When Spelunky 2 first came out, I wasn’t as much of a fan as I thought I’d be. At first, I thought that was because Hades came out at the same time, but looking back I realise that it was simply my ego being knocked down a peg or two.
I became well-versed with Spelunky over the course of a decade, and here was a sequel that shuffled many things around and wasn’t afraid to get even more difficult – and get more difficult it did. Spelunky 2 is even harder, to the point where it sometimes feels cruel, and being an experienced player isn’t going to help you one bit.
At the time, this stung a bit and put me off from pouring too much time into Spelunky 2, despite having waited a fair few years for it. I still got to the 50-hour mark, but it wasn’t quite the same experience.
With a year since release, I can now look back at Spelunky 2 for what it is – an evolution of the first that improves upon a ton of things. It retains Spelunky’s spirit in pretty much every way, it’s just teaching you different lessons. It’s another masterpiece, just one that I haven’t quite mastered yet.
Thankfully, Spelunky 2 is another perfect fit for the Nintendo Switch. I was a bit concerned it wouldn’t run too well with the advanced water and lava physics that the sequel introduces, as well as the generally bigger dungeons, but it does so without skipping a beat. Once again the loading times are speedy, the game isn’t glitchy, and you can do everything portably, so it’s really the best place to play Spelunky 2.
In many ways, Spelunky 2 is the same game as the first with a new coat of paint. Many of the mechanics are the same and many of the things you’ll have figured out from the first will carry over here, such as some of the items and enemies. You’re doing the same thing too, aiming to reach the bottom of a series of biomes, whilst trying to gather treasure and rescue animals for extra health.
It’s in the ways that Spelunky 2 is different that can be a little polarising. For every new thing that it introduces that I love, I feel like there’s another that takes something away. The addition of rideable animals is a cool new feature that gives the player more options, but the new lava mechanics can randomly mess up runs if you’re not careful. The cave system can make things deeper, but sometimes runs feel a little long in the tooth.
I love the new biomes, but think that the rigid structure can hold things back a little bit. Always having to fight the boss on the fourth floor can make things a bit more predictable, which feels like the antithesis of what Spelunky is about. For something that impacts the game negatively like that, you also have the ghost jars, which feel like they should have been in Spelunky from the start.
Generally, it can feel like there’s a bit too much going on in Spelunky 2. The first biome is about ten times harder than the mines of the first game, and it only gets more difficult from there. Spelunky 2 can feel a bit cruel at times, something which I have come to understand is how the first game originally feels – I simply forgot what was like from so many years of playing it.
That’s the thing about Spelunky 2 – it’s a different game. “No duh” you might be saying, but it’s not trying to be the first Spelunky. It’s its own thing and makes enough moves in both directions that I feel like it sticks the landing just as well. With some more playtime, I’ve come to respect the changes it makes and come to terms with them.
Even if I prefer the original game and its simplicity compared to Spelunky 2, I’d still argue that you’re getting one of the best roguelikes of all time here. That core theme of learning that I ranted and raved about in the original Spelunky review is right here front and centre, it’s just a little harder to parse with so much going on. If the worst thing anyone can say about Spelunky 2 is that it’s just a tiny bit less perfect than Spelunky, I think that’s a pretty good outcome.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Mossmouth