A return trip that is bold and different.
Spelunky is a foundational game for a variety of reasons, whether it’s the ingenuity of its level design or its placement as a bellwether for the roguelike indie revolution. The original Xbox 360 release (also available on Switch) is almost a decade old (and even older if you count the Classic version). I view the original Spelunky as one of the finest games of its kind, even if a lot of my enjoyment has come from watching others find all the secrets as I make it through the main quest by the skin of my teeth. With how much I appreciated the first game, I’ve been waiting to play Spelunky 2 on Switch since it was announced, and I’m happy to say it doesn’t disappoint. Spelunky 2 basically takes everything from the first game and makes it a little bit different but largely better.
The primary mechanics don’t change much. You’re still spelunking around different areas making use of a finely tuned jump, bombs, ropes, and other found or purchased weaponry. The story setup is a little different, as now you play the child of the original explorer, Ana Spelunky. After the events of the original game, Ana grew up and is now on the moon with fellow explorers trying to find her parents. What’s fun is so many of the characters are references or descendents to the cast from the original. You only start with four playable, but there are many to find in the caverns and dungeons you explore.
The variety of levels is also greatly increased, with a lot of less arcane divergent paths and more deliberate ones (though don’t worry: there are still some bonkers “how could a human ever do this?” secrets). A lot of the themes from the original are replicated, but usually expanded with some new enemies and twists. It’s been a while since I played the first game and I definitely had a sense of deja vu in some spots. There are enough new twists to make it not feel similar, though. A variety of NPCs appear throughout different levels, tasking you with various side quests as you work your way through the worlds.
In comparison to the original, Spelunky 2 is more inventive but also far more challenging. A lot of that comes from the open-ended nature. Spelunky 1 has a relatively linear path from beginning to end, whereas the sequel can hurtle you in various directions much sooner. If you reached the depths of the secrets of the original and craved more, Spelunky 2 is perfect for you. If you thought the original was too much, you might need to take more stock of what you’re looking for in a video game before I recommend this game to you.
Especially early on, Spelunky 2 features more running into a brick wall until you learn the rhythm and secrets. Bizarrely, the first world is one of the hardest of the first half, but if you can get through there, you can probably reach the first ending. That might, in turn, be your gateway to going off the deep end and doing the wild eggplant secrets. There is a lot to uncover throughout, whether it’s hidden characters or areas.
Online co-op is also present, complete with cross-play functionality. Even in the face of rampant death, the co-op is a ton of fun. For the times in my life when I more readily just hung out with friends and passed the controller in games, I wish I had this level of co-op play because it makes searching for secrets and making it to the various ends more enjoyable. It can get chaotic and messy, but that’s also part of the charm.
While Spelunky 2 is not quite the landmark the original game was, it carries with it the same spirit of exploration and challenge. Part of me wishes it was maybe a little more lenient, especially in the first area, but that’s also not necessarily what Spelunky is all about. This is an immaculately designed game dripping with secrets and traps. It might not be for the faint of heart, but at least now with the glory of online co-op, the faint of heart can be dragged kicking and screaming to the City of Gold.