Spelunker, originally released for the Atari in 1983, is widely known as an extremely difficult game with what might as well be the weakest main character ever created. While the game was first created in the U.S., it was in Japan where the game’s popularity grew to the point of having a line of toys, comic books, and clothing. It wasn’t until 2007 that Spelunker was again released in the U.S. on the Wii’s Virtual Console. Spelunker HD was first released in 2009 in Japan, with an even harder “Black” version released earlier this year. Now, American gamers can delve into and see just what Japan has found so endearing about a character that can die just from having bat guano land on his head.
Basically a high-definition remake of the original title, Spelunker HD is a brutal, no-nonsense title that can easily drive the impatient among us into a frenzy. Fall more than two feet, you die. Touch a flare that you lit to repel some enemies, you die. Land on water… you get the picture. You burn through lives at a much quicker pace than you regain them, making memorization of stage layout just as crucial as quick reaction to new or undiscovered traps. These get increasingly more challenging as the levels go by, and with 100 stages to go through, the game will break any preconceptions you had about overly-tough platformer titles.
That said, Spelunker HD isn’t just a pretty makeover for the original game. It supports 4-player offline and up to 6-player online play, with the stage layout for all 100 stages changing depending on how many people are playing at the same time. In addition, you can choose to play either in with the HD visuals, or in “retro” mode with the graphics from the original title which can be selected even when playing online. Both modes play the same, but it’s nice to be given the option for those who’d rather prefer the game’s original look.
Spelunker is not for everyone. This isn’t the type of game that will appeal to the more casual gamer looking for a game to easily progress through. If you can overcome all the traps that await you down in the caves below, however, the feeling of accomplishment you’re rewarded with is more than worth it.