When I first approached indie darling Spelunky, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. My patience is lacking when it comes to games like it, yet I found myself able to give it another shot thanks to various people and a PlayStation Store sale. After a few more hours of excitement and frustration, it all suddenly made sense, and the wide world of Spelunky opened before me.
I found myself unable to play anything else, so I thought it would be fun to catalog my adventures through this brutal (yet addictive) little game. Even though players use similar strategies, Spelunky challenges everyone a little bit differently. For example, I still find myself struggling with some of the basics despite knowing all the tricks to overcome them.
The first area in Spelunky, the mines, is possibly also the most devious. It devours newcomers and spits them back out in no time flat, so it’s easy to see why some consider it the hardest area in the game. Sure, with enough experience you could find yourself breezing through, but there will always be plenty of obstacles standing in your way you will never see coming.
First, you’re completely unequipped. No items, no money and only the base number of bombs and ropes. Of course, starting out in the mines is easier than anywhere else, but when you have nothing to work with but your trusty whip and a few measly bombs, you can quickly find yourself in danger. I found it best to avoid using any of my bombs or ropes, although when I see a handy item crate I’ll do almost anything in my power to make sure I nab it. If I’m lucky it’ll contain more of the item I used in order to acquire it, but in Spelunky, luck is rarely on your side.
Second: bats. Yes, there spiders, snakes and the occasional scorpion, but bats. I hate bats. Bats are my mortal enemies. They seem harmless, but if I’m caught in the wrong place at the wrong time and a bat is nearby, I’ll either die or lose most of my health right then and there. I can handle spiders with their ridiculous jumping or even scorpions and their uncanny ability to hit me wherever I am, but bats? Get them away from me.
Bats are dumb, but relentless. I once triggered a bat at the beginning of an area and, unbeknownst to me, it stalked me all the way to the exit and hit me right when I least expected it. So, not only are bats determined to kill you, but they’re also stealthy. Worse enemies dwell in the mines, but bats always find a way. They never fail. Their mission is clear and they will hunt me down until I kill them first or am no longer standing.
After a week or so of practice I have been able to overcome my fear of bats, at least a little. I usually find a way to take them out without much worry, even if they can still find ways to get to me. Panic still sets in when I realize I have no easy way to kill them, and everything I learned up to that point vanishes. Spelunky’s difficulty is something I know I can overcome despite these incidents, so I persevere.
When I started playing Spelunky again, it seemed silly to get so hung up on such a seemingly insignificant enemy. To me, bats were (and still are) one of the early challenges you must overcome. Once I finally began to break through that barrier and figure out how to best them, it felt like I made my first step towards finishing this devilish game. I was ready for anything.
That was before I witnessed some of the true terrors Spelunky had up its sleeves. Okay, maybe I still have a long way to go.