SPELUNKY
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Hardware: PC (WINDOWS)
Format: DOWNLOADABLE
Ports: XBOX 360 (TBA)
Genre: PLATFORMING (2D)
Released: DECEMBER 21, 2008
Publisher: MOSSMOUTH
Developer: MOSSMOUTH
Links: OFFICIAL SITE (WORLD)

By Alex Kierkegaard / November 30, 2010

Let's start out by exploding a myth about this game: Spelunky is in no way, shape or form a "roguelike". For starters, roguelikes are a subgenre of the dungeon-crawling genre, and Spelunky is most certainly not a dungeon crawler (i.e. a small-scale tactics game with a heavy exploration aspect). Moreover, Spelunky cannot be said to have "roguelike elements" either. Because, contrary to what fagots who know as much about videogames as Roger Ebert think, what makes a roguelike a roguelike is not the randomized stage layout, but the game's LACK OF A CONVENTIONAL SAVE FEATURE. This is why, for example, a game like Ancient Domains of Mystery, and others like it, are still considered roguelikes despite featuring environments that are to a large extent pregenerated. So what makes a roguelike a roguelike, as I've already said — or, to be more precise, what makes a dungeon-crawler a roguelike — is, above all else, the lack of a conventional save feature. This, however, does not fucking mean THAT EVERY GAME THAT DOES NOT ALLOW SAVING IS A FUCKING ROGUELIKE. Because, if that were so, EVERY SINGLE ARCADE GAME EVER MADE WOULD BE A FUCKING ROGUELIKE, FAGOTS! — So get your shit straight: roguelikes are dungeon crawlers from which the ability to save (or, to be more precise, the ability to continue from a particular save point more than once) has been REMOVED, thereby arcade-izing the genre — but this doesn't mean that any genre from which saving has been removed is a roguelike; it's just a genre which has come closer to arcade (or early-console...) design sensibilities. What the fagots are basically doing here is the equivalent of looking up the definition of, say wolf on Wikipedia ("the largest wild member of the Canidae family of carnivorous and omnivorous mammals"), and then coming out and saying that, because piranhas for example are carnivorous, they are a subspecies of wolves — wolf-fish, perhaps, a "fishy" variation of a wolf, a fish with "wolfish elements". But a wolf is A MAMMAL, fagots, whilst a pirhanha is A FISH — you can't wrench a subspecies out of its species and arbitrarily pick out some of its characteristics (and moreover subsidiary characteristics...) and use them as an excuse to insert it into ANOTHER FUCKING SPECIES for christsake. How can I explain this elementary concept to you more plainly? Here's another example: a metroidvania is a platformer involving lots of saving and backtracking. But many FPSes (or adventure games, or dungeon crawlers, or flight simulators, or, or, or...) also involve lots of saving and backtracking, yet no one calls these games "metroidvania FPSes" or "FPSes with metroidvania elements". And the same goes for the randomized stages — simply consider that there are countless games from other genres which employ this feature (e.g. strategy games like Heroes of Might & Magic, or space exploration games in the style of Elite, or even ancient action stuff like Asteroids for christsake) and yet no one calls them roguelikes, or claims that they have "roguelike elements". In other words, "permadeath" and random stage generation ARE FAR TOO COMMON (AND MOREOVER SUBSIDIARY) DESIGN FEATURES, and "roguelike" far too specialized a genre label to warrant bandying it about from genre to genre in such an indiscriminate fashion. In short, the notion that Spelunky is a "roguelike" or has "roguelike elements" is pure humbug that (regardless of how and by whom it began) its creator is more than happy to perpetuate for the simple reason — and this is the crux of the matter — that the roguelike subgenre has a (well-deserved) reputation for being "hardcore", a reputation which Mr. Yu would dearly love to co-opt for his ludicrous little "indie sensation". So I've got news for you, Mr. Yu: you are not hardcore, you are just a fagot who abuses videogame terminology in order to trick others into granting you more respect than you deserve — and, considering how pathetic your best game so far is, guess what: you don't deserve any.

So back to Spelunky. The game is just a standard platformer, with the added twist of its stages being randomly generated (just as, for example, Cave's Esprade is a standard danmaku shooter with the added twist of its first few stages appearing in random order). The reason that fagots see this game as exceptional is because they're used to playing fifth rate "indie" metroidvanias that are populated by save points every other screen, so they see Spelunky's lack of a save feature as something groundbreaking. But there is, after all, nothing groundbreaking about a platformer that doesn't allow you to save. For instance, perhaps you've never heard of it, but there was a game made by some people in Japan in the 80's called "Super Mario Brothers" which did just that. And, if the rumors from travelers returning from the Far East are true, there's also been a whole slew of such games released in that part of the world in the two or three decades since. In none of these games, I repeat, are you allowed to save. Really, I am not making any of this up — this shit is nothing new. Of course, here we must acknowledge that it'd be too much to ask of Mr. Yu and his buddies to have heard of any of these games, what with them having been born and raised inside the TIGSource forums, which are, after all, AN ALTERNATE UNIVERSE IN WHICH THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF VIDEOGAMES NEVER TOOK PLACE.

