Old games are known to be hard, whether it be by design to eat up your quarters at the ol’ arcade or because of in-game reasons (Mechanics, controls, glitches, etc.). Spelunker HD Deluxe takes a game from that era, gives it a new coat of paint, some new game modes, and wishes you luck.
Mechanically, this game plays exactly how I imagine it always did from the day it was originally released in the 1980s. This is one of the reasons it is brutally hard, in a way that I completely struggled with. That’s not a put down of the game but more my abilities as a gamer and perhaps the result of a lot of modern games being far more casual-friendly.
The idea is simple: you control a 2D character and need to avoid obstacles, destroy rocks, and collect items on your way down into a cave. There’s no hand holding in this one. You can check the controls of how to play, but otherwise you’re at the mercy of the game, having to figure out certain mechanics on your own.
The main issue that bugged me (Again, as someone who plays modern games more than older ones these days) is that walking off a ledge is an instant death. It doesn’t matter how close to the ground you’d fall or if there was a ladder or anything similar there, you die. You absolutely need to jump, and learning to use the jump is the only way you’ll be able to get very far in this game.
You need to pay attention to what I’ll assume is an oxygen meter that drops as time goes on, but some pickups will refill it. There is also a huge terrifying ghost-like creature that can come and hunt you down. Basically, there is an absolute ton of things that can go wrong as you explore this cave, and you need to deal with all of them at the same time. It’s absolutely the kind of game you’ll really enjoy challenging yourself in.
No matter which game mode you play (Of which there are four), you have a limited amount of tries before a game over. This makes it even more brutal and difficult, as no matter how far you get, there’s a good chance you’ll need to reset many times. Think about how muscle memory can carry you in games you get good at, but once you get tilted at a certain part, you can even start to mess up those areas you got good at. Again, it’s not a complaint, though I did get very frustrated.
If I was to mention one thing that frustrated me in a not-so-good way, it’s that sometimes when you die, your checkpoint is in an awkward spot that sees you doing a part of the game over and over despite making progress. It doesn’t happen very often though, so you really aren’t gonna spend too long arguing with that feature.
The game modes are separated into Adventure, Competition, Championship, and Endless Cave NEO. Each mode features a multiplayer option for both local and online multiplayer. This multiplayer can be both cooperative or competitive based on which game mode you select. This feature adds quite a cool spin to the formula as you run around and collect things together.
One cool feature of the game is the ability to play with either the fancy new graphics or revert to the classic retro style that people might remember from the early days. It’s weird how sometimes a mere graphical change can make a game feel different and even change the difficulty slightly.
Some obstacles are actually easier to see and react to in the retro graphics, because there are less distracting visuals going on in the background. To the average player, that might not even be a factor, but for those of us with the attention span of a goldfish, it really makes a big difference.
I did find the music to be a little bit grating, but that’s generally what I expect from most older games when it wasn’t possible to have a whole lot of variance in music per level or even per an entire game. It doesn’t hinder the experience to simply turn the sound off to play every once in a while, but at least at first you can definitely enjoy the retro sounds of the soundtrack.
I ran into no glitches, crashes, or bugs during my time playing Spelunker HD Deluxe, which I’ve mentioned before is something that is quite rare for games on the Nintendo Switch. The developers have clearly taken care to make sure that things work well. The one thing I did not get to test was online multiplayer, so I can’t speak to how the game plays in terms of lag or anything, but in reality, the game isn’t very complex so I don’t think there should be a whole lot of problems there and local definitely didn’t give me any problems.
Overall, this is a game for people who love a challenge. The kind of challenge that may have you pulling your hair out and repeating the same part of a game over and over. It’s a good game, which shouldn’t surprise you given its long lasting popularity. The new graphics are beautiful, the multiplayer is satisfying. If you like old games, this one is for you!
Great for players looking for a challenge
Classic controls feel a bit clunky sometimes