Spelunky XBLA Review
Spelunky, the rogue-like indie hit platformer developed by Derek Yu, has been released to Xbox Live Arcade. You'll once again take on the role of everyone's favorite little red-nosed adventurer and be diving into the dark deeps of randomized caverns, icy tunnels, and strange temples in search of treasure, fame, fortune ... and instant death. The joke may be old, but this is death in HD! Yes, the frustration of dying repeatedly for hours on end returns, but this time you won't have to die alone.
Spelunky for XBLA is more or less the same game, so purchasing a game that is already available for free on the PC might seem like a no-brainer, but the XBLA version does have a few extras. (If you haven't already read our previous review of Spelunky on PC, you can do so here.)
The most obvious change is the graphics. They've been redone and are now pleasingly in HD. The game feels somewhat easier as it's not requiring pixel-perfect accuracy when swinging your whip or jumping. Of course, this doesn't mean you can afford to be careless, but at least you won't be cursing your head off because you were a pixel or two shy.
The game ditches the chiptunes, which may be a disappointment for nostalgia gamers. Old-school players might feel they're in a different game. The soundtrack has been redone with modern instruments playing randomly each level. The original PC version's first zone soundtrack has been embedded in everyone's minds -- mostly because you repeatedly died -- that's it's disappointing not even this song has been, at least, remixed.
Click the image to view game screenshots
You can now play as one of a handful of characters, in case Indiana Jones-esque clowns are not your style. You can also change the game's damsel in distress. However, finding her might require more attention as she no longer has her "HELP" speech bubble. Instead, you can hear her cries -- if you strain.
The game's repertoire of various gadgets and weapons make a return and include some new ones. If you played the original PC version, you'll know that none of the items had any description, let alone instructions. Spelunky XBLA alleviates this problem by providing the player with a descriptive (mostly) journal that updates whenever you find a new item, providing much needed on-hands documentation for the various tools.
A few new areas are on offer, as well as new random events and enemies. Shorcuts to the various levels have also changed. The shortcut digger now asks for various items, such as bombs or ropes, as well as a small fee to fully fund the shortcut, providing a much easier (and faster) method over the large sum required in the original.
As before, you're going to die a lot, and the fact that it's on XBLA and now open to a new audience doesn't change this. What is different is you can now share with others the joy of dying in the blink of an eye 20 times in half an hour. The second main addition to the game is the inclusion of a four-player co-op mode, which makes the pain of dying at the very last level easier to bear -- after all, sharing is caring. What you might not want to share is the damage, so watch your whips, your bombs, and where you throw. A four-player game can soon become a nightmare of friendly fire if you don't coordinate your moves carefully. Still, death isn't all that bad in co-op, as dead players come back as ghosts who can then interact with the environment in rather interesting ways to help their still-kicking comrades.
The game also includes a deathmatch mode, similar to Super Smash Brothers, which is quite useful when you want revenge after your buddy "accidentally" throws a bomb in your face. This mode isn't as fleshed out as the co-op mode. Bots are available, but these kind of matches are one-sided, as the bots are dominating.
Speaking of bots, you can also rescue random NPCs in the game's main campaign, but for whatever reason, they really like to take advantage of five-finger discounts and will do so whenever you enter a shop. Sadly, if you plan to be an honest Joe, you'll have to venture alone or play with a few humans.
The only catch to the multiplayer is it's local only -- none of these modes can be played online. (This might be a blessing in disguise, though, as trying to code a game's network properly in a game that deals in platform jumping to survive is probably a nightmare.) Being confined to a single screen, the game's co-op mode focuses the camera on player one, who will always carry a white flag so the other players can easily see him. It's a shame; the game largely benefits and is a lot more enjoyable from the efforts of teamwork, but the single screen prevents players from splitting up and exploring different parts of the level.
While 1,200 MS points might seem a little steep when you can play the PC version for free (in addition to a level editor and mods), keep in mind that version isn't as developed as the XBLA version. Still, if you've been aching to play one of the best platformers in gaming history with a friend or two (and on the couch!), then do yourself a favor and add this XBLA game to your 360's hard drive.
Presentation - 8
Story - 7
Sound - 8
Gameplay - 9
Current Stability - 9
Lasting Appeal - 9