Spelunker HD Deluxe (Switch, PS4)

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.  About ten years ago I reviewed an HD remake of Spelunker on PS3, and now you can play a Deluxe version of that on Switch and PS4 (reviewed on Switch here).

There are four main modes in the Deluxe version.  Adventure is the same mode I remember from the PS3 game.  Climb vines, jump over snakes and traps, collect treasures, and use collected items to bypass obstacles.  Bombs can blow up rocks blocking your path, and keys can open locked doors.  Use your flashlight to ward off ghosts, and try to make it as far below in the cavern depths as you can.  Spelunker is famous for how easily you can die in the game.  A fall a few pixels high can kill you, and with all the other traps in the caves, it can be very frustrating.

Controls seem a little looser than what I remember, too, but that could be the Switch’s JoyCon’s fault, as I’m not the biggest fan of those.  You can change the graphics from 3-D HD visuals to classic 8-bit, which does make it easier to spot some of the traps.  After you lose all your lives, you can start at the last major elevator checkpoint you reach, and they save your high scores to online leaderboards.  Four players can do the adventure mode online and offline, with a split screen for couch multiplayer.

Other new modes in the Deluxe version include Competition, where up to four players online or offline can tackle specially designed caves made for racing to the finish.  Whoever gets there first, wins.  There is also a Championship mode that seems a lot like the original Adventure mode, except the difficulty is ramped up but you get 50 lives.  Last is Endless Cave NEO, where a single player or up to four can race down an automatically scrolling cave, trying to get as far as they can.  Aside from the high difficulty and loose controls, the only other problem I had with this game is that it seems more multiplayer centric than before, with not as much to do for single players.  But if you are a fan of Spelunker, then you’ll definitely want to try this one out!

Kid Factor:

For a game where you die a lot, the violence is rather minimal.  If you play with classic graphics, your character just flashes when he dies.  In the HD mode, you either just spin upside down or turn to dust.  Also, bats poop on you in the game, so there’s some crude humor there.  Reading skill isn’t needed, but younger players may get frustrated at the high difficulty and obtuse rules.  Spelunker HD Deluxe is rated E for Everyone.

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