Spelunky 2

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: BlitWorks (EU), Mossmouth (US)
Release Date: Sept. 15, 2020


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PS4 Review - 'Spelunky 2'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Sept. 18, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Spelunky 2 is a cave exploration / treasure-hunting game inspired by classic platform games and rogue-likes, where the goal is to grab as much treasure from the cave as possible.

Spelunky is a long-lasting game that came close to perfection, so it didn't need much updating. Originally released in 2008, it quickly captured attention as one of the first "big" indie titles. It was followed a few years later by an HD console version, and if you're like me, you've probably been playing Spelunky on and off ever since. It's a simple game that is endlessly addictive and challenging. Even a fantastic game can wear thin on options after a decade, and that is where Spelunky 2 comes in. It's bigger, better, and breathes new life into the classic game.

In theory, Spelunky 2 is a sequel to the original game. The protagonists of the first game have settled down, had a child named Ana, and are doing well. However, rumors abound that the giant stone Olmec had been discovered again, despite clearly dissolving into lava at the end of the first game. The two heroes set out to learn the reason for this, only to end up missing. Now it's up to Ana (and an ever-growing collection of friends) to rescue them and discover the truth about the Olmec statue on the moon.

Spelunky 2 is very much a game that abides by the rule of, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It plays almost identically to the first game in every significant way, so if you've played the first game, you should have no issue hopping into the sequel. While it's going to take many, many, many hours of play to fully grasp everything, Spelunky 2 feels like an expanded and evolved version of the original game. Given how insanely addictive the original title was, that's high praise indeed.

If you've never played Spelunky, you take the role of a spelunker who ventures into a randomly generated dungeon, armed only with a whip, some bombs and some rope. You get five steps in and get hit by a hidden arrow trap, which sends you flying into a spider that eats you. You start again, avoid the trap and the spider — only to accidentally awaken a ghost when you steal its treasure, and the ghost eats you. Then you start again and … well, it goes like that.

As in the original game, if you die in Spelunky 2, it's almost certainly because you made a mistake by rushing too far ahead, taking a risk you shouldn't have, attacking an enemy you could have avoided, not looking where you were bombing, or accidentally getting lava on your own head. Some deaths feel almost inevitable, but by and large, you'll feel like your failures are your own and not due to a game flaw.

Part of your goal is finding ways to mitigate the chance of failure. Every stage has an adorable animal that you can rescue for an extra hit point. Hidden treasures and shopkeepers are plentiful, so you can gain goodies like a compass to find the exit or a shotgun and jetpack to blow past enemies.

A lot of this probably sounds familiar, and that's because Spelunky 2 exists in the odd area between an expansion pack and a brand-new game. Spelunky 2 is meant to feel familiar, so don't expect any drastic changes to the formula. It has basically all of the content of the original game in a remixed form, only with some new features.

There are plenty of new features that drastically change how the game plays. For example, there are now physics for fluids, including water and lava, so if you place a sticky bomb in the correct spot next to a lava pit, you can start a deadly tidal wave — a lesson I learned the hard way when trying to get a gem. You can also use this to clear difficult areas or reach places that you normally couldn't.

The game now features rooms, which might not sound too exciting, but these mini areas function exactly like normal areas and have their own secrets to discover. They can also be used as shortcuts, since many have two or more exists. If you're having trouble getting through a tough area, go into a room, bomb the floor, and exit through the bottom. Presto!

Animals can be tamed and serve as mounts, and they can range from a double-jumping turkey to a teleporting axolotl. The mounts provide a fairly consistent mode of mobility, which is a huge boon when you're trying to get through the game faster. They also provide a boost to your abilities for as long as they remain alive; of course, there's a risk that they'll die and leave you without the powers you've come to depend on.

Spelunky 2 seems to have been designed with enjoyable speedruns in mind. There are some minor but significant changes that seem dedicated to making things go faster. For example, most stages have a ghost pot, which you can break to get a diamond and instantly summon a ghost, so people who used ghosts to farm gems can do so quickly. It is riskier in this game, since a ghost can split into multiple ghosts.

It's difficult to say within the context of a review just how deep Spelunky 2 goes, since the original game was chock-full of secrets that relied on the entire community working together. I know there are hidden things that I didn't find in my playthrough because of the scattered hints. This is one area that can only be judged by time, but even without knowing all of its secrets, there's still a ton of content in Spelunky 2.

My sole complaint is that it seemed easier to lock yourself into an "unwinnable" situation in Spelunky 2 than in the original title. This may have been because I haven't learned some of the new tricks, but there are areas where a single mistake can basically doom you. For example, a very early miniboss is supposed to smash the walls of their room, but if you kill them before they do, then you need to spend a significant number of bombs to break through or give up the run. It's a minor issue, but the original game was usually good about not leaving you stuck in a situation.

As with the original game, you have the option of going it alone or playing with friends in Spelunky 2. Having more players might sound like it gives you an advantage, but you're far more likely to accidentally send your friend into a pool of lava than you are to save them in an emergency. The goofy party atmosphere fits the game perfectly and does a fantastic job of making it a ridiculously good time. New to the game is online multiplayer, which is a bit of a mixed bag. It's fun when it works, but having one lagging person can ruin the experience, especially since a disconnect seems to kick out everyone.

Spelunky 2 is a minor visual upgrade overall compared to the HD version of the original game. It is bright and colorful and blends various traps and enemies excellently with the overall stage design in a way that is both tricky and fun. The music is nice and atmospheric, and it does a great job of capturing the same style as the original game while also having its own personality.

Spelunky 2 is more of Spelunky, and that is all it needs to be. It is still ridiculously enjoyable, packed with content, and the right mix of challenging and engaging. It's still going to kill you a half-dozen times, too. It doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it revitalizes an experience that risked going stale after a decade. The only downside is that the online experience isn't the best, but the rest of the game holds up great. If you liked Spelunky, then you'll like Spelunky 2, and if you never played the original, then Spelunky 2 is a great place to start. Just remember to always look before you leap.

Score: 9.0/10

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