Spelunky (Vita)

I had a love-hate relationship with Spelunky.  I loved it.  It hated me.  It screwed my attempts at progress every step of the way.  Like the time I had built up ten hearts and much of the best equipment of the game, only to have a spider set off a dart trap which blew up a crate which caused a shopkeeper to declare me a terrorist, leading to me getting spotted and murdered by someone in his union on the next stage.  Spelunky is full of stories like that.  Speak to anyone who has put more than an hour into it and I’m sure you’ll hear tales of how the game fucked them over in ways both infuriating and hilarious.

Despite being pitiful at Spelunky, I still enjoy it.  It’s one of those very rare punishers that gets it right.  Yet, it’s been a while since I’ve played it.  The reason being that its novelty wore thin after about a week.  When I found myself with time to kill, something always seemed like a better option than Spelunky.  Thus, it went on to collect virtual dust inside my Xbox’s memory.  And then came Spelunky on Vita.

And yes, the damsels are back. Apparently this has been the source of controversy, the theory being that having girls in need of rescuing somehow reinforces negative stereotypes. That's a thing right now because the game collective hive mind mentality tells us that, while games most certainly DO NOT cause violent behavor under any circumstance and anyone who says otherwise is an out of touch old person like a politican or a lawyer or something, games most certainly can and do lead to sexism. And also lucrative Kickstarter campaigns.

And yes, the damsels are back. Apparently this has been the source of controversy, the theory being that having girls in need of rescuing somehow reinforces negative stereotypes. That’s a thing right now because the game collective hive mind mentality tells us that, while games most certainly DO NOT cause violent behavior under any circumstance and anyone who says otherwise is an out of touch old person like a politician or a lawyer or something, games most certainly can and do lead to sexism. And also lucrative Kickstarter campaigns. Anyway, that’s me rescuing the damsel after having just rescued the Mexican from a trapped coffin, because that’s what heroes do.  And no, I did not kill the shopkeeper.  He killed himself after I accidentally destroyed his shop with a giant boulder.  I also accidentally destroyed the alter that I was going to sacrifice both the damsel and the Mexican on. Which I admit, is slightly less heroic. Unless you’re a Pagan.

First off, you should know that I almost never pay for a game more than once.  There are Nintendo fanboys who could recreate one of those jetpack things they use over water using just their erect penises and the semen they generate from the prospect of Wind Waker HD.  I don’t get it.  I (or more accurately my parents since I was 13 when it originally came out) already paid $50 for it once upon a time, and I sure as fuck ain’t paying another $50 for the same game I already played ten years ago.  Typically, any time I replay the same game a year or more after the fact, I don’t like it as much.  I got Shadow of the Colossus HD for Christmas in 2011 (with overrated Ico stuck to it like a fucking tumor), and cringed.  A well-intentioned Christmas present for sure, but I knew something that my boyfriend and father did not: you see things replaying a game that you didn’t notice in your joy-filled delirium the first time around.  Consequently, I had trouble understanding what it was I saw in Shadow the first time around, and that’s a game I truly loved.  So for a game like Spelunky, putting up extra $11.99 (God bless PlayStation Plus) for something that I mostly just tolerated seemed like madness.

Spelunky on Vita is pretty much identical to its console big brothers.  Same graphics.  Same controls.  And every rage-filled gripe I had about it before is still there and still has the potential to make my blood boil.  Stuff like:

-Why the FUCK is the randomly generated layout so God Damned unfair sometimes?  They’ll put the golden idol right next to a store, guaranteeing that you will piss off the shopkeeper if you attempt to steal it.  Which of course means every future shopkeeper will try to murder you.

-While we’re on the subject, why is the shopkeeper so easy to set off?  I’ve played Spelunky enough that at least three times I’ve been going about my business only to have “TERRORIST!” pop up on-screen, usually when I’m not even fucking aware that there was a shop nearby.  This is also why the game desperately needs a replay/video sharing function.  I want to know what random, whacky series of events got me framed for descration of the store.

-Why do dark rooms exist?  As if Spelunky wasn’t difficult enough to work with, the game has to randomly turn off the lights?  Does anyone else get the impression that if Spelunky existed as a corporeal child, it would pull the wings off flies and blow up frogs with firecrackers?

-Why isn’t there an extreme pussy mode for people like me that tosses the whole roguelike bullshit aside in favor of getting to retain items?

-Why the fuck do ice levels still exist in games?  I thought we all collectively agreed that they should be abolished back in 1998?

Spelunky has ice stages with bad control. OF COURSE IT DOES!

Spelunky has ice stages with bad control. OF COURSE IT DOES!

-Why the hell doesn’t House immediately talk to Wilson whenever someone coughing up a liver gets wheeled into Princeton-Plainsboro?  They could talk about the weather or Cuddy’s breasts, or whatever until he has his epiphany. It should only take twenty minutes at most and would save a lot of lives and money.  Sorry, I was just seeing if you were paying attention.

