Too much erosion after 30 years
It feels a bit eerie to be passing judgment on a game that has been on this earth for more years (and is therefore wiser) than myself. Yet this is the situation I find myself in, reviewing a special 30-year anniversary addition of Spelunker, previously available for the Atari, the Commodore 64, and the NES.
Everyday Spelunker is a mobile version of the classic pot-holing game, with new touchscreen controls and slight adjustments to the difficulty: the only elements out of place compared to the original release. It’s a decent conversion, but unless you’re feeling nostalgic and want to pick this up for the memories, this is very much an experience that feels out of place in today’s video game world.
Players take control of an explorer who is plumbing the depths of a colossal cave. There’s a lovely treasure right at the bottom, but to get there is easier said than done, thanks to a variety of traps, pits, and enemies that threaten your existence. Everyday Spelunker is all about dodging around, grabbing treasure, picking up keys, and making it to the end.
Everyday Spelunker is very difficult. Holes will open up without warning and swallow you whole. Platforms teeter and ledges loom, all in aid of bringing about your demise. Just the tiniest of slips can lead to death, and while I haven’t counted the exact number of things that can kill you in this game, I’m going to go ahead and estimate it at around 1 billion.
This is the very definition of an old-school gaming experience. Everything about Everyday Spelunker will make you scream in frustration, and you’ll die rather often – yet you’ll still come back over and over to explore everything it has to offer, because there’s no way you’re going to let it beat you that easily, right?
To help the new generation of gamer, who is more reluctant to play the same levels over and over again and would much rather move on to something else instead, this new version of Spelunker comes with infinite continues. When you die, you’re plopped straight back where you were before, meaning that you might actually see the end of the game for once. Of course, it’s going to take a lot of ghost shooting to do so.
The port itself is fairly decent. Much of your touchscreen is wasted with static images, since the original game was not widescreen, and therefore won’t stretch to fit your whole screen properly. Yet it’s still easy enough to see the action, and the visuals look just as crisp and pixelated as they always did.
The controls, as you’d expect, aren’t so hot. For this type of game you really need a good arcade stick to grip or d-pad to thumb, and the touchscreen d-pad and buttons, while adequate, just don’t feel the same by a long shot. You won’t have any massive problems with them, but you’ll still long for “proper” controls for this experience.
And there are new levels too, in the form of additional chapters – although these are hidden away behind paywalls which, given how expensive the base game is compared to your average mobile game, proves a little cringe worthy. They want us to pay how much for a 30-year-old game?!
What’s going to really put a lot of players off, though, is just how dated the whole experience feels. If you’re a new player who has never seen this game before, or even if you’re a more hardcore gamer who has seen consoles come and go for generations, it’s hard to deny that Spelunker plays pretty poorly compared to games of this generation.
From the way in which you die if you so much as drop off a slight incline, to the very awkward, robotic feel of the controls, and also the way in which you cannot save your game at any point, and must play through an entire dungeon in one go – there are plenty of reasons why more casual players (and not so casual players) aren’t going to get much of a kick out of this.
There’s a very simple way to decide whether Everyday Spelunker is for you: if you’re looking to pick it up for the sake of nostalgia, or simply to fill a blank in your video game knowledge, then this is a great port, and well worth your time. If you’re planning to pick up Spelunker for proper entertainment purposes, and/or you find that old-school games don’t usually gel with you, I really wouldn’t bother.