by Darius Kazemi on January 22, 2009

in best game ever,games,indie,procedural content,review,Spelunky

For the last three weeks I’ve been playing Derek Yu’s new game, Spelunky, nonstop. It’s kind of a combination of a roguelike and a 16-bit platformer. The platfomer elements should be obvious enough, but the roguelike elements are amazing. The game procedurally generates its levels every time. Having played through the game about 200 times now, I can spot that there are some portions that are just big lego blocks of premade rooms being stuck together, but they’re nicely counterbalanced by areas that seem (to me) to be completely algorithmically generated.

The game is also a roguelike in the sense that it is all about learning through dying. The first time you play, you’ll probably die within 20 seconds. “Oh, that tile is a trap. Okay, avoid that next time.” “Oh, I didn’t know that you can sometimes find enemies in clay jars.” Et cetera. You’ll die a lot. A whole lot. The game is almost frustrating, except that every time you die it’s usually in a unique way that actually makes sense: “Oh, I’ve never encountered what happens when you put that monster in between those two traps, but now that I think about it, it was pretty clear that it was going to result in my own grisly demise.”
The game is not like a standard roguelike, in that it’s a casual game. While it’s ridiculously hard to beat, it only takes about 20 minutes to beat it in one sitting. So you don’t have to be engaged with it for too long (although if you’re like me it’ll suck you in for hours).
To say much more about it would spoil the fun of learning its systems and secrets.
Anyway, I highly recommend Spelunky. I urge you to download it and play it at least a few times to get a feel for it. This is already a contender for best game of 2009 (even though I think it was released in late late 2008).


Michel January 22, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Actually version 1.0 hasn’t been released yet. The latest beta version introduced a few new bugs, and saved stats probably won’t carry over to 1.0, so it might be worth waiting a week or two before jumping into this for the first time.

He’s eventually going to release the source, but I think it should also be submitted to the 2010 IGF. And ported to XBLA.

Anonymous January 23, 2009 at 4:58 pm

Spelunky has been sitting on my desktop unplayed all week while I’ve been totally glued to King’s Bounty: The Legend. I’m still looking forward to it.

How come you aren’t on Steam anymore?


Darius Kazemi January 23, 2009 at 5:01 pm

I’m not on Steam anymore because I decided not to run it by default in the background on my machine…

Caleb January 28, 2009 at 2:51 am

Spelunky is my mistress. I’ve been playing it for hours and hours and hours.

I’ve finally gotten the level 5 and 9 shortcuts open. I’m nowhere near getting 13 open.

I keep telling my friend how awesome and deep (hrhr) the game is, but he refuses to play. He whinges about the controls every time I bring it up.

Anyway, just letting you know that you’re not alone in your love of this game.


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