Monday, 12 August 2013


They hooked me.

I kept looking at Spelunky on Steam, and I kept thinking the same thing, "This game is probably good, but I don't think it is the kind of thing I will really enjoy."  Well, for some reason I bought it anyway, and having played it for about eight hours, I was entirely right.  I knew exactly what I would and wouldn't like about it.

Spelunky is a procedurally generated platformer with permanent death and adorable graphics, so it was pretty hard not to chase the dragon of Rogue Legacy.  Unfortunately, Spelunky is not Rogue Legacy.

Save a damsel,
get a kiss
In Spelunky you are given a series of dungeons to go through.  Each time you start at the top and have to make your way to an exit at the bottom.  On the way you will encounter an assortment of enemies and traps, treasures and shops.  The levels are fully destructible and you walk in with a supply of bombs to make holes for you and ropes to get out when you fall into too deep a hole to jump.  There are also "damsels" to rescue - your choice of ladies, gentlemen, or pugs.

Spelunky is really, really unforgiving of mistakes.  You walk in with four health, so if you mess up a jump to whip a bat and you touch the bat, that's one quarter of the mistakes you'll be allowed to make.  Actually there are plenty of mistakes that will cost you more than one health, often killing you instantly.  So good news, getting hit by that bat didn't matter after all!

If you rescue a damsel you get one health at the end of the level.  I'm not sure if all levels have a damsel, but if they do then some of them require numerous bombs to tunnel to, so either way it means you have to average less than one damage a level.

Every four levels there is a checkpoint, but you have to reach the checkpoint multiple times to bring Tunnel Man various supplies so he can complete the shortcut.  The first checkpoint I basically just had to make it there three times, the second one required a somewhat difficult to acquire item so I made it there quite a few times before I managed to unlock the ability to start there.

You can play as a variety of characters but really they are just skins.  They all die the same.

So why don't I like this game all that much.  Well, basically you screw up and you die and you have to start from scratch.  Unlike Rogue Legacy you don't get to build up as you go.  This game has even less of a feeling of progression between games than the Binding of Isaac.  I think a huge amount of your progression is really just supposed to be increased skill and increased knowledge of how different things interact.

To be fair there are lots of interesting interactions.  Many of the traps work against the enemies as well as they work against you.  Some enemies kill each other and others ignore each other.  I don't want to include any spoilers, but I played for a few hours before discovering some very basic game mechanics.

Still, no matter how much you know there are always awkward jumps, and if you miss them you die, and frankly I'm just not that good.

Spelunky looks like a really solid game that just isn't quite a game for me.  I think I'll probably play a bunch more at least to win the game once, but then I'll watch the challenges - not that I know anything about any challenges in the game, but I am absolutely sure there are many - on youtube instead of trying to experience them myself.

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