Thursday, November 15, 2012

Spelunky Review (XBLA)

The thrill of every adventure is an unexpected ending. Whether you’re scaling a mountain in Nepal or searching for a Starbucks on your smart phone in Manhattan, the potential conclusions to your quest are always infinite.

Often in video games, we’re limited to a set path envisioned years earlier by a game developer. Even in most open-world games, you can only stray from the main quest for so long before needing to snap back to the pre-written story in order to advance the narrative. Spelunky eradicates this cliché with a bullet to the face while concurrently being the unrivaled Best Indie Video Game of 2012.

Spelunky is a 2D platformer that randomly generates each level. Try it 1,000,000 times and you’ll never face the same stage twice. Every time you play is a unique and isolated experience; nobody else in the world will face the same scattering of pathways, enemies, items, shops, treasures, and traps as you.

You play the role of a humble adventurer seeking wealth and fame in the nightmarish and elaborate caves of Spelunky. Amongst the treasure stands a massive army of relentless bats, zombies, bees, spiders, mummies, aliens, knights, yetis, snakes, vampires, ghosts, piranhas, cultists, cavemen, frogs, magma-men, and monsters I can’t even find the words to describe.

Armed with 4 ropes, 4 bombs, and 1 life, you’ll often find yourself overwhelmed with the insane difficulty of Spelunky. You will die hundreds upon hundreds of times and endlessly lose everything you worked your ass off for, before instantly being sent back to Level 1-1.

Despite what it seems, death is never in vane.  Each lost life in Spelunky brings new knowledge and in turn prepares you to survive a similar event in the future. Perhaps you were shot in the neck by an arrow trap; next time, trigger it with a well-placed rope silly. Perhaps a snake bit through your torso as you cracked open a pot with your whip; next time, throw the pot at a wall, distancing yourself from the enemy you rascal. Perhaps you were stung to death by a swarm of angry bees, spit from the mouth of a mummy; next time, attack the mummy from above or behind you dumb fuck!

Rather than rewarding the player with new abilities, Spelunky offers the gift of comprehension. Of the hundreds of possible methods to beat each level, no skills are earned; all skills are learned. Having everything at your fingertips from level 1, really forces you to improvise and use creativity to overcome each obstacle.

Will you be a greedy gold hoarder and meticulously comb every inch of every level for every piece of loot? Will you be an outlaw and kill the first shopkeeper you come across to gain access to expensive items and gain immense power free of charge? Will you be a fast-paced stealthy pacifist and avoid every enemy for a speed-run to the end? In Spelunky, the choice is yours.

We grow from every adventure in life, no matter how small. The choices we make define the risk of our journeys as our body and minds evolve. Spelunky is a rare gem that offers infinite adventures with very low risk. Sure it’s bound to frustrate and intimidate uninitiated spelunkers but Spelunky is a mere chess-match with the mind. There are no tricks or manipulation at play here; every death is on your own hands. Learn to relish the loss of your own life and appreciate the adventure of being because Spelunky is the epitome of a beautiful ride.

SPELUNKY: 10 out of 10 (Flawless)

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