Review: Spelunker HD

The brave spelunker, the Red Guy, descends into the bowels of the deep seeking adventure and fortune. He leaps from the lift and plummets about six feet to his death.

The brave spelunker, the Red Guy, descends into the bowels of the deep seeking adventure and fortune. He brings the lift lower this time and leaps to the nearby ledge, where treasures await. He narrowly dodges the jets of flame firing from the ceiling of the tunnel, sets a bomb to clear a rock blocking his path, steps back several feet and still dies in the blast, flesh singed from his bones (even though he was clearly outside of the bomb’s visible blast radius).

Who ya gonna call?

The brave spelunker, the Red Guy, descends into the bowels of the deep seeking adventure and fortune. He leaps safely from the elevator and dodges jets of flames. He successfully, and without personal injury, bombs the rock blocking his path and descends into a tunnel. A giant boulder falls and rolls after him like in Indiana Jones when, just as he’s nearing a rope he can climb to escape the boulder’s path, a spooky theme plays. He leaps on the rope when a ghost appears — descending means being crushed by a boulder, but there’s no way he can climb the rope in time to escape the ghost. So he dies.

The brave spelunker, the Red Guy, descends into the bowels of the deep seeking adventure and fortune. He leaps safely from the elevator and dodges jets of flames. He bombs the rock blocking his path and descends into a tunnel. He flees from the speeding boulder and climbs the rope to safety — no ghost this time — then falls into a ditch, stubs his toe or something, and apparently dies?

Sigh.

The brave spelunker, the Red Guy, descends into the bowels of the deep seeking adventure and fortune. He leaps from the elevator, dodges the fire, bombs the rock, outruns the boulder, jumps over the small Ditch of Death, and comes across some bats, who kill him with their poop.

Repeat.

Repeat.

He returns to the main menu and plays through the tutorial.

Now armed with the complete-the-tutorial trophy, the Red Guy descends into the cave, makes the leap, avoids the flames, destroys the rock, flees from the boulder and uses his flare to scare off the bats, nabbing the key they were so dutifully guarding by pooping on any trespassers. He descends further into the cave and comes to a narrow tunnel riddled with steam geysers. Fortunately, the steam isn’t coming anywhere close to where it could possibly reach him, so he bravely runs forth and —

Too many spelunkers!

The Red Guy goes into the cave — fire, bombs, boulders, bats, poop, ghosts — he passes unharmed through the steam tunnel, timing his movements carefully between bursts of scorching vapor and reaches the next stage!

The brave spelunker descends further into the deep dark, riding a mine cart past more flame jets. Nice try, flame jets, but I got this game now. He carefully times his movement when — oh no — he reaches the edge of the current screen, causing it to pan to the next screen, which totally screws up his timing. He dies. Again.

He gets a game over.

So he stops playing. For now. But he’ll try again later, after he’s cooled his temper a bit and he’ll get a little bit further. Then he’ll get frustrated again, quit, come back and get a little bit further. And he’ll repeat this process for days.

Were he a young boy in the late ‘80s, he’d repeat the process for weeks or months, because Spelunker was all he had to play. And it was fun enough. And maybe he’s been spoiled by the ease of modern games and the frequency of releases, especially during this holiday season, but once he’s reached the next major area (each area is made up of a bunch of individual stages), he’ll set the controller down and think to himself, “OK, I’ve played enough for a review. Prognosis: fun if you miss the old-school difficulty of the NES era. Maybe play the game with the classic graphics, as the idiosyncrasies of NES game design are easier to swallow in bite-sized eight bits, though the new HD paint is pretty to look at.”

Because the game was fun, but ultimately, just too much for his mid-20s, bad-at-videogames-now-that-he’s-an-adult lifestyle.

So he stopped playing.

Originally written for Digital Hippos

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