July 9, 2012

A New Death Everytime

Lasting First Impressions of Spelunky from Mossmouth

Spelunky boxart» The further we travel into the future of video gaming, the more independent development studios are taking a look back in order to take cues from the vast history of gaming to shape this future.  One such studio, Mossmouth, developed an old-school 2D dungeon crawl game called Spelunky and released it as freeware on the PC in 2008.  Deriving even their name from this title, Spelunky draws heavily from Atari’s 1983 title, Spelunker, for their visual styling but adds several new elements such as randomly generating levels, ensuring no two games are ever the same.  Now Spelunky finds itself available on the Xbox as an exclusive XBLA title, published by Microsoft.

The goal of Spelunky is very simple: survive as long as possible. With no save points, plenty of obstacles, creatures of all kinds, and perma-death, survival is definitely key.  One small mistake ends the game. Period. Play again and you will start from the very beginning.  This was not clear to me when I started playing the game so, after playing through the obligatory tutorial levels, I was dropped at the entrance to the cave and began my journey to level 1-1.  Then I died and started again. Okay, sure, no problem.  Then I died again. And again. Finally I reached level 1-2 and 1-3 before dying but was very confused when I started back at level 1-1.  I figured I’d at least start on the level I reached, but soon discovered that, in Spelunky, death comes quick and is permanent.  One small wrong move and it’s game over.

Spelunky screen 1

There are many items to collect in your travels through the caves, most notably would be gold and gems that can be used to purchase items with shopkeepers that have, for some reason, set up shop inside these mysterious caves.  Other items to find help with your traversal such as ropes and bombs.  Bombs will destroy everything around them, since everything in Spelunky is destructible, while ropes will come in handy if you find yourself stuck in a pit with no way out.

Spelunky is definitely a hard-core game for those who enjoy extreme challenges along the lines of Super Meat Boy.  Unlike Super Meat Boy, however, when you die in Spelunky, you don’t start on the same level and try again.  No matter where you die, you will always start again on level 1-1.  While the levels are all randomly generated, it may give some players enough of a challenge to keep trying since there is nothing to memorize here and playing again will be like playing a new level anyway, I felt it just got old really fast.

The game looks really good and plays really well, but simply feels demotivating to start at the beginning every time I die or come back to it.

Spelunky screen 2

The only redeeming factor in Spelunky is the inclusion of multiplayer co-op and deathmatch.  Deathmatch pits up to 4 players against each other to see who can survive the longest while co-op allows these same players to work together and traverse the levels as far as possible.

Spelunky would have been a great game 20 years ago, in an arcade, when this was the typical gaming environment, but in this day of sweeping cinematic stories and progression saves, Spelunky just left me feeling bored and unmotivated to continue.  This isn’t a game I will come back to any time soon.

Mossmouth, I gave you an hour and I am NOT IMPRESSED.

About the Author

Sean is an avid gamer and lover of all thing tech. He is a dedicated husband and the father to three beautiful daughters. In addition to taking his love of gaming to a new level with this site, Sean is also host of our podcasts: The OMG! Hour, Lost Treasures of Gaming, and Primetime as well as the bi-weekly podcast mashup show, Gamers Unscripted. Follow Sean on Twitter as @Xiantayne and this blog as @OMGnexus.



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