When I made it to the temple for the first time, I had to take a break, knowing all too well that I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to face. I then took a deep breath, unpaused and died almost immediately. It took me a while to get back to the temple, and almost every time I did, it became my final stopping point due to a sudden, avoidable death. Thought the ice caves were too easy? Don’t get complacent. This is Spelunky, after all.
The temple essentially combines traps from the previous areas and adds a few new surprises. The crush trap, lovingly referred to as the thwomp by many Spelunky players, is one you’ll quickly learn to deal with. Well, you’ll probably be crushed by it several times and then you’ll learn to deal with it. Maybe. It’s not as devious as the tiki trap, at least for me, but it still led to some tense moments. I remember the first time I learned it could move in more than two directions. You got me good that time, Spelunky.
For me, the temple is the ultimate “move as quickly as possible to the next level” section. If I have the handy compass and more than enough bombs, I find it easier to bomb straight down the floors to the exit if possible. Sure, I keep an eye out for the damsel and any item crates that might be on the way, but I rarely go out of my way to search for these things. Even if I have Kali’s kapala, I do my best to stay away from this area’s ruthless foes. See, I learned my lesson eventually.
Unlike the previous environments, the temple is more linear, forcing you down a single path most of the time instead of giving you a few options. This is why bombs are essential here, because more often than not you’ll find yourself facing a trap you can’t easily avoid or an enemy that will tear you apart in a matter of seconds. You can destroy the traps or kill the enemy with a bomb or several, sure, but again, I found it easier to carve my own path towards the exit. This doesn’t always work out, especially if you’re not paying close attention to your surroundings, but it’s the best way I found to progress.
Eventually, with the right set of items and enough perseverance (or just dumb luck), you’ll make it to the fourth level of the temple, Olmec’s lair. He’s essentially a giant evil head made of gold, and he’s willing to crush you at a moment’s notice. He’s also, surprisingly enough, Spelunky’s easiest challenge. When you first face this fiend, you might be a little confused, unsure of how to even approach him. But Spelunky is not a game known for boss encounters.
I was lucky enough to have seen several people take on Olmec a multitude of ways prior to actually reaching his lair myself, making my first encounter with him my triumphant victory. I had a jetpack, handy for getting around without worrying about him following me everywhere, and all of the bombs I could ever want. It didn’t stop me from being super-nervous about the whole fight; I had never made it this far before and to screw up fighting Olmec means losing the most progress I’ve ever made. Despite being a relatively-easy victory, the stress levels were high.
This is what makes Spelunky such an amazing game. Each run is full of surprises and even those sections you are familiar with will find new ways to challenge you. Whenever you restart, you are equipped only with your basic items, but also your knowledge of everything prior. It excels in simplicity while remaining challenging and unforgiving from start to finish. By the time I took down Olmec and claimed my prize, it felt incredible. I went from struggling with a few bats in the earliest levels to taking down the game’s major boss encounter in a relatively short period of time.
With that, my fellow adventurers, I bring my short journey through Spelunky’s many levels to a close. I have conquered the worst the game has to offer and overcome my fears of bats and tiki traps. It’s time to move on and face new challenges.
Wait, there’s even more to Spelunky after Olmec, including a whole new set of levels and an optional boss? Maybe I’ll… just take a short break and come back to it later.