The story of my spelunking career goes a bit like this: The spelunker falcon07elensar did once venture into a cavern of untold mysteries. Having ventured into an excavation site, he perished at Stage 1 at a depth of 105 m from touching that which should not be touched. And so the journey came to an end.
Unfortunately, I have never played Spelunker before, fortunately there was a tutorial. While at first the game was a bit confusing, especially on the correct distance you could fall without dying, things did get better. I died several times just figuring out the right way to make it from the rope to the platform next to it but once I did I was rewarded with a ghost that proceeded to kill my character. After dying several more times to either not jumping properly or missing that really obvious trap hole for the fifth time, I was feeling a bit more confident in myself because I had made it to Stage 2. I didn’t make it past that however because of my impatience and fell from a rope.
There are three game modes with Spelunker HD, including a handy tutorial to teach you the basics. The first place you will probably start is the Solo Excursion, not because you wouldn’t want to try to online but because it’s seemingly impossible to join a game. There is support for launching within PlayStation Home but only if you are up to hunting players through joining and rejoining the games space. More often than not, you will have to just wait a very long time to find someone that joins the same instance in Home. This is a cumbersome way of trying to play with other people and your best chance of actually getting into a game is by having people on your friends list who also own it. If you happen to have an extra controller laying around, there is offline multiplayer and this is probably the best or only quick way to play the Group Excursion or Group Competition.
The controls are simply enough to understand, left stick or directional buttons will move the character and X will let you jump. You will need a bit of a moving start before jumping every time and will often have to back step some when there are sections with numerous gaps. The right stick also gives you a zoomed out look at the section of the stage you are on, allowing you to see that one key you may be missing to continue. At your disposal will be some tools to help you on your journey, flares will ward away bats for a brief time or light a dark cave (and can also kill you if you touch one), a fan will help you disperse ghost, and the most important of the items are bombs. These can be used in a variety of ways, mostly to destroy rocks that block your path but also to cause snakes to hide or kill enemies like spiders or stone statues that come alive. The characters ability to survive is also very minimal, accidentally walking from one platform to another but dying because there was a 2 inch gap happens a lot and thinking you are in the clear only but having one or two pixels of steam touch you can be disappointing. If by chance you make it past all of these, you will end up with a decent score and be placed on the games leaderboard for the world to see.
If you are familiar with Spelunker, the goal is to collect keys to open doors and make it to the end of an area. Each area is divided into stages and whole areas will be based on a common theme, such as ice, water, and prehistoric. Although the caves will look different, many of the enemies and environmental obstacles will remain the same, which will cause the game to feel a bit repetitive at times. The game will also put enemies in seemingly impossible areas to get past, such as cave birds that will patrol an area of ropes or spawning a ghost while you are trying to deal with another obstacle. Often times this will cause you to simply die and have to try again without the ghost annoying you or having to perform quick pixel perfect jumps, which will rely more on luck than actual skill. The game gives you a good amount of lives to deal with the these difficult areas and with practice can be passed easily the next time the scenario is re-used in a later stage.
Many of the enemies, such as snakes and bats, will be placed in very similar areas of stages throughout the game. Each new themed area usually introduces a few more enemies or environment obstacles and will re-use them in almost the same ways, leaving little variety. Not to say this will make things easier, as they will be just as hard to get by the first time, especially on the ice stage where the character will always slide after walking. Some enemies will also be superficial, such as the giant lizard in the prehistoric areas, as they are very easy to get by and pose little to no threat compared to the more common yellow, fast snakes or steam vents.
Spelunker HD is about as good of a retro throwback you will find and you will end up spending many hours towards completing the game or even trying to find those puzzle pieces you skipped over. If you loved playing this game when you are younger, you will probably end up enjoying the HD remake just as much. Newcomers to the game, such as myself, may find it too hard compared to current platformers or even Super Mario but given enough time you can easily get used to the games mechanics and breeze through levels quickly. If you simply love platformers, then Spelunker HD is good enough to belong in your PSN collection and offers enough gameplay to get by with a good score despite it’s somewhat repetitive nature.