Spelunky 2 review

5 min read
fairly easy
A brilliant action roguelike that's only as complex as you want it to be.
Need to know What is it? An iterative sequel to a modern roguelike classic.

Expect to pay: $20

Developer: Mossmouth

Publisher: Mossmouth

Out: September 29, 2020

Reviewed on: Core i5-2500K, 8GB RAM, GTX 780 Ti

Multiplayer: Online cooperative, local deathmatch

Link: Official Site

You can kill cavemen in their sleep in Spelunky 2. That's the kind of game it is: ultra-violent. At the time of writing I've died nearly 400 times, which is not very many times to die in a Spelunky game. I'm just getting started. Everything can be going right in Spelunky 2—you can be carefully setting off arrow traps, you can have a shotgun, you can have plenty of bombs and ropes—and then a deluge of very unfortunate shit will annihilate you quicker than you can say "eggplant run".

Released in 2013, the original Spelunky was a 2D roguelike phenomenon (and PC Gamer Game of the Year) spawned from a freeware pixel art gem. Spelunky 2 is better and more: there are more worlds, more secrets, interlocking paths, you can ride axolotls and "rock dogs," and the causes of death have at least tripled. It's a roguelike platformer loaded with lethal interlocking threats, with a whimsical veneer you should not let fool you.

(Image credit: Mossmouth)

This is the kind of sequel that risks making its predecessor redundant. Certain worlds return from the original in a slightly changed form, such as the jungles, the ice caverns, and the caves (now called 'Dwelling'). An angered shopkeeper is still a pain in the ass, albeit slightly easier to rob, and he now has competitors vying for your gold: There's a walrus with a dice game and bodyguard, there's Tun with her challenge rooms, and cavemen have evolved enough that they'll now try to sell you useless crap like skulls, God love 'em. There are more NPCs and more side quests, such as the guy in Dwelling who wants you to rescue turkeys (and will kill you if you try to rob them), and Van Horsing in Volcania who gives you money for some reason, no questions asked.

And for a while you'll probably vigilantly ignore all these distractions, focusing instead on unlocking shortcuts, before realising it's best to ignore the shortcuts on your path to finishing the game. This critical path starts in Dwelling and culminates in a mini-boss before branching off into two possible second worlds. The game is front loaded with overly familiar areas, but it reserves its most resplendent and surprising locations for players who have the patience to surmount those initial challenges.

Spelunky 2.0

It's fair to be concerned that Spelunky 2 is a bloated version of a near perfect formula. All the features heavily marketed pre-launch, like layered worlds and branching paths, aren't nearly as complicated as they could have been. No one's going to get lost in Spelunky 2. Some of the levels are much larger than before, but the general Spelunky rule still (mostly) applies: Go downward and find the exit. Mini-bosses are the kind that will be manageable with one's eyes closed after a couple of attempts, and, at first, mostly serve as mechanisms to select which world to visit next.

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