Spelunky Review

Rescuing the damsel-in-distress will give you extra health at the end of the level

  • Developer: Mossmouth
  • Publisher: Mossmouth
  • Release Date: 8 August 2013 (Commercial Version)
  • Time played: 2 hours (INCOMPLETE)

I managed to get the game Spelunky during Steam's last Christmas sale for under $4 which seemed to be quite a steal to me. Why did I bother in getting the game (besides it being ridiculously cheap)? Well, firstly it ties back to my excuse for purchasing many indie games and that's because it's another one of those games made with Game Maker Studio, just like Risk of Rain, Hotline Miami and Gunpoint! Secondly, it happens to be a critically acclaimed indie game with a Metacritic rating of 90 and even receiving a 2013 Game of the Year award from PC Gamer magazine!

So the game is meant to be pretty damn good, but how good is it really? On first appearances, it just looks like any other platformer but surely there must be more to it for people to hold it in such high esteem. Surely.

Gameplay (3/5)
In Spelunky you play the role of, surprise, surprise, a spelunker or someone who explores caves. Actually, if we wanted to be more accurate you're basically a cartoon version of Indiana Jones: you've got the trademark whip, fear of snakes (or there's at least a lot of snakes on each level) and you're exploring caves for relics. From the little I've played of the game, the main aim of the game is to make your way safely to the end of each level whilst trying to avoid various traps and monsters that stand in your path. In order to navigate through the treacherous levels, you're able to jump, use grappling hooks, blow things up with bombs and throw any items you come across on the floor. Collecting gems on your way will mean you can afford to purchase items from shops that are located somewhere on each level. These items can be as simple as more rope and bombs, or handy items like boomerangs, pickaxes and parachutes. Also if you're ever low on health you can always rescue a damsel-in-distress and receive one extra health as a reward. You also have a time limit of sorts on each level since if you take too long, a giant ghost comes after you and if it reaches you before you reach the exit, it's game over.

And that's basically how the game works in a nutshell. Some people have described it as being similar to a roguelike and while I wouldn't go so far to say that it is, it does share some similar qualities, such as being quite difficult (it's very easy to die) and the fact the levels are procedurally generated, which means you're unlikely to ever play the same level layout twice. It's a bit like Risk of Rain to a degree except there's more of a focus on avoiding traps than Risk of Rain's focus of fighting aliens lifeforms.

I quite like the gameplay and I can see how it can become addictive especially when you're able to compete with friends via Steam leaderboards and perform daily challenges. There's even a local co-op feature I didn't quite try out but would probably be heaps of fun. I do however think the game is slightly overrated though. Yes the game is fun and is probably good value for money in the long run, but its gameplay is nothing we haven't already seen in games before; Spelunky just manages to effectively merge all these elements into a single platformer and that's where the genius lies.

You'll be seeing this screen quite a bit when you first start playing the game

Sound (3/5)
The game only contains basic sound effects but they suit the game.

Music (4/5)
Eirik Suhrke composed the soundtrack for Spelunky and it's got a pretty good retro feel to it (something you'd expect to hear from a platformer made in the 90s). There aren't exactly any tunes that stick in my head but it's all high quality stuff.

Graphics (3/5)
While the game's graphics are of a higher resolution when compared to games like FTL: Faster than Light and Risk of Rain, they are still pretty basic and cartoony - which isn't too much of a problem since it is a retro, indie platformer after all.

Replay (3/5)
I played the game for about two hours and only just managed to get past the caves after multiple retries. I can see people replaying this game quite a bit simply because it's that difficult to get through. There's also the ability to compete with your friends and the public via leaderboards and daily challenges as mentioned before. There are also Steam achievements and Trading Cards to hunt down too if you're that way inclined.

Polish (5/5)
I didn't encounter any serious bugs while playing the game.

Score – 7/10

Spelunky adopts the best elements from several games and manages to make them all work together in a deceptively difficult platformer. While I think the game is slightly overrated, it's definitely not a bad game and definitely one of the finest examples out there of Game Maker Studio's capabilities.

Spelunky is available from these retailers:

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[ LINK: Official Spelunky website ]