In the world of video games, timing can be everything. If a promising property releases alongside an existing IP then it can struggle to find an audience, or if an indie title like Fall Guys hits right as gamers are desperate for something new, it can find a massive audience. In the case of Mossmouth's Spelunky 2, the timing is perfect for a resurgence of the spelunking rogue-like.
While many sequels, especially those released nearly 8 years after their predecessor, try to focus on making grand changes to their formula, Spelunky 2 sticks to its whips. Developer Mossmouth has made plenty of tweaks to make sure that Spelunky 2 looks and plays better than Spelunky 1 but it never abandons the core principles of the original. This is what a near-perfect sequel should be.
Spelunky 2 picks up many years after the original and puts players in control of the daughter of the main spelunker from the first game. Although she has been warned not to follow her parents, the young girl ventures to the moon and finds a similar labyrinth of shifting "rooms" awaiting her. She must venture through four distinct biomes (each with around 4 stages) to try to find the mystery behind her parents' disappearance and maybe nab some treasure along the way.
The basics of Spelunky are completely intact for Spelunky 2. Players work their way down past a number of enemies, traps, and obstacles while collecting gold to purchase useful items for offense, defense, traversal. They can go as fast or as slow as they like, but there is always a drawback to either approach. Speeding through a level can lead to a quick death, since players start with only 4HP. Going slowly lets players suss out danger, but the game has ways to punish those who linger for too long. One wrong move and players restart from square one.
Spelunky 2, like its predecessor, is all about the methodical approach. Yes, speedrunners will be able to zip through Spelunky 2's levels in seconds, but the average player knows the dangers that lurk everywhere. Mossmouth has upped the ante when it comes to devices of death/injury in Spelunky 2 and one misstep can be the difference between a clean run through a zone and instant restart.
Some of the classics have returned for Spelunky 2, like the spider, snake, and the wily shopkeeper, but there are a dozen or more new foes as well. Most of these new enemies feature completely unique behaviors that will force even hardcore Spelunky fans into trying new strategies. One of the new enemies, the hedgehog, burrows through the ground and can pop up right next to the player, preventing them from sitting on a pathway for too long. Mossmouth has clearly studied its playerbase to understand what would shake things up just enough to make the experience feel fresh but fair.
No doubt, Spelunky 2 is a harder game than the first. The general setup is the same, so veterans should have an easier time progressing early on, but even they will have to adapt to the new traps and enemies. Spelunky has a way of convincing players that certain obstacles or enemies are manageable, but then an overlooked detail like a spider on the ceiling may completely derail things. Everyone has a strategy that they prefer but most will hone in on the tried and true approach of carrying an object to use to either spring traps or eliminate enemies. And then stopping off at the shop can give even more tools to assist in that endeavor, like a webgun, teleporter, or spike shoes. The unmistakable DNA of Spelunky is present from top to bottom, but with smart improvements/refinements.
Visually, Spelunky 2 is very vibrant and the environments have a lot more going on in terms of detail. Building off of a PS3-era release, Spelunky 2 is merely trying to take advantage of stronger hardware to make the overall art style pop. Animations are a bit smoother and the effects give things like explosions a little more personality, but it all still falls in line with what fans will expect. It's not a knock to say that this looks like a better-looking Spelunky with some really impressive water and lava.
Music is also one of the signature elements of the series and once again Mossmouth has knocked it out of the park. Using instruments that evoke the feel of caves, forbidden temples, and lost technology, Spelunky 2 has a soundtrack that is as addictive as its gameplay. Because of the run-based nature of the game, where players will find themselves revisiting areas over and over again, the game needed to find a balance between catchy and grating. Spelunky 2 nails it.
While the core gameplay loop of Spelunky 2 centers on progressing through each level and eventually defeating a final encounter, the game is packed with even more mystery than some players realize. Veterans will know that the first Spelunky only truly began once they defeated Olmec for the first time, and the same is true here. Secret doorways, NPC “quests,” and alternate pathways are par for the course in Spelunky 2, and discovering them all enriches the experience. Every rogue-like encourages replayability in a different way, and Spelunky 2's flavor is mystery. If players so choose, there is a wealth of lore to dig through and a lot more than what's on the surface. There's also a fun base-building element where players can populate their starting camp with NPCs they find along the way and see its evolution as they progress.
Spelunky 2 takes the baton from Spelunky 1 and hits its stride immediately. Jumping into the caverns, whipping bats, chucking rocks, and smashing pots is just as fun and challenging 8 years later. Mossmouth has kept true to its original vision in a way that will satisfy fans, but packaged enough new content to ensure things don't feel like a rehash. As a result, Spelunky 2 isn't attempting to convert any who weren't fans of the first game. The game has a very specific approach and will not be for everyone, but those who adored the first game are guaranteed to feel the same about its sequel. At a time when gamers are less inclined to take risks with their purchases, Spelunky 2 offers the comfort of the familiar.
Spelunky 2 is available now for PS4 and releases later this month for PC. Game Rant was provided a PS4 code for this review.
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