Spelunky Review: the toughest platformer ever made?

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Spelunky is a tough platformer that looks great and has depth and replayability with its clever use of randomized levels.

We like

  • Random level generator massively increases playability.
  • Levels are packed with so much to see, do and collect.
  • Gorgeous cartoony graphics - dying never looked so good.

We dislike

  • Only a few mundane trophies.
  • Deathmatch mode and arenas need more work.

See PSU's review on Metacritic & GameRankings

Are you brave enough to hunt for treasure in caves where death shadows your every step, and any wrong move sees your bones join those of other careless adventurers? Are you strong enough to battle the undead, giant creatures and other fiends armed only with a whip and your wits? If the answer is yes, then you are ready to play Spelunky.

Spelunky is the new 2D side-scrolling platformer for PlayStation 3 and Vita from Mossmouth. Based on the 2008 PC title of the same name, the PS3 version has been given a makeover which updates the entire game.

The plot of Spelunky sees the player take on the role of a spelunker, an underground adventurer who sets out to explore a mysterious cave, which is filled with treasures to collect as well as traps and creatures which guard the loot. Luckily, you are well equipped with ropes to climb over pits and hazards, have bombs to blast enemies or open up new paths, and your trusty whip that can dispatch any monsters out for your blood. If you are careless, all the hazards you encounter can drain your health or even insta-kill you, but if you rescue damsels or purchase their kisses at a kissing booth you can rejuvenate yourself and continue your explorations.

Also there to help you are shops that let you spend your gathered treasure to resupply your bombs or rope, and also sell you lots of helpful items from parachutes and mining picks to jetpacks and shotguns.


Each level has four parts to conquer before the end zone, and if you have enough items or treasure to pay the Tunnel Man at the last part of the level you can unlock a continue feature, that enables you after you die to skip levels you have already completed. You can choose to adventure alone or enlist a friend to help and if you tire of exploration then you can take on up to four bots or friends in deathmatch arenas instead.

Nothing remarkable here you might be thinking, and that's true, but Spelunky is far from being a standard platforming experience. You see the game has a very clever extra feature that changes what could have been a very straightforward platformer adventure into something really very special.

The clever feature is that each of the levels you explore is randomly generated; meaning quite simply that any level you play will never be the same as those played previously. This instantly increases the game's replayability factor by a hundred percent as each time you explore a new level, the game's exit route changes, hazards move and treasure locations shift so the player can't complacently memorize a preordained route, but instead must be ever cautious. The generation of the random levels it should be noted seemed to be exceptionally well programmed; as I never once encountered a level that was impossible to complete.

All of Spelunky's levels, despite their random generation, do actually have a common theme which is that is they are all extremely hard. How hard? Well, the difficulty level of this game is truly hair-pulling, cursing out loud hard; that hard that early explorations can see you die in a matter of seconds – three being my record. A major contributor to this hardness comes from the fact that everything is out to get you, traps and some monsters kill you instantly regardless of how much health you have, enemies chase you and some creatures bounce you into other hazards setting up a chain of events that sees the game end before you have taken but a few steps. However, Spelunky tempers this hardness by making the rewards greater the further you delve, and I felt it become a matter of pride to try to live longer so I could delve further. As you learn how to defeat the games tricks and traps it's still really hard to play, but you get a sense of achievement that fuels your desire to keep going.

Not only are Spleunky's levels tough but they are also jam-packed chaotic fun where every inch of the screen is used; treasure lurks tantalizingly by monsters, chests and ... (continued on next page) ----

Richard Archer is an Assistant Editor for PSU, when he's not being a full-time gamer, comic book nut, and Doctor Who fan.
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  • Related game: Spelunky

    Release date (US):
    August 28th, 2013
    Action - 3D Platformer
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