12 things you should know before you play Spelunky 2

spelunky 2 guide tips
(Image credit: Mossmouth)
Uncover more secrets with these Spelunky 2 guides

Spelunky 2

(Image credit: Mossmouth)

Spelunky 2 characters: Friendly faces, new and old
Spelunky 2 shortcuts: Explore without having to start at the beginning
Spelunky 2 poison: How to cure your character
Spelunky 2 curse: Avoid this status effect

Hunting for a Spelunky 2 guide to help you get started? If you’re coming to the sequel without having sunk around 500 hours into the original, you’re probably going to struggle. The struggle will be fun, but you’re not going to win any time soon, no matter how good you think you are. Players of the 2013 game will find a lot of their skills will be transferable to this sequel, but their expectations and muscle memories can just as easily undermine them.

Learning how to play Spelunky 2 is just as fun as winning it: if you’re losing miserably it’s probably not because you’re bad at it—that’s the game, it's tough. Still, it can be helpful to have a crash course, so without further ado, here are 12 Spelunky 2 tips for beginners, and a few for those returning to the series.

Carry a rock

Never spelunk unarmed. There are shotguns and freeze rays and all that kind of stuff in Spelunky 2, but before you get those you’re going to need a rock. Any rock. Even a skull is fine, though rocks are better because they’re unbreakable. Objects (which means anything you can safely pick up, even corpses) are great at setting off traps—especially arrow traps. They’re also good for lobbing at enemies. Watch out, though: like most physical objects in Spelunky 2, if it bounces back and clocks you on the head, you’ll be stunned and lose a unit of health. 

Don't drop without knowing what you're dropping into

This is very simple and honest advice we already make use of in real life. But not all platforming videogames let you look down, so it might not be obvious that by holding the down button for a second in Spelunky 2, you'll get a better view of what's going on below you. Spelunky is all about going down and not dying in the process, so you'll want to look down a lot. 

Don't bomb unless it's safe to do so

More transferable life advice: if it's dangerous to plant a bomb somewhere, don't do it, or at least feel confident you can get out of the way quick smart. This requires awareness of Spelunky 2's many and varied dangers, which you'll learn by playing. But here are a few starting points: if you bomb close to a lava pit, that lava is going to flow downward and sideways, and touching it is going to kill you instantly. Also, don't bomb too close to shopkeepers' storefronts: they'll get angry and kill you. Aiming lobbed bombs is a skill acquired with practice, but be aware that they will bounce off surfaces, stun you, and then blow you up (which kills you). 

That's a general rule in Spelunky 2: what helps you can also hinder you. Wow, you got a shotgun! Watch that the recoil doesn't push you back into a spike trap. 

Always rescue pets, but tame mounts at your own risk

The dogs, cats or hamsters in each level will grant you a unit of life if you manage to carry them to the exit. The default pet is a dog, but you can change it to a cat or hamster in the options menu (I recommend changing it to a cat, because cats are the best). These aren't the only friendly animals in Spelunky 2: new to the series are turkeys, axolotls and, uh, rock dogs. These can be mounted, but there’s risk involved: they’ll run around like a headless chicken for a couple of seconds before they tame.

It’s usually worth it, though: turkeys double jump. Rock dogs double jump too and they also shoot fire from their mouths. Both will absorb most damage you receive until they die. If you’re not a fan of them (you don't have to use them), just bomb the heck out of them for a piece of meat that will grant you a health unit. Be careful though, rock dogs will shoot fire at you until you’ve successfully tamed them. That’s why cats are the best.

Smash jars and urns gleefully, but with care

The wilful destruction of ornate receptacles is a beloved videogame cliche, and it's usually the simplest of pleasures. Not in Spelunky 2, though. Yes, jars in Spelunky 2 have gold or jewels in them, but you’ll just as often find a spider or snake in one, or if you’re really unlucky, a poisonous scorpion. Worse still, there’s a Curse Jar (see image below) in every level that summons the ghost. This is a blessing for advanced players doing high score runs, but it’s a curse for everyone else. Leave those things alone. Generally speaking, it's usually safer to pick up a jar or urn and lob it away from you, somewhere you'll be able to safely access it, lest there's loot in there.

spelunky 2 ghost

(Image credit: Mossmouth)

Be wary of the ghost

Spelunky 2 is a game that rewards patience and observation, but that doesn't mean you can mosey about the levels exploring every nook and cranny. After two and a half minutes spent in a level a giant ghost will appear: contact with it means instant death. You can also make them appear early by breaking a Curse Jar (see above). Since the ghost turns all jewels it touches into more lucrative gems, high score players will welcome the ability to expedite the ghost's arrival. You probably won't, though, at least not at first.

