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Spelunky 2 review for PS4, PC


Platform: PS4
Also On: PC
Publisher: Mossmouth
Developer: Mossmouth, Blitworks
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes
ESRB: E10+

I’m usually not one to subject myself to extremely difficult titles, mainly because I prefer gaming to be a power fantasy, however there are titles which I’m willing to die over and over and over and over again. I can safely say I’ve never reached the Nuclear Throne, I’ve never beaten the King’s Hand in Dead Cells, I’ve never gotten the good ending for the Binding of Issac. However in a year like 2020 which seems to have browbeaten everyone equally, it felt appropriate to have my gaming ego taken down a notch, so that’s why I willingly played the sequel to Spelunky (even though I never played the first one).

Spelunky 2 has you taking control of the daughter of the nameless spelunker (he has a last name now at least…it’s Spelunky) and Yellow (now named Tina). Seems your old man’s old habits die hard and he intuited that something weird is happening on the moon. So like any normal father he built a rocket ship to fly up to investigate. Months have gone by and Mr. and Mrs. Spelunky has not returned, So Ana recruited some of her father’s colleagues in an attempt to bring her parents home.

It’s fascinating that the moon has caverns with diverse biomes just like the Temple of Olmec in the first game. Once you dismiss this cognitive dissonance you realize you’re gonna be seeing that first level a lot during your playtime. Enemies aren’t overtly aggressive, but man will they mess you up if they happen to touch you. The fact that the invincibility frames after you get harm is so small that often times you’ll find that you’ll lose multiple hearts in an encounter with the most mundane enemies. If you manage to avoid enemy encounters, you’ll also have to be mindful of your environment as traps are everywhere and a large assortment do so much damage that they might as well be instant-kills. That said Ana isn’t exactly a pin cushion waiting to be punctured, she is armed with a whip (whose length feels way too short), she can also stomp on most enemies (although I find myself missing a lot of stomps…often time to my own injury) and she can throw various items found in the environment which can stun or kill. There’s shops which stock a cavalcade of weapons and equipment which might improve her chances of surviving her expedition. Health can be recovered by finding the family dog Monty and bringing him to the level exit alive, this replaces the damsel mechanic that was present in the first game or blowing up/torching turkeys which might be found sporadically in the level.

Given the title relies on procedural generation, every run is different and sometimes the dice roll will not land in your favor, I have seen situations where Monty will spawn in an area that will require way too many resources to reach, exit doors flanked by motion censored traps. Each level is also a somewhat living space, meaning your intervention is not required to trigger events, so explosives triggered by NPCs can actually impede your progress to the point where it ruins a run.

My only gripe with the game is it’s lack of permanence. Yes, you can build shortcuts that let you start further ahead by providing support to an NPC, and you can find alternate player skins by freeing NPCs in coffins strewn across the levels, but you will forever start your adventure with four hearts, four bombs and four ropes. It’s jarring to find some great equipment, only to lose it immediately because of a one-hit kill or inexplicably getting juggled to death by a mundane enemy, however inexplicably this type of defeat have not driven me to launch my controller into my TV and never playing the title again, but rather mash the X button since the first thing it hovers over on in the game over screen is quick restart.

Although it doesn’t need to, the game offers other modes of play such as a seeded mode if you want a more static adventure, a daily challenge which is just the standard mode where your score is recorded and posted on a leaderboard with bragging right being your only reward and a multiplayer mode that the only reason you’d want to play is there’s a bronze trophy attached to winning a session.

Despite my qualms with elements of Spelunky 2, I still can’t help to get “one more run” in hopes of getting that elusive win (over 1000 attempts and still a 0% victory rate). Even if I’ve achieved a victory, there are plenty of secrets waiting to be discovered! Rescuing the Spelunkys might end up in my list of unfulfilled rougelike checklist, but at least I’ll have had plenty of fun while I was attempting it.

Note: Mossmouth provided us with a Spelunky 2 PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: A-