Now Playing: A streak of luck in Spelunky
This article was originally published in PC Gamer 236.
Spelunky is a platformer with randomised levels. Creator Derek Yu is working on a prettier Xbox version that may also come to PC, but I'm still playing the free original. It's my coffee break game, my netbook game, my 'I really want to play something but I don't have time to play anything' game. I also think it's the future of games, or a large part of it.
I've played over a thousand games of Spelunky, so I know roughly what I'm doing. But I still have no idea what level 1 is like, because it changes every time. So I leap into it with a weird mix of bravado and caution: dealing with enemies and traps quickly, but edging into the next area pixel by pixel to spot what's ahead.
I arrive in the jungle world without the Udjat Eye. It's the only thing that can detect the secret location of the black market here, the lost door to which could be buried under any one of these thousands of- oh, there it is. Found it by accident with my first bomb.
Inside, among the many shops, is the holy grail of Spelunky. No, not the Ankh of Resurrection - that only has power over life and death. The jetpack. I have 28,350 gold. It costs 28,000.
It's brilliant. I am soaring over frogs, bouncing off bats, scooting past spike traps. The jungle world is never easy, but I get through it with only a few scrapes. Below that, the ice caves are all sheer drops and hard-to-reach islands of floating rock. Hard to reach without a jetpack. Whee!
I scoop up two more damsels on my way through the caverns, so I'm almost at full health when I reach the final world. A tribesman sees me, jumps off his ledge, picks me up and throws me into the wall, catches me, throws me into it again, and I fall down in front of a twelve foot tall mummy that vomits locusts into my face. Ah, I remember World 4.
I've probably used all the items in Spelunky, seen all the enemies, certainly completed each of the worlds. But I'm still playing it regularly, years later, just because random generation makes each time feel unique. It's one of the only games I play that takes full advantage of the medium, releasing a little authorship to let the infinite properties of gaming twist and reconfigure the experience again and again. Minecraft is the other.
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