Spelunky has a lot of charm. The visuals are cute and the music is nice. The randomness can lead to funny things like tossing a damsel toward the exit only to have her eaten in one bite by a ravenous plant. Some items are quite fun too.
Despite the potential appeal, I found Spelunky to be totally obnoxious, relying on cheap deaths, nonsensical randomness, and arbitrary design decisions. Lest you think I’m just not a good player, it personally took me 9 hours (about 160 deaths) to unlock all the tunnels (the last tunnel unlock is insanely annoying) and then complete the regular ending.
Sadly there isn’t much content in Spelunky. There are only a handful of level types, and if it wasn’t for the fiendish difficulty it would only take a few hours to see everything.
Speaking of fiendish, Spelunky is designed to make you die over and over. Moreover, it is random to a fault. Some levels are easy, but others are nightmarish (torch levels!). Gear is absolutely essential for surviving, but often it never spawns. You are at the whim of the randomness which is frustrating.
Item management is also obnoxious. You can only carry one thing in your hands. This means you have to constantly be dropping and throwing your stuff. Get used to dropping your precious shotgun, saving the damsel, and then going back for your gun. And why can’t you put the key in your pocket!? Because the game wants you to die.
It’s too bad the game doesn’t have an Easy mode because Steam says only 5% of all players have finished the game. It is too bad the developer made the game so hardcore that most won’t even see all the content they paid for.
To conclude, Spelunky is obnoxious and its charm cannot overcome the incredibly repetitive and random nature of the game. There’s a reason the original PC version is available for free. I cannot recommend this game to anyone but the most masochistic of gamers.