Spelunker was a strange game. I remember playing it as a kid in the Arcade and at home on my 8 bit Nintendo Entertainment System and never quite figuring it out, like most games of that era. I had an unusual fondness for cruel games involving caves. Super Pitfall, the oddly named sequel of sorts to Pitfall that had you tumbling down an endless void of snakes, spiders and maybe treasure. Bagger, the game about a criminal in a prison outfit using mine carts to avoid the cops and run away with is giant bags with money signs on them. Miner, a PC title about mining was unusually fun, a cool clone is up on XBLA Indie Games, called Miner Dig Deep. Lode Runner was about caves, I think too. Either way, exploring caves was a lot of fun, even in that strange Goonies 2 game, a sequel to the movie Goonies, that had no story at all involved in it. It didn’t matter, if your game took place in a cave, I was down for it.
Which brings us to Spelunker, an amazing game about a crippled dude in a cave. He can jump, but he can’t fall any farther then he can jump, or his ankles shatter like glass. He also requires air to live, I guess he never heard of the water levels in Mario, but this chump continues to suck up air non stop, a ticking time bomb counting down the breathes your fragile (possibly made out of glass) lungs have left in them. So you can’t fall, and you are dying from a lack of air the entire time exploring these caves. You also have to watch out for snakes, oh and bats, the bats never touch you really, but they constantly shit and getting hit by any of the bat guano will instantly kill you. Luckily they give you a flare gun with limited ammo, to constipate the bats and make your passage save, but of course when the flare comes back down, touching it will kill you. Your own tools will kill you. This game isn’t messing around.
To make things worse for some reason a ghost hunts you down every now and you must use your ghost scaring air gun to blow him away. At some point you can collect treasure, which oddly doesn’t kill you when you touch it. Even back in the day, this game was known for being a bitch, in the good way of course, something about stumbling on a rock and stubbing your toe to death made you want to keep on playing until you learned to avoid that damn rock just to end up falling into a hidden pit on the next screen, starting the whole cycle of abuse over again.
As if that wasn’t enough, levels often require you to navigate ropes, jumping to and fro on moving platforms and leaping off strange swinging and rotating platforms while avoiding the slightest fall that will instantly kill you. You collect keys to open doors and move on to deeper sections of the cave, unlocking more treasure as you go. To mix things up in the HD version, a full online co-op and time trail mode was added, so you can play the game with three other friends. It’s a great feature and one hell of a drinking game, take a shot after every death and I’m sure you will be joining our cave dwelling hero in the after life.
The new HD mode is actually pretty distracting for me, I switched it off and played in the classic mode. It’s a great feature that allows you to enjoy the new graphics, or stay old school. The music on both is amazing, in fact in Japan the home of self torture and strange hero idolizing, they have come to love our brave little Spelunker for his uncrushable spirit and easily crushed body. You can find lots of books, comics, cosplayers and even karaoke songs and covers of the original tune in their pop culture. There is just a weird vibe to this game that can’t be explained or denied. It isn’t for everyone, but if you fit into this cave sized niche, it is one hell of a game.
The great new features like co-op, time trails, trophies and the Spelunker Cave (coming soon) on Home make this stand out as more than just a remake.Last 5 posts by Brian Jones
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