Indie Pick: 'Spelunky'
Published Sep 8 2009, 15:12 BST | By Matthew Reynolds
The archaic trail-and-error ways of the past have almost been dissolved in modern gaming, mainly thanks to the awakened knowledge that players don't want to start from the beginning every time they fail. (Of course, advances in save systems such as Quick Saving helped somewhat as well.) However, once in a while a game can massively benefit from this old-school train of thought where once you are dead you have to painfully start from scratch, and that game is Spelunky
Digging itself out of a Beta, Spelunky
is a free-to-download exploration title in a similar vein as Boulder Dash
. With each stage layout randomly generated, you make your way through caves filled with gold, treasure chests and a whole assortment of nasties to avoid. But while Boulder Dash
had you simply digging your way through to the exit, here you only really needed to lay a bomb or throw out a rope if you reach a dead end as it's almost entirely a pixel-perfect platformer of navigating sheer drops and copious amounts of traps.
But like Boulder Dash
, you have to take just as much care in exploration thanks to a trial-and-error nature that can only be described as brutal. Slipping off an edge and landing on a spike pit will end your game permanently. Running head first into an arrow trap will bring you to death's door. Most enemies, although apparent in their attack pattern, all present an immediate threat due to how fast you can bite the dust. Even the shop, which is traditionally a safe haven in games, isn't safe; enemies can happily wonder in while you decide between buying a compass or more rope, and the shopkeeper has no reserves about shooting you in the back of the head if you accidentally chuck an item out of the door.
Once the game is over, you're dragged to the high-score screen to witness your pitiful death count, before you charge back into the depths whip-first. Like any good rogue-like, you get a little bit wiser each and every time, but the randomly generated nature of it all means that it's never a constant state of progression. You might chance upon a game-changing item in the opening seconds, or simply find yourself against overwhelming odds in a short space of time. The greatest triumph is the risk-reward nature of exploration: do you carry around that damsel in distress, leaving you open to attack in the hope of securing an extra life by the end, or do you rush to every exit and hope you won't need cash for those shop items? It's part luck, part skill, but entirely based around your own (often foolhardy) judgement.
It's mesmerising and addictive, and lubricated with a simply delightful 8-Bit aesthetic and chip-tune theme that's chirpy yet adventurous. While everything about Spelunky
seems old and tired at a first glance, its evolving nature makes it fresh, exciting and consistently inviting, no matter how much it wants you to fail.Spelunky
is available to download for free
and will be arriving on Xbox Live Arcade sometime next year.What do you think of Spelunky? Have you managed to finish it yet? Add a comment in the space below!