‘Spelunky 2’ review: Die to lava, spikes and more on the PS4 and PC

  • More great 2D platforming roguelike action from the makers of ‘Super Meat Boy’ and ‘Crypt of the NecroDancer’
  • Randomly generated dungeons will test both your patience and skill as you prepare to die, over and over again
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Spelunk some more with friends in 'Spelunky 2'.

There’s danger around every corner when you explore ruins. At least that’s the rule on Earth. But as it turns out, when you explore ruins on the moon, they also appear to be filled with danger around every corner. There isn’t a lot that’s new in Spelunky 2, but when it’s coming off the fun and randomised experience of its predecessor, there’s little else that needs to be done. Spelunky 2 is as much of a good time as the original, only with more ways to kill you.

That belongs on the moon

Those who played the original Spelunky will be happy to hear that the original Spelunky Guy settled down and raised a family. He hasn’t stopped exploring, though, and his latest journey took him up to the moon. But everything that happened in the first game looks to be coming back to haunt him, because he’s now gone missing. That serves as the introduction for new protagonist, Ana Spelunky, to take her friends to the moon and search the series of ruins where her father was last seen.

The lore injection is a fun inclusion, but here’s everything you need to know about Spelunky 2. It’s more Spelunky. There are more ruins, more enemies, more effects, and more ways to die. Players have at least four characters to choose from or join up with for cooperative exploration. And you’ll have plenty of chances to explore, because if there’s one thing that Spelunky 2 made painfully clear to me, it’s that players are going to die. They’re going to die a lot.

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Temples of doom

Spelunky 2’s objective is straightforward. You’re lost in a series of ruins and the idea is to find each chamber’s exit, carrying along any treasure you can find along your way. Each area is filled with all sorts of wild creatures, dangerous natives, and hazardous traps just waiting to kill you. And even if you’re careful not to try and disturb anything, you might trip over something or break a random pot and still find something waiting to kill you.

Success in Spelunky 2 isn’t about memorisation, at least for the most part. Every level in the game is randomly generated, so the only things you can really commit to memory are the various enemies and the designs for each trap and what triggers them. There’s a lot of skill involved in making it out alive, but more often than not, much of your survival (or lack thereof) will end up attributed to dumb luck.

'Spelunky 2' again pits players against randomly generated levels and lots of environmental traps and hostile baddies.

There are ways to defend yourself, of course. Players have a standard issue whip, which can take out minor enemies and momentarily stun bigger ones. They’ll also have limited resources at their disposal, specifically bombs and ropes. Ropes can help players reach out-of-the-way objects, while bombs can destroy traps, get enemies out of your way, or even create short-cuts to the level’s exit. They might also get you killed in more ways than one, which is what leads to the best thing about Spelunky 2 and the Spelunky games as a whole.

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The best thing Spelunky 2 has going for it is that it gives players stories. It makes them reflect on their own performance. It makes them laugh over the silly way they died. It makes them angry over that stupid trap they tripped over for the hundredth time. And it does all of that in more ways than the first Spelunky did, because for as much as the game brought back, it also introduced some new ideas with liquid physics.

Sure, you can die in some of the standard ways. Skewered by a spear trap, punched out by a bear trap, getting flattened by a falling pillar after grabbing a booby-trapped idol. You can also get chewed up by a mole, bitten by a cobra, impaled by spikes, and the list goes on and on. Death by liquid, however, is a whole new kettle of fish, where you can get washed away by a flood of melted by lava. And more often than not, you’ll know not to get near the hazardous liquids, but you’ll somehow end up engulfed in them anyway.

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But all it takes is just one lucky run to make it through to the next stage. Fortunately, this roguelike isn’t too merciless. Players will sometimes run into a character who’s actively working on shortcut tunnels. Simply pay her what she needs and she’ll eventually work up some shortcuts, which should take you out of the early part of the game.

The journey’s just beginning

There’s quite a bit to explore in Spelunky 2. The addition of online multiplayer is a godsend, just because of how much of a help more players will be. It’ll also be more fun, just because of how many more things can go wrong with the presence of more players. But it will obviously take a lot of practice and teamwork to defeat the many levels in this sequel. It should make for some very spirited co-op couch sessions for a long time to come.

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