With the promises of fortune and fame I made my way into the darkness of the mines. As I pass through the threshold I distinctly begin to recall the tales of those before me brave enough to enter, but they never came back. Did they strike it rich, or perish in the randomness of the dark that followed. What exactly is down there? Treasure, or dare I say snakes. I hate snakes!

Spelunky, from original developer Derek Yu of Mossmouth, lets me channel my inner Indiana Jones all in search of the big score. Plenty of gold, rubies, and crystals lie in the depths below. Of course where theres riches there’s also danger. Why just today I came across a golden idol. Something is rather familiar about this trinket of great worth. I swear I’ve seen this before in Raiders of the Lost Ark along with the consequences of that huge boulder that followed, but that was Hollywood. There’s no way this would happen here in Spelunky, so I decided to swipe the idol. Why is everything shaking all of a sudden? Oh shit!

After getting ran over by that boulder I realized that death is pretty much a commonality in Spelunky. I fall off a cliff…dead. Get impaled in spikes…dead. Get hit by a few creatures…dead. Get touched by a ghost…dead. Piss off the shopkeeper…dead. Death may be common, but the real punishment was what happened after I died. I started back at the beginning in a new randomly created level. Health was also tough to come by since I needed to help a damsel in distress. Saving her got me a kiss and a point of health as a reward. I liked being the savior, but every once in a while I like to have a little “fun” with the damsel as I tossed her around, whipped her a few times, and even set off a bomb or two killing her in the process. Oops! It was an accident! I swear!

With all the hours I spent playing Spelunky the only thought that went through my head while cursing at the TV was “Holy shit! This game is hard!” I actually applaud the game’s difficulty, because it reminded me of the old days of gaming. Spelunky made me think whether that gold was worth the possibility of getting hurt. Is there treasure in that pot or another snake? Is getting one point of health from the lovely damsel worth two points of damage from the arrow trap nearby? Do I use one of my limited bombs or rope in my inventory, because I never know when the next shopkeeper will mysteriously show up. Everything is so random, and that’s what makes Spelunky a great game.

Spelunky may be a tough to master, but the game’s goal was not to punish me. Sure it might feel like that after dying hundreds of times and starting over from the beginning, but what the game is really doing is teaching me. Teaching me to not be a dumbass and consider doing the smart thing instead. If something is not really worth it than don’t do it, and save that precious health for another day. Using my brain and thinking things through, but not think too long, because that chill I now feel in the air is the ghost who’s about to kill me. Mr. Wizard, I need an exit…NOW!

Whether I’m playing the thrilling adventure, or jamming on the couch with some friends in the multiplayer mode (which is a blast to play) Spelunky is a lot of fun. There’s so much to explore and accomplish. The “risk vs. reward” concept is well done, and even the achievements are a challenge to earn. There’s an addictive quality with Spelunky that will keep me playing for a long time as I try to reach that next level or get that higher score. I highly recommend all of you out there looking for a real challenge to download this game today. It’s well worth it.

Developer: Derek Yu, Mossmouth
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
Players: 1-4 (Local Multiplayer)
Price: 1200 Microsoft Points ($15.00)

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