Monday, January 28, 2013

FRAMES PER SECOND: E'ry Day I'm Spelunkin' (an overview of Spelunky and some tips)

At a glance if you saw someone playing Spelunky you might have the opinion that it's far too cute and simple to be something you would have an interest in. Watching someone play it is deceptive until you play it yourself, it's the equivalent of watching a non-gamer attempt to play Super Mario Bros for the first time. Part of the reason for this is that player controlled characters look like little kids while your enemies look like beanie babie versions of their real life counterparts. The music is filled with smooth ear-wormy loops that you'd expect out of a 70s porno. This is the most adorable game designed specifically to kick your ass that I can recall in a very long time.

I'm here to tell you that Spelunky is an asshole, and that it really is that hard. In fact I've been meaning to write about this game for awhile and a big reason I've held off is that I have spent very little time in world 4 despite playing the game for what has to 20 hours at this point. It's truly a game that refuses to hold you hand in any way, shape, or form. It's a rare sidescrolling rogue-like in that you only get one life consisting of 4 hearts and when you die you start the entire game over. When you start over you're forced to do it without any of the items or cash you've accumulated during your last play-through. Thankfully the game does have a shortcut system, but you have to work considerably to unlock them. 

The basic premise of Spelunky is that you're an adventurer who needs to traverse downward through 4 worlds (dear god I hope it's 4 worlds) of 4 randomly generated caves. Each level contains a shopkeeper who sells you various items that give you added abilities as well as a "damsel" that you can carry to the end door for an extra heart. Everything from obstacles to the type/amount of enemies you will encounter in each level is changes on every play-through. It's impossible to tell when the game is going to throw you a curve-ball. I can't tell you many times I've gotten into a good place with accumulating a ton of hearts and cash/items only to die 15 seconds into a level because the game decided to spawn in a dozen bloodthirsty bees who chased me into making a dumb mistake like getting impaled on spikes or blown up by an explosive frog.

The game design is very deliberate in that you have to be constantly aware of every move you make because death can and will be around every corner. It's really a game where you should traverse slowly but the option to sprint by holding right trigger is always present. It's alarming at how much faster this makes moving your character, It's even beyond the level of acceleration from normal walk to sprint that was present in a game like Super Meat Boy. I recommend only sprinting in areas you've previously explored or if you're running away from an enemy who will certainly kill you.

Definitely buy this game if you like platformers or rogue-like games that will challenge you to the brink of insanity. There's a demo on Xbox Live that you can check out for free to see if it's your thing, it's retailing for 1200 Microsoft Points. ($15).

note: the xbla version is based on a freeware pc version that came out in 2009. I haven't spent much time with that version but it is available here.

Because strategy is so crucial to being good at Spelunky, here's a few things I've learned along the way to help you out on your journey.

*Predictably world 1 is the easiest, I like to use it as my best opportunity to collect a lot of in-game currency and buy items. I put a lot more emphasis on exploration in these levels as typically the enemies you will encounter are far weaker than those you will encounter in worlds 2 and 3. 

*If I fuck up in 1-1 at any point I immediately kill myself with a bomb and start over. I also do the same thing if 1-1 starts with a dark world.

*The arrow spewing traps in world 1 are a real pain in the ass, especially if you haven't played the game before. Make sure you look down before leaping at all points. Always carry an item to throw in it's path to set the trap off before trying to avoid it (that almost never ends well).

*Collect the idol in world 1 with caution because if that giant boulder hits the shop-keeper he will chase you for the rest of the game. Feel free to collect the idol at will in world 2 and 3.

*In world 2 if you get a level with zombies and tombstones look for a tombstone labeled "ASH", not only is this an awesome Evil Dead reference but underneath you will find a shotgun which is easily the most powerful weapon in the game. 

*Priority of items you should buy in the shop:
  1. Cape
  2. Jet Pack
  3. Shotgun
  4. Climbing Gear
  5. Compass
*Don't try to kill the mammoths, giant frogs, or bees because they're very powerful. If you are in a good position to do it trying to kill the giant spiders is acceptable especially if you like having the sticky bomb ability.

*Do not lose your last rope or bomb unless you're in a real bad way. I've gotten stuck before with no option but to restart or wait for the ghost to come kill me.

*Still always look down if you have the cape, I know it makes you feel like a god but I can't tell you how many times I ignored some enemy or spike trap and killed myself.

*In world 2 if you throw a damsel at one of the sticky pink things you go to a special "worm level" where you can unlock a new knife and super meat boy as a playable character (look for a green orb  near the bottom)

*In world 3 the priority needs to be survival. Items are spare for a reason, I wouldn't explore unless you see a damsel or a shopkeeper nearby.

*The requirements for Tunnel-Man's shortcuts are the following:
World 2:
  1. 1 bomb
  2. 1 rope
  3. $10,000
World 3:
  1. 2 bombs 
  2. 2 ropes
  3. A shotgun (use the zombie levels in world 2 or the shopkeeper to obtain one)
World 4:
  1. 3 bombs
  2. 3 ropes
  3. a key from world 1 (note: it's basically impossible)
*Not playing Spelunky is a crime punishable by death

FRAMES PER SECOND is my weekly gaming feature. If you have any questions regarding this feature or just want to shoot the shit about video games you can find me on twitter here

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