First of all, I should mention that I played this game with a keyboard, which is probably an experience a little more frustrating than playing with a gamepad. But the game isn’t compatible with the one I have and I’m not going to spend money on a new gamepad, especially when I’m not even sure if this game can only be played with an Xbox Live gamepad. If that’s the case, it's an important flaw in this game.
Most of the time, this game plays like a balanced and fresh hybrid of action and puzzle platforming, with responsive controls and an impressive variety of enemies, traps, items and level designs. It never holds your hand and you’ll die from literally hundreds of different causes, each one in dozens of different ways, but you probably only have yourself to blame for dying the exact same way twice or more – although because of the fact that you are tossed away and/or completely lose control when you’re hit by certain foes or objects, plus the fact that objects can hit you after bouncing of walls (Gamespot’s review says the opposite so maybe my version is different), there are a significant amount deaths that are impossible to avoid. Sometimes Spelunky feels like a puzzle-platformer with too much action in it, by spending more time testing your eye-finger coordination and thumb reflexes to the limit, with several annoyingly fast, jumpy, deadly and tough enemies, and less time stimulating your creative thinking and 2D space orientation with traps and treasure hunting. Death is a common occurrence while playing Spelunky, and you’re always sent back to the very beginning of the game and lose everything you collected throughout the levels, but you can also have short-cuts built for you – although that doesn’t bring back the items or gold you lost, which makes the levels even more frustratingly hard. An optional way to recover/obtain some items/gold when you take the short-cuts would’ve made it more fun and accessible.
In order to avoid repetition, the game has a random level generator, which generates a new layout every time you re-play the same level. But this means that you never know in which direction the end of each level is (unless you’re very lucky and find a compass), and the way this random system is programmed sometimes results in an early level design being trickier and deadlier than a later one. And in some of the generated levels you need a significant amount of luck to reach their end without losing any of your four hearts, because there’s no way for you to be for sure which is the best/safest path you can take (I’m not even sure that every level has fairly safe path), not only because of the design of the levels but also because the items you find don’t seem to have any relation with the level designs that are generated. On top of that, there are shops, that are placed in random levels and with random items for sale, which half the times serves to balance out some of the mentioned “luck factor” by rewarding players that found more treasures and gold, but are almost useless in the other half. All of the problems mentioned are even more aggravating in the uncommon levels that are completely in the dark, which can appear at any time, where you only see a little around your doomed explorer.
So, even with a countless number of “different” levels that are randomly generated every time you re-play the same group of levels – which actually means you’ll probably NEVER play the exact same level twice – and with the knowledge about how to avoid traps and defeat enemies, after dying a few hundred times the game starts to feel a bit repetitive. I really love platformers, either in 2D or 3D, with more or less action. It’s my absolute favorite genre! I enjoy hard games that require a big deal of practice, concentration and perseverance to overcome, and I still play this game from time to time, but Spelunky is too hard for its own good, and I believe most gamers won’t have neither the patience nor the skill to experience the majority of the merciless and ever-changing levels contained in it. Overall, this is a great game, with well done action and puzzle platforming, but it could’ve been better with more selective or connected variations of level designs, items, enemies and shops, with a smaller average of enemies per level and with a less erratic difficulty curve.
GAMEPLAY = = = = = = = = ( 8 )
GRAPHICS = = = = = = = = ( 8 )
SOUND = = = = = = = = ( 8 )
VALUE = = = = = = = = = ( 9 )
MY GAME SCORE = ((( 8.0 )))