Spelunky 2 Review – Pugs, Pirates, and Plenty of Lava
“We can do this, doggo”, I whisper to the adorable pug cuddled up in my arms as we stare down a dark corridor.
This place is deadly, and I’ve already had enough close calls in this maze to know I won’t survive another. But if I can get this pup through to the next chamber, I might be alright. Unfortunately, the lights in this section of the labyrinth are dark, and I had to put down my only torch to pick up my dark. I’m pretty sure the way out is just ahead, somewhere.
I take a step forward, skirting over a totem trap that took me by surprise. The door can’t be far now as bats stir from the ceiling. I race ahead and stumble blindly towards the door, where I am unceremoniously killed. It appears a spider fell from the ceiling, triggering an arrow trap and sailed gently through the spider, glanced off the cave wall, and fell directly on top of me.
I burst out laughing, and immediately begin my next run, fingers crossed this one won’t be in the dark.
Spelunky 2 is, without a doubt, one of the best roguelikes available on the market. This game recaptures the pure thrill and skill of the first, released twelve years ago, and adds so much more to explore, flee from, and be consumed by. Nothing added detracts from the purity of the game. It's about as close to perfect as a game could be.
For the uninitiated, Spelunky 2 has players clamber into an ever-shifting cave, attempting to explore its depths and avoid traps. There are a lot of traps. There are also creatures that don’t take kindly to your presence and objects that might help you, but often just get you killed in new ways. Spelunky 2 is a 2D platformer so packed with visual stimulation that you will spend the first several hours of the game running headlong into traps you didn’t notice, and still have a wonderful time.
One thing that makes Spelunky so much fun is the ease of it. Death is easy, but so is restarting. It barely takes a second for the walls to shift and you to begin again after you accidentally jump land on spikes or anger the shopkeeper. And once you get to grips with the myriad ways the game will kill you, progression becomes easy as well. Well, not easy, but you can start to escape the first few rooms and maybe even open a shortcut to make it to the later, even deadlier levels beyond.
The first game offered a handful of different worlds that had very little in common with each other thematically. Spelunky 2 does the same, with even bigger abandon as you traverse from caves to alien industrial factories with demons, or dense jungles with murderous, evil monkeys and stranger places beyond that. Did I mention that Spelunky 2 takes place on the moon? But there doesn’t need to be much sense in Spelunky. This is not a game for the story it tells you is happening. It is a game for the emergent moments of chaos and hilarity that come out of the experience. You never know what will happen next, and how it will kill you. These are the moments you keep coming back to Spelunky 2, not the victories.
The biggest, most obvious addition to the Spelunky formula is liquids In the first game you explored the dry caverns of a mysterious desert cave, where what water you could find was locked in place or would simply disappear if you took the plug out of the piranha bath. The sequel lets you explore the incredibly wet caves of the moon where the deadly cocktails of water, lava, and whatever else I haven’t died in yet can flow across the cave, completely changing the map and how you interact with it. Lava will kill you instantly, like a lot of the other traps, but detonate the ground beneath it and now it becomes a river of death, rather than a pond. You might be able to use that to your advantage, killing enemies or clearing a route to the door. Or you might accidentally get Pompeii-ed by the flow. You can swim through water, but to be honest, that doesn’t make it any safer as streams can pull you towards traps and there can be nasty surprises swimming in it.
The other big update is mounts. As you explore you can find turkeys, lava lizards and adorable pink things, and probably more somewhere I haven't been yet. They might appear hostile (because everything else does) but if you manage to survive taming them, you can ride through the caves with all the extra health, grace, and powers of which animal you’ve found. Like the companion cube from Portal, these creatures immediately find a place in your heart but eventually end up in a pit of lava.
There is nothing that isn’t fun in Spelunky 2. No item that doesn’t make you laugh. No trap that doesn’t make you swear as you sprint into it. No monster that isn’t amusing or cute or just bizarre. Everything is balanced, everything is designed to be fun. Some players might be put off by the initial difficulty curve, but you shouldn’t be worrying about how fast you are progressing. Take your time to be killed by everything. You’ll only be surprised by the new things you come across once.
Reviewed on PC (code provided by the publisher).
In Spelunky 2 you never get the same game twice, not just because the layout changes but because all the systems interact with each other to kill you in new, imaginative, and hilarious ways. It's almost impossible to put down.
- Recaptures the same frantic, hilarious platforming from the original
- Adds a bunch of new systems and content to discover
- Next to no loading times
- Occasional, tiny frame rate crash when surround by flowing liquid