-Why isn’t there more uniformity in the game?  Randomly generated maps.  FINE!  But shouldn’t certain stages always have stuff in them?  The alter, or the idol, or a secret door to the Black Market seem like they should always be hidden in a specific level, not possibly in the next one.  The same goes for special events like the one that opens up the alien ship, which I actually stumbled upon on accident.  Sure, it makes events like this special.  On the other hand, it makes actually trying to get them tedious.

So I wasn’t planning on buying Spelunky on my Vita.  Then I was talked into it by my readers, and thank God for that.  Spelunky, our little hateful bundle of joy, has found its home.  It’s tailor-made for a portable console, where you can pick up and play it with no pressure to perform well.  Spelunky is the perfect portable platformer.  Pick it up when you have five to ten minutes to spare.  Die a couple of times.  When you need to do something, you can easily put it down (especially if you already binge-played it last year and are somewhat burned out on it).  But when you have plenty of time on hand, you can put in extended sessions and maybe make a little progress.  You know, before the fates of the game conspire to fuck you over.

I knew I liked Spelunky.  I just didn’t know how much I liked it until the time came to rank it on the IGC Leaderboard.  Well, I can say without hesitation, I like Spelunky on Vita more.  In fact, I would be shocked if I ever touch it on XBLA again.  Hell, I didn’t even bother downloading the PS3 version that came with this.  Fuck that, why would I?  The Vita version is everything you should want in a portable game.  It doesn’t require a huge time investment, but is addictive enough that you can play it until the battery is drained.  Beautiful graphics.  Tight control (and actually, I found some of the annoying items that screw up the controls, like the climbing glove, to be slightly less annoying on Vita), and plenty of replay value.  I’ll probably never be good at Spelunky, but that’s fine.  It’s nice to know that it’s right there in my purse, ready to kick my ass during every smoke break and trip to the bathroom.  If you haven’t already got it, and you’re one of the six people beside me that bought a Vita, it’s a must own.

imageSpelunky was developed by Mossmouth

IGC_Approved$14.99 (I paid $11.99 with PS+) never once looked at a game and said “you have to rescue a girl in this game.  It’s so right. Me and my vagina are useless” in the making of this review. 

Spelunky is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick LeaderBoardConsider the PS3/XBLA versions also Chick Approved, and drop their rank about 30 to 40 spots below the Vita version. 


Every once in a while, I need a break from XBLIG.  I love you guys, but a girl can only take so many punishers before she needs a vacation from that.  So, I’m going to review Spelunky, a recent punisher on Xbox Live Arcamuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.


Spelunky is a game made by assholes, for assholes.  Having put somewhere around ten hours into it since this last weekend, I’m wearing a jumbo-sized asshole badge on this one too.  I couldn’t help myself.  I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t even having fun, but at the same time I was practically hypnotized by what was transpiring on-screen.  A series of colossal dick moves, one after another, so random and so spiteful that I’m pretty sure this is a game designed to specifically take players down a peg.  I’m know people will say that I just sucked at Spelunky and thus I suck at games and life in general.  You know what?  Fine, guilty as charged.  But Spelunky is a bastard.

The idea is you’re a little explorer dude who has to go through a series of randomly-generated levels, looking for treasure, items, and exits.  The game plays out like a platformer, but the first sign that Spelunky shoots baby giraffes with bullets made from the ground-up hoofs of their own mother is the fact that it’s also a Roguelike.  When you die, you go back to start, and any progress you’ve made will be lost.  And you will die.  You’ll die from falling too far.  You’ll die from getting squashed by giant boulders.  You’ll die from being shot by arrows.  Annoyingly, you’ll die from dodging arrows, only for them to bounce off a wall and land on you.  You’ll die from bats.  You’ll die from trying to avoid bats.  You’ll die from trying to throw a rock at a bat, missing, and having the rock land on you.  Everything seems to want you dead in this game.  If Gandhi was in it he would probably spray you with bullets.

Oh yea, he’s fucked.

I didn’t make it very far into Spelunky.  Most of that is on me and a little thing called greed.  I’m incapable of doing a bare minimum to survive.  The game is filled with tons of treasure just lying around, and I wanted all of it.  But the game sends a bit of a mixed message, because Spelunky seems to actively discourage exploration.  You only have a couple of minutes to “enjoy” each stage before a giant ghost monster thingie comes to kill you.  Thus, you’re forced to rush through each stage, which has far more things to explore than you can reasonably hope to grab.  However, rushing means you don’t have time to check to make sure there isn’t something just out of sight that will immediately result in your death.  In a way, I like how you have to calculate the risk versus reward.  On the other hand, filling the game up with so much shit and forbidding a person from trying to collect it all makes me want to slowly insert a lit cherry bomb up the developer’s piss pipe.  Well, not too slowly.  I’m not trying to blow my own fingers off here.  In fact, maybe I should wait to light it until it’s inserted fully.

