Spelunker Party! (Switch)

Spelunker was an 8-bit 2-D platformer game where you explored caves, avoided obstacles, and gathered treasures.  It came out in the US, but gained more popularity in Japan, probably because it was one of those easy to play yet hard to master games, and it came out when the Famicom (Japanese NES) was big.  You can even find Spelunker references in other Japanese media, like anime cartoons and video games like Taiko no Tatsujin (Taiko Drum Master).  There’s even been a few remakes and rereleases of the game, and I’ve reviewed a few of them.  Such as Spelunker HD, which was one of the first games I reviewed on the PS3, and Everyday Spelunker, a mobile version of the original game.  Now cave exploring is back as a downloadable title on the Switch with Spelunker Party!

Spelunker Party is actually a reworked version of a previous game that came out on the PS4 a couple of years ago called Spelunker World.  It’s a free-to-play game, and while it has most of the same levels and content, Party takes out all the free-to-play gimmicks and reworks them to fit into a stand alone title.  I won’t go into all the differences here, as I just want to focus on the game I’m reviewing, but let’s just say the two games are very similar.  Although I do think the tutorial in Spelunker World is a bit more explicit, but you get more lives in Party.

As a Spelunker, you’ll explore 2-D caves looking for treasures.  Choose from a boy or girl, and you can find more characters to play as later on.  You can find coins and gold, lithographs, and colored keys to open doors.  Spend gold on candy to give to a dog in the main menu, and he’ll find treasures for you like new outfits to wear.  Lithographs work in a similar fashion.  Find them in caves to piece together a puzzle, and when it’s completed you can unlock that gear.  Some gear you collect are just cosmetic, but some can do things like let you take extra hits or give you more energy.  Worn equipment in a stage can level up when you complete it, but you can also gather previously collected lithographs to level up your gear as well.  You can also find pets to take with you in caves that can help you as well, such as a dog who can dig up treasures.

Other items you can pick up in the game include bombs and flares.  Set down bombs to blow up rocks blocking your path or to open up hidden passages.  Shoot up flares to temporarily scare away enemies like bats.  You can also use a fan to blow away ghosts, but that’ll use up your air.  Run out of air and it’s Game Over.  You can refill your air at checkpoints.

One thing I wish this game included was the original Spelunker game.  That way you can see the history behind it and why in the new game, a fall greater than the height of your jump can kill you.  Just think of it like other old games like Donkey Kong or Pitfall.  But even though the game is very challenging and sometimes frustrating, it is still surprisingly addictive, too.  Play control is simple and responsive.  You can even explore caves with up to four players online and offline via a split screen.  In fact, one other problem with the game is that in order to get ALL the treasures, you HAVE to play with others since some caves have switches you can only activate by having someone stand on them the whole time.  But if you enjoy classic game remakes with a challenge, you’ll want to check out this game anyway.

Kid Factor:

Spelunker Party! is rated E for Everyone with ESRB descriptors of Mild Fantasy Violence and Mild Language.  I really don’t remember seeing any bad language in the game, but the violence is just silly and cartoony.  If you get hit by an enemy or trap, most of the ‘death’ animations just have your guy or girl spin around and fall down.  Although there are a few silly exceptions, like if you fall too far, your explorer will sit on their butt and grab their legs and rock back and forth.  Or if they fall off a pit, they’ll try to swim up in the air, Looney Tunes style.  One of the more notable ones involves bats, though, and has a bit of crude humor to it, too.  Bats attack you by dropping guano on your head (guano is bat poop).  If you get hit, it’ll show your player with an afro made of bat poop!  Gross, but still kind of funny.  Reading skill is helpful for some of the menu text, and younger gamers may get frustrated at the high difficulty of later stages.

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