Monday 20 September 2021

Spelunker HD Deluxe Review (Switch)

Written by Dan Gill

I’ve a long history of digging myself into a hole, and I suspect it’s this experience which led to a code for cave-diving platformer Spelunker HD Deluxe landing in my inbox. For those who aren’t as old as me, this is a remake of Spelunker, a game released for the Atari 400/800 in 1983. It was later ported to various platforms and is something of a cult hit.

The aim is to delve into the dankest caves, unearthing treasure, avoiding pitfalls and dodging enemies on your way to the next cave, just like in the original title. And that’s the thing; this is exactly like the original game in terms of gameplay, clunky jumping and all. The tiniest error will lose a life. Yes, this is Spelunker as those of a certain vintage will remember it, albeit with some updated graphics and audio (although you can go blocky if you wish, as the original game is included). It’s a game that’s a bit janky and archaic in game design terms, so it’s worth keeping that in mind if you’re going to play it.

While the aim is to make it to the next cave, it’s worth exploring levels to find treasure to boost your score, bombs to destroy blocks, and oxygen to keep you alive. The oxygen tank can also be used to get rid of ghosts. These spectres (whose arrival is announced with a spooky howl) will glide through walls to track the player down, and with the levels being so tightly designed there’s not always a way to escape. Other cave-dwelling beasties cause trouble, and their movement patterns need to be learned so a safe path can be found. There’s a fair amount of variety in each cave, and this pushes you on to see what awaits in the next room.

A variety of gameplay modes add to the original game’s one hundred or so levels, offering competitive multiplayer, a challenge mode (which offers another few dozen levels) and an endless mode with a procedurally generated endless dungeon. This may be the toughest mode, since the base game relies much on memory as it does quick reactions. Some of the pitfalls are tough to spot when playing with the updated visuals, so you’ll need to be eagle-eyed and nimble to spot these on the fly. However, all are a nice addition, and offer more challenge for those demanding more. Whether that justifies the price of the game on the eShop is something that depends on how much mileage you can get out of it. At north of £20 for what is essentially a 38-year-old game seems a little steep. I can’t help but feel it would have been better pitched at a slightly lower price for what it is.

All in all, Spelunker HD is a solid retro platformer. It makes no concessions to modern design, and the quality-of-life features are limited to the multiplayer and endless dungeon modes. At this point you may well have decided whether the game is for you or not. Those of us who cut our teeth on tough platformers in the 80s may carry a torch for these types of game, while others are happy to have moved on to games that take it a little easier on the player (ask most adults with a family how much time they have to play games, let alone how long they have to learn its ins and outs in order to get better). Personally, I like hopping back in time to play something like this, partly for nostalgia, but also to see how it fits in to gaming history (it feels like it’s not far off the original Mario Bros’ platforming). In terms of gameplay, it feels like something of an unearthed relic itself – a little dusty, perhaps, but it cleans up well.

Overall 7/10

No comments:

Post a Comment