Honestly, Spelunky isn’t really that good of a game, mechanically at least.  The controls are kind of weird.  Jumping and movement are mostly fine, but I was constantly and unintentionally clinging to walls and leaving myself wide open for attack.  Aiming your throws is a bit clunky too, and not without risk.  If you try to throw a rock in the air, you’re just as likely to kill yourself doing it when it ricochets off a wall and hits you upside your noggin.  Items that are allegedly there to help you aren’t safe either.  I got a glove that allowed me to throw stuff better.  And by better, I mean the shit you throw just keeps going until it hits something.  This one time I threw a rock, and then about two seconds later the sound of the shopkeeper declaring his intent to murder me rang throughout the stage.  Well fuck.  Another time I bought a green glove, which allows you to climb.  Sounded great, but remember that “stuck to the wall” bit I was talking about earlier?  Multiply that by every fucking jump you make to get an idea of how useful it ultimately is.

Don’t let the cute graphics fool you. This game is evil.

I think the biggest problem is Spelunky relies too much on just plain old stupid luck.  This is mostly due to the random level design.  Fans of the game disagree with me, while others have said that Spelunky is only 25% luck.  I would suggest 1% is too much for certain games, but fine, it’s only 25%.  What does that mean?  Well, most of the “damsels” that you need to fill up your health will be right out in the open.  But sometimes she (or he, or a dog) will be stuck behind a wall that requires a minimum of three bombs to get through, and  those are usually in short supply.  Or sometimes the game will just randomly make a level dark and practically impossible to navigate.  For a while I tried to work my way through those, but after hours of failure after failure, I said “fuck it” and started to commit suicide as soon as those godforsaken things popped up.  I figured fate dealt me a shitty hand, and so fuck fate.  I won’t give it the satisfaction of watching me fall on a spike.

And then there are the fun random deaths.  I’m willing to concede that 19 out of 20 deaths were entirely my fault.  Having said that, in a game this brutally difficult, having just 1 of those 20 be something I had nothing to do with is just vile.  And probably hilarious if you’re a spectator.  This one time I got to level 1-4 and I was having my best run yet.  I had taken no damage, gotten my health up to seven points, built up over twenty bombs, ten ropes, and had enough items that I was better equipped to invade a small country.  I start the level, walk a little bit to the right, and then an explosion happens somewhere off-screen.  And then something that sent a shockwave down my spine occurred: the “TERRORIST!” splash that pops up when you “attack” one of the shopkeeper dudes popped up.  When that happens, they pull out a shotgun and open fire on you, and it’s nearly impossible to fight back.  Sure enough, we ran into each-other not long after and I was killed.  Fuck you, Spelunky.

Do you know what Spelunky really needed?  A video sharing function.  Without a doubt the most fun I’ve had from the game is swapping tales of my biggest failures with my fellow masochists.  They’re all over Twitter.  Spelunky is the new “Big Fish Story” game of choice.  Everyone that spends at least an hour with it walks away with stories of comical ineptness.  Being able to send your friends videos of your most spectacular deaths would have been a huge selling point for the game.  But alas, it’s not to be.  In fact, other than some lame leaderboards, Spelunky doesn’t take advantage of Xbox Live at all.  There’s a way useless death match feature that’s local-only.  It’s so badly done that I’m not sure why they bothered.  Matches last just a few seconds, and finding three other people capable of lasting longer will be tough even for those of you with an actual social life.  There’s also co-op, but don’t even bother trying it.  Save some time and stab your nearest friend in the knee with a screwdriver.  Trust me, this way is faster.  You’ll just end up wanting to do it anyway.

One of the most pointless modes I’ve seen added to a game in a long while.

Here’s a thought: combine the death-match with the co-op, remove any bullshit about working together, and put the fucking thing on Xbox Live where it belongs.  Make it a race/death-match where the four players are not anchored together on a single screen.  A race to the exit, or the last man left alive.  That would have been awesome.  Hell, it might have even justified the 1200MSP price tag.  Seriously, $15 for this?  Out-fucking-rageous.  This isn’t an XBLIG we’re talking about here.  This is an Arcade game, yet it lacks some of the fundamental bells and whistles of the service.

I can’t recommend Spelunky, because I feel doing so would make me a horrible person.  Any fun you have playing it slowly vanishes, yet you can’t stop playing.  It owns you.  God help me, I’m going to go play it some more as soon as I finish this review.  And then when I’m actually playing it, I have trouble tearing myself away from it.  One time I only quit because my battery charge went out.  This isn’t a game.  It’s a drug.  And not one of those fun drugs that rock stars overdose on in the grand suite at a five-star hotel.  Oh no.  This is one of those drugs that hillbillies cook up in their bathtub in Bumfuck, Wyoming.  One that’s sold to you by a ragged-looking teenager that’s missing half his teeth.  One that you should know better than to try, because just one taste will hook you for life.

Oh fuck it, just buy the damn thing.  Just make sure you cancel any plans you have pending in the coming weeks.  And absolutely no faking German Measles to get out of work.  I already did that one.  By the way, chances are you won’t have any more fun than I am having.  I’m just telling you to buy it in hopes that Spelunky is secretly running some kind of bizarre version of a video game Ponzi Scheme and if I convince enough people to buy it, the game will suddenly become magically easier for me.

Spelunky was developed by Mossmouth

Plug & Play is Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.

1200 Microsoft Points have never laughed harder than the time they spent a fortune on one of the helpers in Spelunky only to watch him jump up and impale himself on spikes only five seconds later for no reason at all in the making of this review. 

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