Game Review: Spelunker HD (PS3)

Spelunker was an 8-bit NES game where you explore a 2-D cave and gather treasure. Along the way you would climb ladders and jump over obstacles and avoid enemies like bats, snakes, and ghosts. It was a lot like Donkey Kong or Pitfall, really. Spelunker wasn’t too popular in the US, but it gained fame in Japan for some strange reason. Probably because it came out right when the Famicom was tops. Spelunker is also known for being incredibly hard. One hit by anything and you die, even if you fall from a height bigger than your jump. Now you can enjoy dying over and over again in a whole new way with Spelunker HD, a downloadable PSN title for PS3.

Like the original game, you run around caves collecting treasure for points and trying to see how deep you can go. Jump over pits, snakes, and other obstacles. Use a bomb to blow up rocks in your way, fire a flare to scare off bats, and use your flashlight to wipe out ghosts. Just be careful not to fall too far from a jump, that’ll be what kills you the most!

Play single player with updated graphics and sound, which includes neat lighting effects and an upbeat remix of the familiar Spelunker theme. Or you can view the action with old school classic graphics, which actually makes it easier to see some of the hidden traps. There are also cooperative and competitive multiplayer modes for both offline and online. In offline modes, the screen is split into four sections.

You’d think that a game where you notoriously die a lot would be awful, but Spelunker HD really isn’t. It reminds me of another super hard classic game: Gradius, a 2-D space shooter. Both games are super hard, but each time you die, you know you’ll learn to avoid that situation next time and you’ll get a little further in the game each try. And while deaths are frequent, most don’t seem cheap, except for a couple of hard to see hidden pits.

They could’ve tweaked Spelunker HD a bit to make things a little better, though. It would be nice if the game would automatically save when you reached a new area, even after you die. Then you would be able to select that area to start with later. But you can’t do that. You can manually save, but I only recommend doing that if you have a lot of lives in reserve. The only thing you can do to make the game easier is turn on an assist that helps you automatically cling to ropes and ladders so you don’t fall. Supposedly later on you can explore ice caves and lava worlds, but the game is so darn hard I don’t know if I’ll ever see them.

Spelunker HD is still a pretty decent classic update anyway, especially if you enjoy butt-kickingly challenging games!  I actaully enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would, so I’d say it’s worth checking out.   Click here for the official Spelunker HD site, which has some pretty interesting history and fandom about the game series.

Kid Factor:

Spelunker HD is rated E for Everyone with an ESRB descriptor of Comic Mischief. Even though you die a lot, the deaths are comical and Road Runner-ish in nature. Such as being flattened like a pancake by a rolling boulder, or breaking into a million pieces like glass. Kids will easily get into the simple to understand gameplay, but may get easily frustrated by the super hard difficulty.

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