|System: Xbox 360|
|Pub: Microsoft Studios|
|Release: July 4, 2012|
|Players: 1-4 (Local)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Adam Dodd
I don't usually enjoy games that punish you for your ineptitude. Call it bad taste, or maybe it's the consequence of being babied by the current generation of games that practically hold your hand through the game, but I've just never been terribly fond of the type of game that tosses you into a pit filled with countless murderous creatures and arms you with a jump button and a particularly useless stick. Spelunky is that type of game, a 2D platformer that's broken the wills of enough gamers to qualify to join the likes of Super Meat Boy and Battletoads on the pantheon of intensely difficult titles. It takes some mercy on you by arming you with a wide array of weapons and tools with which you can use to make it through its levels, but just as you're feeling confident it strikes you down and laughs in your face. With that said, despite its unforgiving nature, I still loved it.
Playing games like these is like being in a bad relationship; there's a lot of fun to be had, but then, every so often, you get hurt. Spelunky abused me, but I'm not ashamed to say I kept coming back. "It's just so attractive," I kept telling myself. "I'll be better, and thus it'll treat me better," I'd say. I did get a little better, no doubt fueled by my overwhelming desire to maintain this rocky relationship with a game I so dearly wanted to love, and I soon discovered that I was indeed getting better. I died less often, I learned tricks for getting through levels quickly, and I continued accumulating a vast wealth of gold and miscellaneous other trinkets I found along the way.
My experience with Spelunky is remarkably similar to the one I had with Demon's Souls, only I warmed up to this game much more quickly. It took me a few weeks to scrounge up the willpower to stay in Demon's Souls' incredibly dangerous world, but thanks to a slightly gentler learning curve and an absolutely adorable art style, I warmed up to Spelunky after a short while.
Fans of the freeware version for PC might be wondering to themselves what the difference between these two versions is. For 1200 MSP, there had better be some pretty radical changes and/or additions. Don't worry, there's plenty new here. The most notable changes come in the revamped graphics and music. The game looks incredible compared to its PC counterpart. The graphics are smoother and more vibrant, and the music provides a fantastic backdrop to what happens on-screen.
That's not all, as the controls have been polished a bit while they were adapted for the controller. This means your character controls a little better than they did in the PC version, and even though the game was originally designed for PC, it feels as if it had been created for consoles. Getting your character around the levels is simple enough, but underneath that simplicity lies certain tricks and techniques that you'll eventually learn as you keep playing.
Spelunky for XBLA also brings with it a slew of new items, zones, monsters, items, traps, and secrets. On top of that is the brand new four-player local co-op. You can go through the campaign with up to three friends, or you can compete in the Deathmatch mode that has each of you fighting for the title of best treasure hunter (the title comes with some serious bragging rights).
If you're the type who likes to compete with yourself, feel free to try and beat your own times or those of your friends. You can show off your mad speed-running and high-scoring skills on the XBLA's leaderboards, where you can compete for the top spot among your friends or the world.
The neat things about the levels is that they're randomly generated, so there's a little bit of luck involved if you're trying to beat a score or a certain time. They're also fully destructible, so a few well-placed bombs can shave precious seconds off your time or gain you access to a difficult-to-reach area or artifact.