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Spelunky
Score: 89%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Mossmouth
Developer: Mossmouth
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Platformer/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:
Thereís something that is missing from the majority of recent games - difficulty. Back around the days of the original Super Nintendo, there was no such thing as unlimited lives and save anywhere you like. We would have to leave the Nintendo on for days straight to complete Mario sometimes. Spelunky seeks to remind us how much fun can be had in true accomplishment.

The overall looks reminds me of old school games, but cleaner and more vibrant. The graphics are simple. The enemies are basic snakes, spiders, bats, etc. and your characters are sprite-like. While the caves are dark, everything is well lit (unless you are in a dark room). The colors are very rich, mostly browns, reds, and greens. I like the fact that the traps are mostly obvious as long as youíre not in too much of a hurry. You can see where the enemies are and where the traps are going to get you.

As far as the sounds go, I tended to keep the volume down and listen to my own music. You donít get any special sounds to warn you of enemies or traps so the music is just background. It is pleasant music, but nothing that I am dying to own the soundtrack to.


Gameplay:
Spelunky is a platformer, which usually means one player, but Spelunky gives you the option to play with up to four players. From the Main Menu, you can choose Play Game, Play LAN Game, Player Stats, Leaderboards, or Help & Options.

When you choose Play Game, you can choose either Adventure or Death Match. In Adventure, you can then choose to play alone by just selecting one character or with up to 3 friends (four players total). There are 12 characters unlocked from the beginning and 8 more that you can unlock as you play. When you first start, you will be told the story of Yang. Your explorer has found Yangís Journal and it will serve as your training guide on how to play the game. After you get past it, you will receive a key to unlock the tomb and actually start the game.

Every time you enter the tomb, the walls will shift, which means that every single time you play, you are playing on a different board. The concept is simple. You just have to make it from the entrance to the exit. In your way are a variety of monsters, traps, potential deadly falls, and more. There is also a lot of treasure for you to find. Given infinite time, you could go slowly and be very careful and find everything, but you have only two and a half minutes. At that point, a ghost will be alerted to your presence and come after you. Unlike the rest of the enemies, you canít kill the ghost. You can stall him a few seconds if you have a camera to take his picture, but you still better be running for the exit as quickly as you can! The further you get into the tomb, the more levels you will unlock. Keep going and you might just make it out alive and rich.

Death Match lets you compete against each other. If you stand still, the game will target you. Otherwise you can throw bombs at each other, push each other into lava or any other natural killing element, or pretty much any other way you can think of to kill your opponent. You can specify the number of times one player has to win to be declared the champion. You can also choose the board you want to play on from any of the levels that you have unlocked, plus some others that are built in.


Difficulty:
Personally, I have gotten way too comfortable with the ease of games lately. There are very few true platformers left that are truly difficult. Spelunky definitely changes that concept. There are quite a few things that make it truly difficult, but not so much so that you wonít have fun. You start a level with 4 lives but some things, like impalement on spikes, will kill you instantly, while others like monsters will just take one life each time they hit you before you destroy them. There is a damsel on each level that you can rescue. If you manage to get her to the exit alive, she will reward you with a kiss that will give you one life back. Be careful because you can kill the damsel. Of course, if you do, you can use her corpse to disarm traps so all is not lost. Each level has several stages and you carry items and lives over from stage to stage. You do not get all your lives back after you complete a stage.

There are several different types of enemies that you will encounter. Some will move on a set course and some will jump around randomly. You will have to learn how to deal with them all or how to run away quickly. You start the level with some bombs and some rope. You can buy more of these if you find the store. You will only have the money you have earned from the treasures that you have found on the way, so pick up all the coins and jewels that you can find. The golden idol is worth lots of money, but will trigger a trap so be careful! Bombs can be used to blow up rocks so that you can get to other areas quicker. Be careful, because you can blow up yourself and the damsel with a bomb.

You might think that playing with other players cooperatively will make Spelunky easier. It will, but you need to know that you all have to stay together. After 8 seconds apart, any player who is not on the screen dies, but his ghost will follow you the rest of the way. The screen follows the player holding the white flag, so youíll all have to keep up with them!


Game Mechanics:
The controls in Spelunky are pretty easy to deal with. (X) jumps, (R) runs. Running and jumping will get you longer jumps, which will definitely help you get over some rough spots. (Select) has your journal which will keep track of your adventures, Places youíve gone, Monsters youíve encountered, Items youíve found, and Traps you seen. I find it amusing that the Damsel and the Shopkeeper appear in the Monsterís list in your journal. (Square) uses your whip to kill enemies and break open crates. (Triangle) will throw a rope up for you to climb, if you have any. (O) throws your bombs, unless you have something else in your hands. You can hold down and press (O) to pick up objects and then press (O) again to throw them. When you fail a stage, you can either choose Continue or Quick Restart. Continue takes you back to the main cave's entrance. Quick Restart starts you back at the beginning of the level you were on.

I have yet to beat Spelunky, but that doesnít mean that I havenít enjoyed it immensely. The simple concept is addictive and keeps you coming back for more. I love the fact that if you have it installed on both your PS3 and your PSVita, it will sync your gamesave automatically with both devices. This makes it so much easier to play on a TV at home and still have your stats when you carry it with you. So far, I havenít found that it is more difficult to play on either version. If youíre looking for a true challenge, check out Spelunky today!


-Cyn, GameVortex Communications
AKA Sara Earl

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