The Spelunky series is one of my favorites. The challenging rougelite and its numerous branching paths make each round feel different, and the amount of ways you can approach it all is even bigger. I wrote recently about the original title in our Nindie Spotlight coverage, but the sequel is something else. This is a title that represents how a sophomore game should be done, because Spelunky 2 is more than simply a sequel: this is one of the best sequels ever made and a testament to how this series can continue to grow from here.
So prepare your bag, get your ropes and bombs ready, because we are about to dive deep into Spelunky 2 and find out what makes it so amazing.
For those unfamiliar, Spelunky is a concept that first came to the gaming scene in 2008, but the real treat did not debut until 2012 when Spelunky landed on the Xbox 360. The title was a sleeper hit and eventually became one of the most popular games to stream as streaming services rose to prominence. The incredibly high difficulty, randomness, and exciting discoveries captured the hearts of thousands and thousands of players, and that is when Derek Yu, the creator, knew he had something special in his hands.
Spelunky 2 takes everything the first game did and multiplies it. This is the Terminator 2: Judgement Day of video games in that this is better than the original in just about every way and sets a new standard that may seem impossible to overcome if the series decides to continue.
You play as the daughter of the original spelunker from the first game, although you start off with a handful of characters to play as, with even more to unlock as you progress through the game. She is basically out to find her lost father and collect all the booty she possibly can en route to rescuing him. It is a rather simple concept, but do not let that fool you. Spelunky 2, like its predecessor, is chock full of lore and features a lot of random literary characters and more that can assist along the journey. There is so much mystery if you go into the game blindly, and it is an adventure that continues to give each and every time you die (Which will be a lot).
This is a roguelite adventure unlike any other, and although early plays will be incredibly difficult, learning the ropes and mastering certain elements is part of the gaming experience. To be blunt, if you are insanely good, it is quite possible to clear the game at the minimal level in under 4 minutes, but do not let that fool you. Getting to that point takes lots of lots of practice and dying, and each new area will bring its own challenges to keep you on your toes. Quite frankly, this is not really a game for the casual player, but that is not a bad thing at all, as Spelunky 2 has such a wonderful-feeling progressive system that feels like the days of the NES while also being its own thing.
Think of it like this: Remember those NES games where making it to the next stage was a joy in and of itself? That is the Spelunky franchise in a nutshell, except the stages are procedurally generated each time, so nothing quite feels the same in each progressing stage. That does not mean each area does not abide by its own standards, though. For example: The Dwelling, which is the first four levels and consists of being considered “one area”, has spiders and snakes to test your basic combat, arrow traps that can do big damage against you, and sneaky buggers like the horned lizard and the cave mole that cause all kinds of problems, whereas Tide Pool, the fourth area, is decorated in traditional Chinese iconography and introduces water, switches, and a slew of new enemies unlike the Dwelling.
Because of this, progression consists of 1) getting to the next area and 2) understanding the next area. As you improve, moving through the Dwelling and into the Jungle or Volcana becomes a bit easier, and it is at this point you meet Mama Tunnel, AKA Terra, who asks for money and supplies to help you create shortcuts. There are ultimately three shortcuts to create, and they basically allow you to start your game at that point, skipping the previous couple areas. Forewarning, though, starting at a shortcut is great and all, but you will be majorly under-equipped when it comes to items, bombs, and ropes. This is why starting from the beginning and working your way through is the most effective method, but the shortcuts thankfully let you come to a better understanding of some of the later areas that may be more difficult to get to on a regular basis.
Spelunky 2 is a lot less about the areas and more about the journey, and that is what makes it so exciting. Earlier I said that you can technically beat the game at a minimal level in under 4 minutes, but that is one way to beat the game. Like the first title, Spelunky 2 is loaded with branching paths, secret areas, and alternate endings, and it is in this that makes the game feel so much grander. When you finally beat the first main boss and “clear” the game normally, the adventure does not end there. You will then want to branch further and figure out how to get to the next major boss to get the next ending. From there, it gets even wilder because the third ending is not for the faint of heart and has numerous different messages depending on how you finish (e.g. having more than 50 HP and amassing over $1 million in a single playthrough).
There are loads of places to go and so much to do that it honestly can be a tad overwhelming. Thankfully Spelunky 2 has both local and online co-op for up to 4 players, and it is a riot. Sure, it is the same challenging experience made even more difficult with extra bodies that cause friendly damage, but it is a proper laugh-out-loud good time. In multiplayer, players start with less equipment, but clearly there are more people to help out. If one member dies, they become a ghost, and ghosts can actually help (Or cause problems), which allows the dead player to still engage in the game. Amusingly, there are a lot of interesting mechanics and strategies you can use in mutliplayer that you absolutely cannot do in the single player campaign, which makes the co-op feel special in its own way.
There are some “mini-bosses” and “bosses” spread throughout the game, but it is hard to label some of them as such as you get used to them after the umpteenth time and they feel less and less of a threat. I do not mean to devalue them, as they can absolutely still kill you in one hit if you are not careful. The bigger bosses, particularly the first 2 ending ones, are big in scale and really fun. Getting to both of them is a tough task alone, but the feeling of killing one of these bosses is second to none. The payoff of a solid Spelunky 2 run is quite euphoric, and it constantly leaves you wanting to come back for more.
There is so much more I could say about Spelunky 2, but I am going to leave it at that. This is a damn-near perfect game if I could ever say so. It is endless amounts of fun whether you are alone, playing with people on the couch, or with friends online. The graphics are adorable yet terrifying in many areas, which can be a bit deceiving at first, especially when you get squished for the first time and blood splatters. The soundtrack is stellar, and the overall sound is top-tier, so much so that I highly recommend wearing headphones while playing if you can.
This is a game that will take you hours and hours to even get the minimal clear, and if you are looking to 100% the game, you are looking at anywhere between 150 and 300 hours depending on your skill level.
Spelunky 2 is in many ways one of the best indie titles on the Nintendo Switch now. If you are a fan of roguelite platformers, then look no further. This is one of the best ever in the genre, and it is perfect on the hybrid console. So get your bag ready and be prepared for the greatest adventures of your gaming life.
Tons and tons of potential gameplay
No two rounds are alike
Fun unlocks and discoveries
Learning curve is high
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.