The original Spelunky was praised for its clever design and for inspiring the roguelike games genre. It has even been called a perfect game. Now, 12 years after the original release and eight after the HD remake, it has a sequel. Spelunky 2 is bigger in every way – and while great, it is not perfect.
In this 2d platformer, the player starts each run with only a few bombs and ropes. Weapons, tools, and mounts are found through collecting treasures, shopping or robbing stores, defeating enemies, and blood sacrifice. The variety of zones, from temples to jungles, all have unique enemies and traps. Controls are snappy and actions carry weight, accompanied by meaty sound effects and smooth animations. Movement feels satisfying. The catch is that after dying, the player starts from the beginning. Do not let the charming visuals and catchy music fool you, as Spelunky 2 is brutal and death is frequent!
The game levels generate procedurally, ensuring a different experience each time. Individual parts are predictable. Most enemies and hazards have learnable patterns: lizards roll at the player on sight, arrow traps launch upon movement. However, these pieces often present themselves in tricky combinations, asking for quick-witted solutions from the player. Simple parts create complexity. At times, simple mistakes are made; at others, death comes at the hands of an unpredictable cascade of events. While frustrating, mastering the game can also be extremely rewarding. It can take hundreds of failures, and a healthy dose of luck, to finally win. This is a lengthy journey. Novelty is sustained with alternate routes and unlockable shortcuts, which allow skipping earlier sets of levels.
There are no difficulty settings, and Spelunky 2 is a hard game. A run often ends with a single mistake. Succeeding at a particularly tough challenge is thrilling, but at times, death is simply unfair. Progressing for 20 minutes only to be done dirty by an offscreen explosion and being tossed into the abyss can be disheartening. Getting good does not guarantee success, but only increases the chances.
Co-op mode, which supports up to four players, only makes the game a little easier: friendly fire is almost a certainty in the narrow caverns. Still, playing together can make the experience much less stressful. Silly circumstances are frequent, and a single death does not end a run. The PC version’s online multiplayer is yet to be patched in, but Steam’s remote play together -feature bridges the gap.
Tricks of Spelunky veterans have had developer attention. Robbing stores is riskier for one, as items like the jetpack can now explode – leaving the would-be thief dead or empty-handed. While familiar to play, even skilled spelunkers enter the game a novice due to the revamped game world. It is an utterly new adventure that has me coming back for more. For those willing to test their platforming skills, quick thinking, and patience, Spelunky 2 is a fantastic and frustrating experience.
Developers: Mossmouth, BitWorks
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Playstation 4
Release Date: 15.9.2020 (PlayStation 4) 29.9.2020 (Windows)
Genres: Platformer, roguelike
PEGI Rating: 16
Screenshots by the author.
Header image from Mossmouth’s website: http://www.mossmouth.com/spelunky2/#images
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