A Spelunky 2 remix mod from creator fingerspit turns the already rather brutal roguelike into a moodier, meaner, and at times crazier experience. While this is still familiar in the hands, recoloured assets give the levels a more sombre tinge, traps are everywhere, and yes: there are tonnes of sodding moles.
Spoiler alert: we'll be discussing some bosses and later areas from Spelunky 2, and what the mod does with them.
The moles do illustrate some of what works well about fingerspit's mod, inasmuch as they're more numerous than ever but, thanks to a new reddish hue on their digging trail, are also easier to see coming. It feels like there's double the number of arrow traps in world 1 which, when they're not killing you, really help clear out enemies. That's part of the feel of the mod in general: these environments aren't just more difficult for you to navigate, but kill huge numbers of baddies trying to get to you.
It means layouts can be extraordinarily unforgiving of those who look before they leap, so what's new, but also enable crazily overpowered runs. The base game occasionally throws you a generous seed, but something about fingerspit's mod seemed to have shotguns and sticky bombs gravitating towards my eager hands, and Colin regularly leaving world 1-2 stocked-up like Rambo.
Fingerspit describes this as "a mod designed to offer a fresh Spelunky 2 experience for veterans of the original game. Expect lots of changes and surprises, with remixed level design, tweaked boss arenas, mixed up tilesets and recolored assets. Slightly harder but definitely not a 'super hard mod.'"
This is more difficult than Spelunky 2, but we're not talking some mad Kaizo Mario leap into sadism. There are more ways to die, but the game is as scrupulous and precise as ever. I still haven't finished Spelunky 2's campaign (I got to the last boss once but let's not talk about that), so not exactly a master, but I managed to hit world 4 here after a few attempts.
Youtuber XanaGear is something of a Spelunky 2 master, however, and has spent a couple hours checking out the mod and its later stages.
"My early impression (as this is an alpha) makes me very excited," writes XanaGear. "I've already finished most of the content in Spelunky 2 other than Cosmic Ocean's 94-level challenge (have all the achievements and what-not) so new secrets and fresh challenges to master is very compelling. I think the Olmec boss fight changes are the big standout of the mod, changing the entire way you approach the boss fight. Finishing just the normal ending of the game has become a challenge again and I can't wait to keep playing it as it develops."
The subtle changes are as enjoyable as the big ticket items. The first boss Quillback (aka Quilliam), for example, is now found in a slightly smaller space, on a floor of bones from which skeletons rise, and with the ladders you use to avoid him tweaked to have a joined-up platform between them. When you've fought Quillback a hundred times, that difference is so much bigger than it sounds.
A shout-out for the atmosphere too, the more muted colour palette: everything's darker, a little more alien, a little more cramped. The mood, the mindset it puts you in, is a slightly colder and more unpredictable place than the moon.
Fingerspit's mod could almost be described as everything you like about Spelunky 2, but more of it, and slightly meaner. Whether that's a good or bad thing comes down to the player or, more often, the run.
Neither Spelunky HD nor Spelunky 2 officially support mods and, as much as anything else, XanaGear hopes that mods like Fingerspit's show the potential for this scene to develop. "I want to also say that modding is incredibly early so the fact that any of this is even possible is kind of miraculous. We're still working at a point where we can't change any enemy behavior and changing many things will cause crashing. Here's to hoping that the devs offer some sort of mod support in the future."
PC Gamer spoke to Spelunky creator Derek Yu about similar calls for Steam Workshop support for the first game. At the time he said "to be honest I haven’t thought too much about it [...] I’m certainly cool with people using editors and stuff to mod the game with, but I don’t know about Steam Workshop—there would have to be a lot of demand for us to go and muck around in that code again. At this point we’re pretty happy to move on."