This is what happens if a ghost touches you (you die).

This is what happens if a ghost touches you (you die). (Image credit: Mossmouth)

Shortcuts are great, but only for practice 

It won’t be long before you unlock one of the shortcuts, which spawns you at the end of level 1-4. This section provides access to either the Jungle or Volcania worlds, and you’ll also encounter other shortcuts later in the game with increasingly difficult unlock requirements. While shortcuts are handy for coming to grips with an area, if your objective is to actually beat the game, your odds are greatly strengthened by starting at the beginning. This seems counter-intuitive, but just like in the original, every piece of gold and every collected item counts in Spelunky 2.  

(Image credit: Mossmouth)

The Jungle sucks 

The Jungle sucks, that’s the entry. 

In all seriousness though, after the first world you’ll be given the option to visit either the Jungle or Volcania. For returning Spelunky players, the Jungle seems like the sensible choice: it was the second world in the original game, after all. But Jungle is actually much harder than Volcania, which doesn’t make sense because Volcania has lava in it, and lava = hard. To be honest, Volcania is easier than the opening world Dwelling, too.

(Image credit: Mossmouth)

Tiki traps are bear traps now and they suck too

Sometimes in the original Spelunky you’d need to bomb a tiki trap into smithereens to proceed safely. Usually you’d crouch, place a bomb, stand back and kapow. The equivalent in Spelunky 2 is the bear trap: instead of spiking you to death it punches you, which knocks you away and stuns you. Mercifully, it’s not instadeath. Less mercifully, if you try to place a bomb next to the bastards, expect to have that bomb punched right back in your direction. 

The best way to deal with these is to either hop on top of them (they can't hurt you there) or tease them out, wait while they attack, and then hop over during the brief moment they're retracted again.

(Image credit: Mossmouth)

Snap traps suck the most

These are especially brutal additions to Spelunky 2. I’ve only encountered them in the Jungle area, and they’re one of the least visible traps in the game. You can just see the teeth on these things sprouting from the ground, and knowledge of their existence is going to teach you to take this area slowly. But there’s good news as well: you can use them to your advantage. Simply edge towards a set trap, place a rock or something else in it, then pick it up once it’s attacked. You can then take it with you on your merry way, in order to plant it in front of other enemies: they’ll one-shot kill most enemies that require a few hits. 

Don’t be precious about your helping hands 

The helping hand AI in Spelunky 2 is hilariously shite. While discovering new playable characters throughout the world is fun (especially because they go on to hang out in your hub area), after they’ve died once in battle they’ll be replaced with generic caveman-style AI in all subsequent runs. These fellows are idiots. They’ll set off dangerous traps, they’ll pick up items you’d prefer to carry to safety, and more often than not they get in the way. Their setting is rusted on 'psychotic', so they’ll usually take a few enemies down before they perish. That said, if you’re in dangerous uncharted waters, it’s usually best to get rid of them. Pick them up and throw them at a trap, or better still, a lava pit. Let them die. One shortcut requires chaperoning a helping hand all the way through an especially dangerous world, and that’s the only good reason I have discovered to keep them alive. 

Experiment a lot

You're probably not going to finish Spelunky 2 on your 100th run, let alone your first. Play the game like you've got nothing to lose: you'll have more fun, and you'll learn the ways of the world quicker. Got money for a mysterious item the shopkeeper is selling? Buy it and see what it does. What's a power pack? If you've never encountered it before, just grab it (it gives you fiery whips and giant bombs, fyi). What happens if I roll this giant walrus's dice? You're probably going to die in 30 seconds to a lava cauldron-wielding imp: just roll the walrus's bloody dice. Learning what stuff does and how things work is what the game's about.

Shaun Prescott

Shaun Prescott is the Australian editor of PC Gamer. With over ten years experience covering the games industry, his work has appeared on GamesRadar+, TechRadar, The Guardian, PLAY Magazine, the Sydney Morning Herald, and more. Specific interests include indie games, obscure Metroidvanias, speedrunning, experimental games and FPSs. He thinks Lulu by Metallica and Lou Reed is an all-time classic that will receive its due critical reappraisal one day.