Ana (center) is the star of <em>Spelunky 2</em>, and she's on a search for her adventuring parents after they abandoned her to look for treasure on the Moon.
Enlarge / Ana (heart) is the star of Spelunky 2, and he or she’s on a seek for her adventuring mother and father after they deserted her to search for treasure on the Moon.


My latest work at Ars Technica has principally revolved round high-end devices like VR headsets, GPUs, and next-gen consoles. It is enjoyable stuff.

However whereas swimming by embargoed {hardware} and frantic information bulletins, I preserve coming again to a single online game effectively outdoors the “next-generation” mould.

Spelunky 2 is probably going essentially the most “dated” sport I am going to slap the “Ars Accepted” sticker onto in 2020. The adjective “dated” works partially as a result of the sport’s success builds largely, and loudly, upon the muse of 2012’s 2D smash Spelunky HD… and that title builds upon the 16-bit genius of 2009’s freeware unique. (Which you’ll nonetheless obtain! Free of charge! Proper subsequent to its supply code!)

A sure class of gamer will hear that “Spelunky 2 is every part good about Spelunky HD, solely higher” and want to hear nothing extra. That is honest (particularly for gamers who will maintain out for the sport’s launch on PC in two weeks, after its timed PlayStation 4 exclusivity runs out). The attraction of Spelunky 2, like its predecessor, comes from the way it cleverly shakes a cup filled with gameplay and level-construction parts, dumps them onto a desk, and shouts “Yahtzee!” because it surprises you repeatedly. (To be clear, on this sport’s case, “Yahtzee” is a synonym for “You died!” You’ll die repeatedly in Spelunky 2.)

No spoilers but, swear

Between runs, you can find the characters you've unlocked hanging out in a little subterranean village. (The characters are only cosmetic, but their audio-visual differences are still pretty fun to uncover.)
Enlarge / Between runs, you will discover the characters you’ve got unlocked hanging out in a bit of subterranean village. (The characters are solely beauty, however their audio-visual variations are nonetheless fairly enjoyable to uncover.)
Spelunky 2 product image

Spelunky 2 [PS4, PC]

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To that finish, this text is a principally spoiler-free exploration of what Spelunky 2 will get proper as a sequel. Primarily, the excellent news comes within the type of what hasn’t modified.

Should you’ve by no means Spelunky‘ed earlier than, or if it has been some time, here is a refresher: the article of each sport within the collection is to progress from the highest of a treasure-filled community of caves to the underside. Like in Tremendous Mario video games, your side-scrolling, 2D hero has a handy guide a rough quantity of pace and momentum for working and hopping. As an Indiana Jones-style twist on the style, your default arsenal features a whip, the power to seize onto ledges, and a restricted pool of explosive bombs and climbable ropes. All of those core methods nonetheless really feel responsive as hell, and it is essential that the sport feels so good to regulate, as a result of you should grasp its pixel-perfect leaps and dashes to outlive its chaos.

Each Spelunky 2 degree is procedurally generated by shuffling and remixing a large choice of premade degree components. Each time you die, your progress rewinds to the highest of the caves, at which level you will discover the world beneath you has been newly remixed. By default, you’ll be able to’t memorize a precise association of monsters, traps, shopkeepers, gadgets, treasure, and secrets and techniques, then you definitely optimize your run accordingly. This reality—mixed with how the sport’s harmful parts can wipe a whole run straight away—forces gamers into Spelunky 2‘s brutal actuality: get your act collectively, or perish.

After my first three hours enjoying Spelunky 2, I saved remarking to myself how shocked I used to be by seemingly new monsters, gadgets, and tweaks… solely to comprehend how a lot of that stuff was solely unchanged from the earlier sport. I level this out as a result of I am amazed by what number of Spelunky 2 moments really feel extremely contemporary in 2020 with out altering the great concepts discovered within the 2009 unique.

Your default whip assault nonetheless has a intelligent quantity of “behind your again” momentum. Bats nonetheless fly “straight” at your hero in obnoxiously curved strains, making them a stunning nuisance. The freeze ray remains to be a blast to make use of, particularly when it enables you to flip a harmful foe right into a helpful block of climbable ice. Monkeys are nonetheless freaking jerks who exist solely to rob and annoy you. AI-controlled “helpers” are nonetheless maniacs who do extra hurt than good. Stuff like that.

Delicate spoilers start right here

As an alternative of deleting or redefining tentpoles of the unique Spelunky, the sequel exists largely as a response to the sport’s decade of fandom. Die-hard followers have continued enjoying the unique model all these years later, and Spelunky 2 gives more energizing stuff particularly for the veteran viewers, in ways in which organically trickle right down to anyone who may stink on the sport.

In a latest interview with the SpelunkyCast, collection creator Derek Yu defined that one key design pillar for this sequel was to make it really feel extra like an open-world sport, the place the chance of seeing “each” main gameplay component in a single run is much less probably. If you are going to play the sport again and again, Yu figures, why ought to it all the time lead from the mines to the jungle to the ice caves? Therefore, the primary big change comes from a forking path in each run, the place gamers get a number of “world” choices after roughly each 4 ranges. When the atmosphere is about to vary, you will have entry to at the least two doorways, and these diverge drastically by way of the enemies, challenges, and traps forward.

With out getting too spoilery, a few of these environmental adjustments embrace new twists on “liquid” physics. Take into consideration Spelunky HD, the place you may really feel compelled to blow a gap right into a wall utilizing one in every of your restricted bombs to succeed in treasure or make progress. That also components into Spelunky 2, however now, take into consideration volumes of liquid that is likely to be shifted or loosed by a bomb, both deliberately or by accident. Does that liquid comprise gadgets? Should you swim by that liquid (a brand new maneuver on this sport), might you attain new locations? Would possibly that liquid hurt you in a method or one other? And when you’ve got a freeze ray useful, are you able to flip harmful enemies into floating blocks of ice?

Let’s argue

In our early exams, Ars Technica’s Kyle Orland and I had completely different opinions about these branching paths: which of them are safer, extra fruitful, or extra attention-grabbing. Neither of us dislikes something in these branching paths. It is simply completely different sufficient to foster a compelling disagreement—which, gosh, is absolute juice for a sport that lives and dies by procedural technology. An awesome random-adventure sport shouldn’t solely be enjoyable however foster nice watercooler discuss amongst followers: “…and that acquired the shopkeeper offended, however then he acquired squashed, so I rushed to get his loot, solely to have a horned lizard lure me in a nook!”

Past that main change, there’s simply extra of every part. Extra retailer sorts, together with some that allow you to commerce your amassed wealth for slot-machine bonuses or tickets into mysterious, treasure-filled vaults. Extra gadgets, together with a lethal crossbow that may be reloaded with any arrow you discover (significantly those that shoot out of traps). And extra foes and creatures who remix each degree with new, harmful potentialities to look out for, like pesky moles who crawl into and out of ceilings and flooring—and thus flip seemingly harmless tunnels filled with treasure into potential dying traps.


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