The game tells me that if I make it far enough into the caves I will eventually be able to start from a level other than 1. While that may be true, don't expect to simply pick things up from level 2 at any time. You have to go ten levels into the game before you can take advantage of this option. By that time you will have played level 1 so many times that you could probably play it with your eyes shut. The game rewards constant trial and error, though mostly error. You need to learn from each mistake and apply it the next time you go through the level. Hopefully you have a good memory, because you're going to need it if you want to get anywhere in this HD remake.
It's not always a jump or bat poop that will kill you, sometimes you simply run out of oxygen. Your air gauge acts as the game's clock, constantly counting down and forcing you to keep moving. For much of the game extra oxygen tanks are plentiful, but sometimes that's not the case. The game can be a little inconsistent when it comes to distributing the much-needed air, which can cause even more unnecessary deaths. These tanks are even more important when you realize that they also power your ghost busting equipment. Wait ... ghosts? That's right, not only do you have to worry about falling more than an inch, but you also have to deal with spooky ghosts.
To the game's credit, the developers have given us a handy save and quit option. This is a great addition, especially if you are like me and got sick of replaying the first level hundreds of times for no reason. While I'm sure the game wasn't intended to be played this way, I found myself relying on the save and quit option, going back to the title screen each and every time I died. Doing this certainly made the game more manageable (and help avoid the repetition that is playing the same early levels over and over again), but I shouldn't have to constantly save and quit just to have a reasonably good time.
For much of the game I wondered if I was simply missing something. I know a lot of people who swear by this game, suggesting that it should be included on the list of games of the year. I was sure I was playing it wrong, since this opinion is coming from people I know and respect. But even after playing through the tutorial and watching online videos, I'm convinced that they don't know what they're talking about. Spelunker HD is where fun goes to die.
These complaints aside, there are things I like about this $10 download. For one thing, the brand new graphics are gorgeous and everything animates smoothly. I also like the addition of the original 1984 game, even if it's mind-numbingly difficult. There are also some fun multiplayer modes, which add a lot of value to the game. Of course, all of the problems still apply in these modes, but everything is better when you have friends helping you out.
Spelunker HD proves that it doesn't matter how good the game looks, I'm simply not willing to put up with terrible gameplay and cheap deaths. If you're looking for a punishing difficulty that rewards trial and error gameplay, then look no further than Spelunker HD on the PlayStation Network. This is one retro release that can stay buried deep in a cavernous pit.
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* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
Spelunker HD proves that this is one classic game that deserves to stay buried!
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