Minna de Spelunker – The PS3 Attitude Review
The original Spelunker has a love-hate relationship with gamers that are aware of its existence. Spelunker was released in the 80’s on a variety of platforms, including the NES. The game is most notable for its ridiculously unforgiving gameplay.
Minna de Spelunker is an HD remake of the classic title and was released on the PSN in JPN and HK. It was recently announced that Spelunker HD will be coming to America thanks to Tozai publishing the game.
Is the archaic gameplay just too much in this day and age?
Spelunker features online and offline gameplay. In the single player experience, there are 100 stages to explore and each stage contains a hidden mural piece to obtain. With up to four players locally or six players online, you can play through the game cooperatively with a different set of mural pieces to collect. There is also a competitive mode allows you to race against your opponents in variations of the levels from the game.
There are locked doors throughout each stage in Spelunker that will prevent you from progressing. With careful platforming, the occasional bomb, and the ability to climb ladders and ropes, you will be able to find the keys necessary to open the doors. Each door requires a key of the appropriate color to unlock it. There are numerous keys and doors in each stage, so just finding one isn’t enough.
The controls are simple. The X button is used for jumping, and you will be using it a lot! The O button allows you to shoot out air to kill ghosts. While holding up on the dpad and pressing O, you can throw a flare up to light up a room or to take out certain enemies temporarily. Pressing down and O will allow you to place a bomb to blow up walls or rocks that block your path. A bomb can also be used to take out enemies.
L1 and R1 allows you to cycle through a series of emotes for online play (or your own amusement during the single player game). By pressing R2, the emote that you selected will be displayed over your head. You can cancel selecting an emote by pressing L2. The right analog stick can allow you to zoom in or out if you hold it in the up or down position. Zooming out is a very helpful tool when plotting your next move.
Despite the simple controls, the gameplay itself takes some getting used to. Jumps need to be nearly perfect and you can die from basically anything and everything. No joke. One wrong step that is an inch too low can bring our Spelunker friend to an anticlimactic death. Climbing a rope or a ladder can lead to some accidental deaths if you aren’t patient as well.
Each stage is separated in groups of ten. After the 10th level, the area itself changes and the music along with it. Yes, the catchy tune that plays in the first 10 levels sadly is replaced by less memorable pieces of music.
Beyond the initial load time after starting up your game, loading is practically non-existent. After you beat each stage, you are just transported down to the next level seamlessly. This also means that all your bombs, flares, air, and lives are going to stay with you throughout the game.
Losing all your lives is a very punishing experience. You will be treated to a game over screen, and you definitely do not want that. There is a bit loophole that allows you to save in the exact spot that you are standing in. It requires you to exit out of the game however, so you will have to reload it after each save. It’s a bit of a hassle, but if you have only a single life left and don’t want to lose your progress, that is the only option available.
Throughout each level there are bats, snakes, geysers, flames, and floor traps that will try to stop you in your path. For the most part, it’s usually the environments that kill. There are swinging platforms and tons of jumps that need to be timed carefully. In some levels there are giant rocks that will roll towards Mr. Spelunker in an attempt to squash him. The more annoying deaths come from something on the ground that makes you bounce backwards. These of course are carefully placed right near a jump, so you will end up falling to a horrible death most of the time.
Randomly throughout the level will be the appearance of ghosts. There are a few variations of these unfriendly foes. There is a large ghost that will turn into a smaller ghost after spraying air at it. There is also a mutated ghost that contains numerous ghosts inside it, so you have to be careful when spraying them. When spraying air, you cannot move, so be very aware of where you’re at in relation to the ghosts. If you’re too close, they can still kill you as it takes awhile for them to fully disappear as they inch towards you at the same time.
At the top of the screen there is a bar that shows your air meter. As time progresses, you will slowly lose air. Scattered all over the place are power-ups that will recharge the meter, and they are quite plentiful. When spraying ghosts, a portion of your meter depletes, so be sure to not be too wasteful.
If you aren’t a fan of the HD graphics, there is an option to play the game in its classic form. The music even changes to the bloops and bleeps of the original game. It’s a nice little extra for fans of the original title, pixel art lovers, or just the curious gamer.
Users of Home will be happy to know that Spelunker supports Game Launching with up to five other Homies. Throughout the game you can unlock different unlockables for Home. Eventually all of these unlockables combined will create a Spelunker costume. The costumes are for males and females, so there is no gender bias for this particular costume.
The PlayStation Home costumes are usable in any region, just make sure you get them on the account you want to use. At this point, not many people have the Spelunker outfits in the US or in EU, so expect to turn some heads if you’re seen wearing the gear.
Spelunker is one of the few PSN titles that contains a Platinum trophy. The trophies are pretty standard for the most part, but require you to play through the cooperative adventure to complete the mural. Fortunately enough, you can do this in the online and offline mode. While playing offline you can actually just solo the co-op levels. Just be prepared to view the game in splitscreen for a hundred more levels.
We haven’t had the chance to play online much due to time differences. From what was played though, the gameplay was smooth and it was a lot of fun. Having partners that die a lot though is not fun. So if you’re serious business about getting those mural pieces for trophy hunting purposes, it is best that you play with someone that knows what they are doing.
When playing online there are five screens underneath and to the right of your main screen. With these screens you are allowed to watch every move each player is making. It’s a nice way to keep tabs on whether or not your teammates are keeping up or just slacking off. This unfortunately means that there is no full screen mode while playing online. The bigger the TV, the better the experience will be.
In the competitive race mode, there are only a few levels to choose from and they are based on the different areas of the game. The music is appropriately faster and really can get the adrenaline rushing. Throughout the levels there are potions that can make your character run incredibly fast. This also can lead to incredibly fast deaths as well, so don’t let the speed get to your head.
The competitive mode is somewhat short and experts of the game will definitely not have a hard time completing them. If you are new to the game, playing the race mode is nice way to learn the mechanics since you get infinite lives. It’s obvious that the race mode isn’t the main attraction of the game. It is a fun diversion from the single player or co-op experience though. It’s worth playing through all the levels at least once.
Spelunker HD is a title that is not for everyone. If you enjoy old school gameplay, then this game could be for you. Fans of the original Spelunker won’t question getting this game, if they haven’t already bought it.
The archaic and unforgiving gameplay will turn people away fast. Our recommendation is to try to learn the controls and the rules of the game. Once there is a solid grasp on what you can do and on what can kill you (which is practically everything), the game becomes infinitely better. It actually becomes fun!
The mechanics of Spelunker work once you get over the fact that basically everything can kill you. This can’t be stressed enough. The game isn’t blatantly cheap like other oldschool titles during that time. Never throughout the gameplay was there a situation where the game was just impossible to get through. It only takes a few levels to truly understand how everything works, so don’t get reckless. There is plenty of time for slow and methodical platforming in Spelunker. It’s very easy to just die numerous times in a row if you are frustrated or lack focus. Pay Attention!
Give Spelunker a try when the game hits the PSN in America. Unfortunately there is no information regarding a European release or even when it will be coming to NA. We’ll keep you updated when that information is out.
Minna de Spelunker costs 2,400 yen in Japan, so expect a pricing similar to WipEout HD and Trine in the US. It’s a bit expensive for some, but the game has tons of content and it will last much longer than a normal PSN title.
Don’t forget to check out the gameplay video at the top showcasing the first stage of the game. While you’re at it, check out the Spelunker reference below from 3D Dot Game Heroes.