Back then, games had to come up with new concepts and ideas to challenge the realm of what was possible in games and how they were played. Graphics didn’t matter as much, and if your game had a solid idea, it could usually do pretty well. It shouldn’t be surprising that PC games were very innovative back in the 80’s and early 90’s, considering how much more power they had than an NES or Genesis. So, what happens when you take that power and come up with the idea of an incredibly difficult randomized dungeon crawler RPG? You get Roguelikes. Now, it’s been quite awhile since Rogue was released, and a lot more innovation has since come and gone in gaming. The basic concept brought by Roguelikes, the idea that environments could be randomly generated without making it impossible for the player to actually play the game, has ushered in some fantastic games. I don’t think Minecraft would be anywhere near as fun as it is if the worlds were not somewhat randomly generated.
The concept of Roguelike was used to make one utterly terrific, stylish and overall brutal platformer: Spelunky.
Spelunky is not to be confused with the NES title Spelunker. Way different. In Spelunky, you play a young Indiana Jones-type adventurer with a hat, a big red nose and a whip. You go around trying to find the end of each huge level while collecting all the loot and women you find in the process. There will be times where you’ll find dead ends, deadly pits or anything else you can think of which you wouldn’t immediately think you could progress through. However, you are given a small supply of ropes and bombs to help you traverse or shape the caves as you need to, and you can find or buy more throughout your adventure.
Or, you could just steal them.
This game gives you a ton of freedom to do just about anything you want. Don’t want to pay for that new glove? Just take it! Make sure you watch out for the shopkeeper though, because he’s got a shotgun with your name all over it. Not to mention he’ll tell all the other shopkeepers about you, and they’ll chase down and try to kill you on sight! It’s very possible to avoid the shops after you’ve stolen from one, however (and very recommended if that’s the case).
No matter what you do though, the main objective of the game is to get through the cave. Personally, I have never beaten this game, ever. Because it is difficult. Oh so difficult. However, here are a few tips that I’ve picked up which have helped me get as far as I have:
- Ropes and Bombs are your friends: Don’t be afraid to use your ropes and bombs to explore. They’re pretty common to find, and in the shops they’re usually pretty cheap. Just don’t misuse them, because if you waste a rope by placing it in a bad location or you blow yourself up, it can be tough to recover. Or, you know, you’re playing the game just to commit explosive suicide. If so, go for it!
- If you can pick it up, you can throw it: Life is very valuable in this game. It’s only possibly to gain or recover up to one point of health per level, meaning that you won’t always have the chance. In order to gain health, you have to rescue a Damsel and receive a kiss from her (or pay for one at a “Kissing Booth,” if you’re into prostitution). So, how do you preserve your precious hit points? Ranged weaponry! The whip has almost no range, but you can pick up a ton of stuff just lying around, like rocks or skulls. You can throw these at enemies to damage or kill them from a safe distance, or even use them to trigger traps. You can also use the previously mentioned damsels for this job! Just don’t accidentally throw her too much or onto spikes. She can’t kiss you for more life if she’s dead.
- The glove doesn’t fit!(Yes it does): The Climbing Glove is probably the best exploration item in the game. Basically, it lets you hang from any surface, not just ledges. This lets you slow down huge descents, climb up steep walls, and can help you save on ropes.
- Telefrags sucked in Doom. They’re no better here: If you’ve ever played Doom and got killed by a telefrag, you know how frustrating it is. Well, that’s the danger of the handheld teleportation device in this game: If you teleport into a wall, you die. Of course, you can also telefrag the baddies, but you have to be spot on and really practiced in using the damn thing.
- It’s-a Me! …What’s my name again?: You can damage a lot of enemies by jumping on them like in Mario. The spiked boots allow you to do more damage this way. But, also like Mario, there are some enemies you shouldn’t try to jump on. Like man-eating plants. Mario trains you for a lot of things in life, now that I think about it.
- Gambling is fun, kids!: While the dice-rolling shops are by no means guaranteed items or money, it is a good way of trying to get a little extra cash while not losing a huge amount in the process, or dying. Just don’t try to roll the same die twice. Take my word for it.
- Never bring a whip to a gun fight: If you can manage to get your hands on a gun or shotgun, get as much use out of it as you can. They can make a lot of enemies a lot less scary and ups your survivability quite a bit. However, you’ll have to decide if it’s really that important when you come across other things which you can only carry by hand, such as a damsel.
Of course, these tips only scratch the surface of what you can and should do in Spelunky. A lot of the fun is finding out for yourself the things you can get away with. But you’ll die a lot. I mean a LOT. And that’s ok, because this game is part Roguelike, and that’s one of the features of Roguelikes: never getting attached to your current game because death is all but inevitable.
Also, I did promise I’d talk about Desktop Dungeons as well in this article, but there’s not a lot to say. Two words are all I need: PLAY IT.
Spelunky is free for the PC, and can be found here. A revamped version with HD graphics and more features is coming to XBLA. Desktop Dungeons is also free for the PC and Mac, and can be found here. Such an addicting game.