Spelunky 2 on PS4
It has been many years since the first Spelunky took the gaming world by storm, exposing players to a breakout indie title which offered a simple yet stylish aesthetic alongside a brutally punishing difficulty curve. Though it could have gone down as a one hit wonder after so long, the series is instead pushing forward with Spelunky 2, a sequel that retains all of the strengths of the original while building on them to great effect.
As with the original, the setup for the game is simple: Several years after the events of the first game, a strange temple related to the ancient being Olmec has emerged once more. This time, however, it has appeared on the moon, though those who explored the first game’s temple have no idea why.
Curious to find out why it has appeared, Spelunky Guy and his wife set out to explore the structure, only to disappear into its depths. Fortunately, their daughter Ana and her allies are ready to take up her parents’ mantle, journey to the temple’s depths and, if possible, save her parents.
It’s not the deepest plot out there, but it works better that way for the purpose of the game. As with the original, Spelunky 2 isn’t about uncovering buckets of lore, diary entries or story bits. Instead, it’s about struggling through randomly generated levels, journeying ever deeper toward more diverse and difficult stages via carefully practiced platforming skills.
And when I say struggle, I mean struggle. Just like its forebear, the sequel can be punishingly difficult for newcomers and veterans of the series alike. Arrow-spitting statues and spike-trap platforms litter the path down toward stage exits. Brutish cavemen and monstrous insects patrol every passageway, and staples like lava pits and rigged treasures will make more than a few appearances during any run.
These become all the more troublesome when one considers the game’s RNG elements. All of these traps, enemies and hazards are positioned entirely at random. Players could find themselves wandering through a level littered with treasure, never hassled by a single enemy; or, they could be swarmed by half a dozen threats at once.
It isn’t uncommon to finds oneself charred, pierced and tenderized into meaty bits within seconds of starting a run. Sometimes players won’t even see a potential threat until it kills them, with an enemy or randomly generated object triggering another threat off screen.
This is all a drawn out way of saying that getting through Spelunky 2 is a brutal learning process. Players will die again and again, making little to no progress when the RNG isn’t in their favor and having little they can do to change that besides try again. For those who aren’t ready for it, this can be incredibly draining, and make it feel like things will never line up well enough to see what else the title has in store.
For those that stick with it though, there will be the same heights the first game offered: Everything will click into place, and they’ll get into a groove dealing with any threat that comes their way. All of their jumps, whip cracks and thrown bombs will be timed perfectly, and they’ll manage to secure one route downward after another with ease. It’s a highly gratifying experience, and one that makes most all of the struggles worth it.
Plus, the game does offer ways to alleviate the pressure. As mentioned before, Spelunky 2 does make changes to the original, from new shops filled with freshly made items to special events and tasks that can improve one’s equipment loadout upon completion. One of the biggest, though, is the addition of co-op mutliplayer right out the gate, which lends itself beautifully to the series’ formula.
Coordinating in tandem with another player to nab every treasure, and to take on otherwise devastatingly tough enemies, can be a godsend, and when paired with the other new additions makes even the game’s toughest sections more managable.
Spelunky 2’s art style and sound design also make it easier to endure. On the art front, the game provides a slightly updated take on the franchise’s trademark look. Every thing from the main characters to the enemies they face have a certain cuteness to them, which pops out all the more thanks to a bright and energetic color palette.
It stands out all the more thanks to the environments, which share the vibrant color scheme while providing a slightly more grounded look and feel. It helps to drive home the danger of each new stage, and makes any unfortunate fate the characters meet all the more striking.
The sound, meanwhile, manages to nail a similar balance. For every twinkle of a fantasical treasure entering the player’s possession, there’s the sound of an arrow whizzing through the air before blasting the player off a ledge. For every adoribly loud lick from a rescued pet, there’s the sound of an enemy being squashed by a stone block or their bones shattering after a high fall.
Factor in the musical score, which dwells comfortably in the realm of retro platformer and adventure game tunes, and players will be lulled into a comfortable rhythm of dying, learning and hopping right back into another run.
There’s little else that can be said about Spelunky 2 other than that it does right by its forebear. It’s still just as addictive as ever to journey into untold dangers over and over, and even if it may put off newcomers with its difficulty curve, it’s an experience worth having for anyone willing to rise to its challenges.
RNG can be unfair at times.
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