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In a world where the majority of mainstream video games hold your hand like some sort of coddling grandmother, Spelunker HD comes as a much-needed kick in the right testicle for the gaming community. To put it in simpler (and much more coherent) words, this game is incredibly difficult and it hates you. A lot. Let’s get one thing straight before this review actually begins: Spelunker HD is a game for retro-platforming fans that like their difficulty curves akin to self-flagellation. If you aren’t in that camp, then you might as well ignore all the nice things we’re about to say because you won’t find yourself very welcome at the Spelunker HD party.
Above: “And that was the first time I died…”
Released in 1983, the original arcade-version of Spelunker featured a protagonist who was so weak you’d think his bones were made of vanilla creme wafers. There also wasn’t much of a story to the game. Basically, there was a bunch of caves filled with treasure that no person has ever been able to make it through alive, so being a truly distinguished intellect, our hero decided to go spelunking in said caves. Spelunker HD continues this proud tradition by keeping the main character as resilient as a sheet of wet toilet paper. Whether you get bitten by a poisonous spider or happen to suffer a four-foot drop, just about everything will instantly kill you. Seriously, if a bat shits on you, you’ll die.
All of this might beg the question: how the hell could this be fun? Spelunker HD runs a very fine line with its frustrating, TV-smashing difficulty; however, it performs in such a way that you just keep coming back. The controls are solid and you are never presented with a challenge that is too difficult to solve. If you die, you’ll know exactly why you died and how to avoid it next time around. Likewise, the game is pretty liberal with doling out extra lives, so you’ll be given plenty of shots to screw up and go deeper into the caves.
The game features over 100 new stages in 10 different worlds and throws a ton of environmental hazards into the mix. Like the original, you’re tasked with finding different colored keys that are used to unlock their respective color-coordinated doors to proceed through each stage. Each new level provides a wealth of secrets to find, monsters/traps to outwit and damn good platforming.
The game is anything if short on content. You can choose to either play the “Remake” version, which shows off the new, very colorful 3D environments, or go old school and play the “Retro” version with 2D graphics. Automatically updated leaderboards are also in place to document just how crappy you are at this game for all the world to see; however, the veritable cherry on top of this sundae is that you can play through each world with up to six players. The “Cooperative” mode lets you just explore the caves as a team and the “Competitive” mode pits you against other players to traverse each cave as fast as humanly possible.
Above: “And that was the 100,287th time I died…”
The only major downside we can think of is that the game simply brings absolutely everything over from the original for better or for worse and then just slaps an HD paintjob onto it. There’s nothing new here... but still, not everything needs to be innovative. Retro fans will definitely be pleased with this one.
Dec 10, 2010