that I don’t think I’ve seen before, and that fit more uniquely within Spelunky.”
Which all makes sense, and doesn’t tell us anything we wouldn’t expect anyway. Here’s a little more along those lines:
“With Spelunky on Xbox, we had the freeware version as our blueprint. So I could be like, ‘Is it going to be like the freeware version in this aspect? Let’s do this, like from the freeware version, but let’s change it a little like this. Let’s add this to the game – it’s going to fit in with the rest of the game in this way, and then pointing at the freeware version for that, too’.
“And it’s very similar to Spelunky 2 where we have Spelunky 1, and where a lot of the times, I can be like, ‘This part of Spelunky 1 I would like to extend, or this part I would like to replace with this’. It’s a lot of figuring out what makes Spelunky really Spelunky. What’s the core that we really want to pull out.”
When asked about how the trailer suggests the protagonist is going to be the daughter of the main character from the first game, Yu had this to say:
“It’s strongly implied, and people know I’ve talked about my family life a little bit, being a dad, and how inspirational it’s been…and that’s been a big influence. Obviously my daughter has been just a big inspiration on me creatively, and it makes so much sense in that Spelunky 2 being a sequel to Spelunky 1, and then coming after I became a dad, which was inbetween Spelunky 1 and Spelunky 2…that would be a big theme and inspiration to me.”
Aaaaand here’s one more snippet, which again features nothing particularly juicy news-wise. It’s still interesting to hear Yu’s thoughts on his own work, mind.
“I think the whole kind of cyclical nature of the game…I’m not religious myself, but that kind of feeling of struggling through something and starting over, it has sort of mirrored the way I feel with my life developing these games one after another and slowly building up my understanding and my knowledge and my mastery of my craft. I think Spelunky is a lot about that.
“But it’s not as overt as putting Spelunky Guy’s daughter in Spelunky 2, right? There are themes that I think are pretty obvious from the trailer – family and friendship and things like that – that mean a lot to everybody but have also meant a lot to me in terms of my career as well. Just meeting friends along the way, other game developers and people I’ve worked with, and now starting a family and trying to be a game developer in that context also. And thinking about my daughter as (part of) a new generation of people and thinking about what she’s going to do with her life. Things like that.”
So – what do family and friendship mean in the context of Spelunky, a game where the two most personal interactions are giving a dude some money to dig a tunnel and letting a pug lick your face? Which are the systems Yu is thinking of replacing? And will we get to go to the Moon, as hinted at by its prominence in the title art?
There are no answers just yet, nor any word of a release date. Maybe Yu will let something slip during E3.