My eight-year-old son and I are completely obsessed with Spelunky, the brilliant 2D platformer-meets-Roguelike game that launched last week on XBLA.
How obsessed? Yesterday, at brunch at Slappy Cakes, he asked me to make this:
Spelunky borrows two elements I hated back in the 8-bit era — randomized levels and no way to save progress — and makes them eminently enjoyable. Like NetHack meets La-Mulana, Spelunky is brutally hard. Like other Roguelikes, when you die in Spelunky, you're dead. There's no way to continue.
In an interview with Anthony Carboni, Derek Yu said, "When you die and have to start from the beginning, it makes death meaningful, just like in real life." I'd recommend watching the interview, and Derek trying to play his own game, on New Challenger.
Unlike other hard games, Spelunky feels fair to me. Every time I die, I know that it was my fault. I never felt cheated because of awkward controls or unpredictable behavior, because the processes running the environment are so consistent and learnable. You can palpably feel yourself mastering the game, learning the mechanics and traps and creature movement and every other detail, until the next time you stupidly fumble.
To feel what it's like to play Spelunky, and how deep it goes, I'd recommend reading Tom Francis' quest to find the lost city of gold.
P.S. Eliot just came downstairs to tell me he finished the Worm level, grabbed the Crysknife, and unlocked the Super Meat Boy character. If you've played the game, you know how hard that is. My boy!