As I’m sure a lot of you know, after many months of staring enviously at XBox360 owners and their lovely, enhanced, HD version of the excellent Spelunky, us PC owners finally got our hands on it as well. So is it all it’s cracked up to be?
Well, to keep things brief, oh yes.
The most obvious change is in presentation with all of the graphics and characters upgraded to HD “cartoon” characters rather than the 16-bit style sprites used in the freeware version of the game. Whilst looking quite different, the character and feel of the original has been transferred extremely well, enhancing the light/comic tone of the game. Other new features include new monsters and features, new rescuees (a himbo and a pug), a great new (very ’80s chiptune) soundtrack, multiple player avatars (many of which need to be rescued and unlocked), multiplayer mode and online leaderboards. A brand new feature, exclusive to the PC version, is a “daily challenge” whereby everyone plays the same randomly-generated set of levels and then can compare their scores (and even, using videos, playthroughs).
There are some minor changes to the feel of the gameplay. Control is a little tighter, a couple of things work differently (such as dropping from a grabbed wall) that take a bit of getting used to and the trajectory of things like the rocks seems changed as my instinctive hurling at monsters didn’t have quite the effect I’m used to. None of these are likely to be too much of an obstacle to seasoned Spelunky players, though, who will find the feel of the game much as it ever was.
If there’s a downside it’s that the game still uses the rather odd scoring system based, primarily, on how much money the player ends the game with. Arguably this makes buying upgrades a risk/reward scenario in terms of leaderboard placing but, as others have pointed out, it means that if you get killed just before entering a shop you’ll score much higher than if you’d been killed leaving the shop which seems unfair. There’s also no real incentive to kill as many beasties as possible, especially the “boss” beasties. Another, more minor complaint, is that, unlike the original, it doesn’t seem to recognise generic controllers; this is easily fixed with utilities such as JoyToKey but still a little irritating (I’m guessing XBox360 controllers are supported).
But Spelunky is Spelunky and one of the most addictive, exciting and worthwhile bits of gaming I’ve ever played. I bought this a couple of days ago and have already clocked up more than three hours play. One of the best indie games of the last ten years just got better. Sweet.