If you spend any time on XBox Live Arcade, you probably already know about Spelunky. What you may not know is that it has actually been around as a free-to-play PC game for several years. I’ve only played the Windows version, so that’s the one I’ll talk about.
Spelunky is hard to describe. It’s a 2-D platformer that looks like an NES-era 8-bit game. Like a true NES game, dying means that you start back at the beginning. But there are two things that make Spelunky brutally difficult. First, it’s a rogue-like, meaning that you don’t have multiple lives or even a health bar. A single hit from any enemy kills you and you start back at the beginning.
To make matters worse, all of the levels are procedurally generated. That means that when you die and start over, a new level is randomly generated. This means that you never play the same level twice, so you can’t just memorize patterns like in most classic games. You need to actually hone your game playing skills to get anywhere in this game. On the bright side, Spelunky is really well balanced, so you won’t get stuck on a level that’s impossible to complete (unless you foolishly waste all of your ropes).
If it sounds sadistic, it is. Spelunky is the sort of game that will have you yelling at your computer screen. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun. I spent many hours playing it back when it was first released as a free PC game and I’ve heard that the XBox version is even better and more polished. I have no XBox, so I can’t say.
One of the interesting things about the original Spelunky is that it was built using GameMaker. GameMaker isn’t usually considered a “real” game developers platform, so I think it’s cool that an exceptional indie game was made with GameMaker. It’s a good reminder that a great idea will get noticed, regardless of the technology.
If you want to play the free PC version, you can get it here.