Spelunker Party! review for Nintendo Switch, PC

Platform: Switch
Also On: PC
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Tozai Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes

We?re just one year shy from the 35th anniversary of the original Spelunker, originally published for Atari platforms in 1983. While maybe not the most popular of series in West, Spelunker has seen some success in Japan over the years, with a handful of remakes and new titles across the past three decades. This release, Spelunker Party!, is actually a modified version of a free-to-play game called Spelunker World that released a couple of years ago. This version of the game does away with the free-to-play microtransaction model, and also makes use of 4-player split-screen co-op, both online and off.

I?m not particularly familiar with Spelunker as a whole, but I?ve enjoyed my time spent with Spelunker Party!. On the surface it is a fairly straightforward platformer, with light puzzle mechanics and some treacherous hazards to avoid. Death is frequent in the game, your diminutive miner is pretty fragile. Jumping from too high of a height, short falls, a constantly decreasing oxygen supply, and the occasional hit from bat droppings, are all possible avenues to the afterlife. But that challenge is definitely part of the charm, and doesn?t feel frustrating that often. Instead, death serves as a learning experience here, and you?ll likely overcome whatever obstacle felled you on your next attempt.

To go along with the simplicity of the platforming, the controls are also pretty straightforward. You can climb, jump, drop bombs, deploy flares, and make use of a few other tools as you progress. Spelunker Party! is very easy to pick up and play, and I think pretty much all age groups will find something to enjoy here. It?s also an ideal portable experience on the Switch, with easily digestible stages that typically only take a few minutes to complete.

To aid your progression, Spelunker Party also features equippable gear along with an experience/leveling system for both your character and the gear you currently have equipped. Gear can be found by collecting small coins, and gathering enough will grant you a new piece of equipment that can slotted in one of four gear slots. You can even bring a pet along for the ride, which may aid you in uncovering secrets or have other uses besides being a charming companion.

As far as the co-op goes, I think the idea is great, but it is a little frustrating that certain optional paths in a level can be blocked off when playing solo. Also, there?s little to no online community currently, I could rarely find a room of other players to join, and when I did, they were almost always further along than I was which in turn prevented me from joining. Local co-op is the way to go here and works fine, so don?t pick this up expecting to easily play with strangers online.

Still, Spelunker Party is worth checking out, especially if you never played through some of the content before in Spelunker World. There?s a lot of levels to play through,and the progression system via gear and leveling will keep you pushing forward. The additional challenge makes for a more engaging experience than some like-minded platformers in this style, and the co-op is fun provided you can find people to play with. Definitely check this out when you get a chance, I don?t think you?ll be disappointed.

Grade: B