Roguelike platformers constitute one of my favorite genres in all of gaming. They are built around the premise that as you play you can make permanent progress, however, each run is self-contained and starts from scratch. Spelunky 2 takes this premise and runs with it, creating a game that is easy to pick up and understand, but full of depth and content. Oh yeah, and it is brutally difficult.
I thought I was at least decent at video games before I started playing Spelunky 2, but my first few hours of playing were spent dying near constantly, all as I learned how to identify the myriad of different traps and enemies that were laying in wait to kill me. This sounds simple on the face of it, but the first area has spiders waiting on the ceiling, totems with hidden punching bags, line of sight triggered arrow traps, and more.
Many of these things on their own can kill you outright – that damn arrow trap was the bane of my existence – but what really makes the game challenging is the sheer amount of randomness that one mistake can set off. Like an arrow hitting you in the face, bouncing you down a hole, where a totem punches you into a random snake that finally bites you to death.
In most games, this kind of behavior is typically seen as frustrating, or downright infuriating. But Spelunky 2’s runs are so fast-paced that these kinds of upsets usually only end up costing a couple minutes of gameplay. As opposed to games like Hades, Enter the Gungeon, or Slay the Spire (great roguelikes in their own right) where runs can take upwards of 30 minutes once you get a handle on things, Spelunky’s are much shorter.
I most likely averaged somewhere around two to three minutes for my runs and, just for reference, there is an achievement to complete the adventure mode in under ten minutes. Runs are quick, random, challenging, and, most of all, fun. This makes Spelunky 2 the perfect embodiment of the “just one more game” phenomenon. Especially since there are plenty of times during your playthrough where you will come across a scenario where you’ll be risking death for a big payout.
My biggest vice during my time with Spelunky 2 was the ghost pot. A pot in the contorted shape of a ghost that, when broken, drops a diamond and spawns a ghost. This ghost ignores walls and obstacles and heads directly to you wherever you are on the level. If it touches you then you instantly die and have to start the run over. However, making it to the end of the level and moving on will cause the ghost to despawn.
One tactic I frequently employed was to pick up the pot and try to carry it to the door, breaking it just before going through myself. However, when your hands are full, you are unable to attack or pick up an actual weapon, which limits how you respond to situations. Trying to attack while holding the vase would cause me to throw it, which breaks it anyways, and then spawns the ghost when I’m already in a bad position.
There is also a pug, named Monty, that spawns in most levels. Picking him up and carrying him to the exit will give you an extra life when you advance to the next level. Which, if you’re like me, is a much needed boost to make it farther. As just mentioned, you can’t pick up two things at a time and going back for either Monty or the diamond, opens you up to all the risks that you just avoided.
This kind of decision making is ever present in Spelunky 2. Do you grab the key that might unlock a secret room, or hold on to the machete that will let you actually kill the more dangerous enemies? Do you spend some hard earned money in this store, or decide to blow open a hole in the ceiling and drop bombs on the shopkeep to steal everything? Sure the rest of the shops will be openly hostile, but it may be worth it for the super sweet cape that slows any fall.
More often than not, making the riskier decisions lead to me getting shot with a shotgun, blowing up, or getting shot with a shotgun and then blowing up. Sometimes it even worked out for me. With each run being so short though, I didn’t mind attempting something stupid, just to see what would happen; more times than not the craziness that ensued was incredibly fun.
And while the game is difficult, it’s not completely unforgiving. Shortcuts can be unlocked by progressing through an area and giving items to the NPC waiting at the end. She will ask for money, weapons, and other similar things. Fulfilling three of these requests will unlock a shortcut allowing you to skip the entire area.
Overall, Spelunky 2 is a joy to play. There is a ton of content included, much of which you’re unlikely to initially touch as you keep drowning in lava, exploding on pressure traps, and getting shot by an irate shopkeeper. There are mini-games that you can come across to earn money and get weapons. There are pressure traps that are reminiscent of Indiana Jones scenes.
That is, if Indiana Jones ever grabbed a golden idol that detonated walls holding back lava while quickly jumping out of the way. I honestly haven’t watched Indiana Jones very much so I wouldn’t know.
There are even boss fights that add an even extra level of challenge for more dedicated players.
All that being said, I don’t think Spelunky 2 is a game for everyone. If you don’t like precision platformers or incredibly challenging games, then this isn’t going to be for you. But if you enjoy roguelikes or are after a game that challenges you, feeling incredibly rewarding when you pull off some crazy maneuvers, then I can’t recommend Spelunky 2 enough.
Spelunky 2 is available to download from the Xbox Store
- Incredible replay value
- Tons of content to experience
- Great challenge
- Difficulty won’t be for everyone
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Mossmouth
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch, PC
- Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
- Release date - 13 Jan 2022
- Launch price from - £16.74