‘Spelunky 2’ wants you to get good again
If you kept an ear to my dorm room in college, you would hear the frantic keystrokes of a computer science major on finals day. But alas, not even “Intro to Java” could get my words per minute up as much as Spelunky. Now, in what seems like many moons later, Spelunky 2, the highly anticipated sequel to Derek Yu’s pulse-pounding, excavating rogue-like platformer, has arrived. Hats on, ropes ready, and keep your trigger finger off those bombs–because Spelunky 2 is here to dominate our speedrun flow states once more.
For the uninitiated, the goal of Spelunky is to deftly navigate through a collection of randomly generated caves, traps, and monsters in order to plunder treasure and reach one of its many epilogues. The second-gen of Spelunky-ing doesn’t deviate from this immaculate gameplay, but serves to evolve it into a new host of characters, branching paths, and even an upcoming patch for online multiplayer expected to launch in early December. Oh yeah–and did we mention that you’re on the moon?
The devil is in the details here. Aspects of the previous game have been slightly altered and remixed to renew intrigue in veteran players, but feel like they’ve always been there. The sequel tosses the responsibility back into your hands to figure out these new interactions through experimentation, exploration, and oh so much death. I had an unattended torch start to burn a crucial rope I had limited supply of, and I proudly survived only to fall into a trap moments later. I realized that you could bomb turkeys for extra health in a pinch. These new synergies introduce welcome assets to the mental arsenal.
Adjustments and improvements are evident in the presentation as well. A new variety of features calls for a richer, fuller world that connect some of the minor plot from the previous game to the cryptic conclusions of Spelunky 2. From the get-go, I could already tell that the sequel is so much more difficult than the first. I was surprised to see that Olmec, one of the final bosses of the previous game, is an early game boss in this one. All of your attempts will start you in a much more realized homebase where unlockable fellow explorers will chat you up and build the base out even larger.
Spelunky 2 does an impeccable job of reflecting the type of players we are back to ourselves. Though there are an infinite amount of ways to progress, the micro-decisions that influence our speed, tactility, and strategy to arrive safely from point A to point B become our playstyle. For example, after a couple of serious, imperfectly planned runs, I always do a “rage run” where I barrel through as fast as possible. You can be extremely methodical at each ledge. You can make it a point to steal from every shopkeeper you see. You can try avoiding all treasure. Being able to approach each play-through differently is what makes Spelunky as a series one of the most engaging games to stream and spectate to this day.
Here is my theory: put Spelunky 2 in an arcade, and it will nom your quarters to no end. Innovation is an art, but so is refinement. On top of an already winning form, Spelunky 2 just wants to pour syrup, whipped cream, and chocolate chips on your pancakes. There’s no doubt that Derek Yu and his mad scientists love the fans–and they delivered a game that keeps us all in for many more daring dives digging toward mastery.