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Published on September 11th, 2013 | by Don Parsons


Spelunky Review

Spelunky Review Don Parsons

Summary: A perfect example of a pick up and play game that gives a fresh, new challenge each time a game is started to keep from being repetitive.


When the Vita launched, I was excited for games like Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Modnation Racers, and the possibility of other console experiences coming to it. Even a year later, it was games like Assassins Creed III: Liberation that I looked forward to the most. The short, more “burst gaming” experiences just weren’t catching my attention, until recently. Games like Hotline Miami and the upcoming Rogue Legacy (which I have been playing on PC) are more at home in this travel-sized environment than those epic and grand games. There are a lot of these games coming, too, as Sony embraces the indie scene, but one of the most recent entries into this category is the platforming gem, Spelunky.

I remember Spelunky back when it was a free-to-play PC game. It was a platforming game with randomly generated levels and had a cute pixel aesthetic that looked like it came straight from the 16-bit era. I didn’t play it much at the time, though, but when I heard it was coming to Steam with added features I was interested again. And then when it found its way to the Vita and Playstation 3, it seemed like a perfect fit.


In Spelunky, the player is tasked with venturing through a temple filled with both gobs of treasure and deadly traps and enemies. The obstacles varied and only got more difficult as I progressed through the temple, as did the enemies. Treasure is really the primary goal, though. It acts as a high score mechanic, so when I died, my remaining treasure was that particular game’s score. At that point, it was a matter of hitting the square button to quickly drop into a new game, with a new dungeon design.

Four hearts are all that protected me on this treasure run, but each floor held a princess captive. Escorting her safely to the exit rewarded me with a kiss, which amounted to either replenishing a lost heart or adding an extra heart in the event of me clearing the floor unscathed. It’s the main way to get health, and at only one heart per level, it really forced me to change the way I played.

I tend to rush through platformers, running full speed until I hit the exit. The first few games of Spelunky I played, I would die within the first few levels. Sometimes, it was the stupidest things, too. Not looking before I dropped off a ledge and impaling myself is an acceptable reason to die. Falling below, getting stuck in the ground due to dropping too far, and then having a spitting snake hit you with poison before you can move was both infuriating and funny. After slowing down, looking before I dropped, and just paying more attention in general, I noticed a drastic increase in my time alive and treasure collected.


It’s not just treasure that is littered throughout Spelunky, but also fun and useful items. My favorite was a pair a gloves that I could buy in the randomly positioned shops that let me scale walls. Spending gold on items decreased the end score, though, so if I was low on life or just being greedy, I’d skip spending gold altogether.

The biggest draw to this PSN title is how compatible it is with its sibling. Whether I wanted to play on the big screen for some long playing sessions or the little screen for a few quick, pick up and play games, as long as I was signed in to the PSN my progress was saved so that I could effortlessly switch to the other device. There was no crazy menu option to sync my save, it was just there. Of course, buying the game on PSN gives you both versions, and you can even play with people on the other system. It’s great to see Sony embracing this concept of cross buy/play/save.

Playing with people is fun, though there are no online options. Couch co-op is great, but when most of your best friends are scattered across the US (or world in some cases), it made me wish I could hop in and play with them. Racing to gather gold and get to the end had some epic moments of pass and fail the few times I played multiplayer.


By complete accident, my two boys (ages 9 and 4) stumbled across Spelunky on our PS3. I told them that it was okay to play but clearly explained “it’s very hard, so don’t get mad if you die a lot.” They didn’t care and spent a solid two hours laughing and giggling while playing together. My youngest would usually die first, so he would make ghost noises as he floated around my oldest. Or they would sit at the opening and take turns laughing hysterically while whipping each other. It was quite fun to watch, and even more fun to see the look on their faces the first time they grabbed the golden idol and a giant boulder fell and smashed them. That part was golden.

This is a perfect example of bite-sized gaming that I mentioned earlier. Most of the time that I spent playing Spelunky was not in long, drawn out sessions but rather on my car ride home. I could hop in, play a few games, collect some treasure, try to best my high score, die, and repeat. It’s a great way to take a break from longer games, too, such as Killzone: Mercenary. It’s a slower-paced platformer, and that was what I liked about it. Plus, it’s more vertical than horizontal which just gives it a more fresh feeling.

Spelunky’s HD overhaul has been an impressive jump not just in the graphical department (note: see the older graphics above), but the added multiplayer, leaderboards, and miscellaneous areas, enemies and such, really make this worth the money. More specifically, if you are looking for a whimsical, portable-feeling game on your Vita, it’s a no-brainer. Also, kid friendly fun, so it’s hard to argue with that.

 This review was written based on gameplay on the Playstation Vita and Playstation 3 with review code provided by the developer. For more information on our review process, please read here.

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About the Author

got into podcasting in 2007, and transitioned into writing in late 2008. In late 2011, he went from blogging to writing for a small site called Vagary.tv. Don attended E3 for Vagary.tv in 2012. Now, Don is one-fourth of the foundation of Critically Sane.

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