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Monday, May 4, 2015

Just A Few Minutes More...Spelunky Review (PC)

I hear you all asking, “A PC Game? Is Emmitt really going to review a PC game?” And the answer is a resounding yes. Thanks to THE Champion Gamer, 5NATCH, I have now discovered a wonderful little gem on the PC called Spelunky. I first saw him playing this game on his Twitch feed, and immediately became interested in playing it myself. The game is available on Steam, and I added it to my wish list so I could purchase it at a later date. The universe must have wanted me to have this game, because the very next day I got an email from Steam indicating that Spelunky had now gone on sale for the ridiculously low price of $3.74 (U.S.). Normally it sells for $14.99, and it’s definitely worthy of that full pricing point. As soon as I got a chance, I logged in and purchased Spelunky. My life has not been the same since….

So what is Spelunky? Well, it’s a 2013 independent action platforming game, which provides its audience with a very addictive gaming experience. Like a lot of games coming out as of late, Spelunky offers a nice nostalgic retro gaming look and feel. The graphics are very reminiscent of games found on the older consoles like the Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis. In fact, the first time I saw it I was reminded of the old Atari/NES game Spelunker.  It is also worth noting that there are a lot of similarities to the Indiana Jones franchise, including the use of a whip as the primary weapon, and the character’s overt fear of snakes, just to name two.

The basic premise of the game is to take control of one of the four playable characters and explore a series of underground tunnels, using a limited supply of bombs and ropes. Along the way you try to collect as much treasure as possible, all while avoiding traps, pitfalls, and enemies. You start each game with 4 hearts, each one representing a single point of health. If you get hit by an enemy or otherwise take damage while exploring the stage, you lose a heart. Once your heart level reaches zero you die, and the game is over.

 On the surface this sounds simple enough, and generally speaking it is. The trick however lies in the fact that the game randomly generates the level when you first start, and again after dying. What this means is that you will never play the same level twice. So even though you may die over and over, and over again on level 1-1, and you will, the game will re-generate the entire level at random, and it will feel like you are playing something new each time. While the basic elements remain constant, the layout, enemies, treasure locations, and exit points will always shift and change with each attempt. 

In addition to the regular treasure items like gold bars and jewels, there are also damsels to rescue in each level….I think. Since the game randomly generates the level, I have gone through what feels like the entire level without seeing the damsel. Like the spelunker, you can choose one of 3 damsels to rescue during your game, a blonde female character, a blonde male character, and a dog. You can also choose to have the game randomly select any one of those 3 for any given level, so that it changes up each time, much like the level layouts themselves.  
The Damsels: Dude, Dog, and Lady
Rescuing the damsel consists of simply picking them up, once you find them, and exiting the level with them. Kinda like you do with Ruto inside Jabu Jabu’s belly in the Ocarina of Time. The caveat is that they can be killed. If they die, then you do not get credit for rescuing them. If you are successful in rescuing them, the rescued damsel will kiss our hero during a short cut scene, and by doing so will replenish one heart of health.

But wait….there’s more….

Be careful not to piss this guy off
On top of the regular treasure items and the damsel, there are also numerous tools, or special items that you can pick up along the way. Some are hidden in the rocks, pots, or treasure chests sprinkled throughout each level. Just be careful, some of the pots and chests will have a snake or spider inside instead of something delightful. There is also a shop where you can buy  items, including replacement bombs and ropes, just be careful not to anger the shopkeeper, by accidentally blowing up part of his shop with a bomb, or he will go berserk and blast away at you with a shotgun. Sometimes you are also given the option of collecting a golden head idol.

It reminds me of the golden idol seen at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and it even comes with a giant rolling boulder that will wreak havoc on the cavern, so watch yourself should you choose to pick it up.

Some of the more notable items available include bomb capacity upgrades, special climbing gloves, a pick axe, special shoes of various varieties, a cape, a machete, a camera, a jetpack, various guns, and I have even come across two instances where the shopkeeper sells the damsel to you, and another two
times where he sells a special helper character. My favorites are the green hulk glove, used for climbing, the pick axe, and the jet pack. The only downside to these items is that they are lost when you die, and they must be reacquired.

So, with the basics out of the way, what do I think of it?

I love it. I was hooked after seeing 5NATCH play through it live on Twitch, and once I had it myself and started playing it, I literally couldn’t put it down. It’s a fun, and highly addictive game. With the random stage generation, it rarely gets old, and always keeps me engaged.

I have yet to complete this game, and have really only scratched the surface of what this game has to offer, and I have only made it as far as level 2-1. I find myself discovering new features all the time, for instance, who knew you could actually pick up and throw the rats? Too bad they are pointless, as they do no damage to enemies, nor do they break the pots or treasure chests. I honestly cannot wait to see what else this game will throw at me next. I have heard there are unlockable items, and characters in later levels, I guess I will have to keep playing and find out who or what lies ahead.

Even though I have a very favorable opinion about this game, it is not perfect, and does have some minor flaws.

First is the ability to only carry one item at a time. I know this is nit-picky, but I really hate having to drop my pick axe just so that I can pick up the damsel or golden idol. I should be able to carry both items, since I am capable of carrying and using my whip, bombs, and ropes all while carrying various items. It should be noted that ability items such as the gloves or glasses are character enhancements and do not count as carry able items.

The only other flaw is the fact that this game, at least on the PC, is only compatible with XBOX controllers. You can use the keyboard to play, but it’s much more fun to use a controller. If you want to use a non-XBOX controller, you will need to find a third-party program that will allow you to map keyboard functions to a controller. I found the free version of joy2key worked fine. Once you have that set up, you are ready to begin your adventure.

So overall Spelunky is a highly addictive little game that will keep you entertained for hours at a time. Just be careful, you will quickly discover just how easy it is to die. Use patience, and watch your step, and you should survive, provided you don’t accidentally kill yourself by throwing a rock and having it ricochet back and hit you in the head. Good luck adventurer, and have fun!

Oh, and in case you haven't heeded my advice by now, get out there and pick this up as quickly as possible.