So let's take a closer look at this twist then: the randomized stage layouts; the rest of Spelunky's aspects are anyway so uninteresting and poorly executed that I might as well delay getting into them for as long as I can. First off, let's get another important thing straight: randomized stage layouts are, in general, a bad idea, because no stupid algorithm will ever beat a talented human being in level design (or in any other highly creative endeavor for that matter). The reason that they are employed in roguelikes is that these are games where a single play will last for days, if not weeks, and where the permadeath feature guarantees that the player will have to replay many of the dungeons dozens if not hundreds of times — at the very least. That's why regular dungeon crawlers do not feature randomized stages — because their conventional save feature means that they don't need them. And even roguelikes would be better off if, say, a huge team of designers sat down and made hundreds of alternate designs FOR EVERY SINGLE DUNGEON, so that the computer would only be randomizing THEIR SELECTION (as in Esprade), and not actually creating them. The only reason no one does this is because IT IS IMPRACTICAL — but it would clearly be the superior choice if it were actually available. Which brings us back to Spelunky. The fucking game is a fucking platformer that barely lasts half a fucking hour — WHAT THE FUCK DOES IT NEED RANDOM STAGES FOR? — Oh, but I forgot, it needs them so that its "indie" designer can go back to his "indie" friends in their "indie" forum and yell at them "LOOK AT ME I'VE DONE IT! I'VE INNOVATED (read: bungled) THE 2D PLATFORM GENRE!" (on top, of course, of saving him the effort of doing any stage designs — the lazy fucking bum.)

In short, stage randomization in Spelunky is a feature thrown in for the sake of the feature — or, in other words, what we in the videogame industry call "A GIMMICK". Spelunky then is merely another gimmicky Western platformer, and the only reason it has achieved within the "indie" scene the prominence that it has is because, in contrast to its brethren (which consists entirely of utter rubbish such as Knytt, Gravitation, and the like) it is actually sort of playable, especially if you've never tried a decent platformer in your life before — all of which, let it be noted, for the sake of any indie bums reading this, feature beautiful, hand-crafted and carefully-crafted stages. For can anyone, after all, imagine a Super Mario Bros. 3 or a Chi no Rondo with randomized stages? THE PLATFORMER'S ENTIRE APPEAL IS IN ITS STAGE DESIGNS FOR CHRISTSAKE! Do you understand, fagots? In a roguelike THE SHAPE of the stage layouts is not so critical because you are not called upon to navigate them in REAL-TIME — but THE ENTIRE POINT of the platformer is to create challenging situations VIA THE PLACEMENT OF ITS PLATFORMS, situations which Spelunky UTTERLY LACKS BECAUSE ITS STAGES ARE A FUCKING RANDOM MESS THAT MAKES NO FUCKING SENSE. — "And why do they need to make sense?", the fagots will now doubtlessly be wondering. — BECAUSE THAT IS HOW CHALLENGE IS CREATED IN THESE GAMES! Otherwise, if you start throwing around platforms randomly, you'll only get a challenging setup once in a blue moon, BECAUSE THE NUMBER OF POSSIBLE CHALLENGING SETUPS IS, LIKE, ONE-MILLIONTH OF THE NUMBER OF NON-CHALLENGING ONES. (Ever heard of "probability theory", fagots? Well, apparently neither has Derek Yu.) — Moreover, challenge in platform games is further enhanced by the placement of the enemies IN RELATION TO THE PLATFORMS — for the most challenging platform setup in the world would hardly be challenging without enemies at the right spots to screw up the timing of your jumps, etc. But Spelunky fucks up that aspect too, because its enemies must necessarily be placed just as randomly as its platforms! In short, THERE IS HARDLY ANY CHALLENGE IN THIS PLATFORM GAME FROM NAVIGATING ITS PLATFORMS! — "So where does the challenge come from then?" — Good thing that you asked, for I was planning to get to that: From its absurdly terrible controls.

So this is where we finally arrive: Spelunky's "famed" difficulty (I use quotation marks because any kind of fame that arises from within the indie circlejerk will always be of the fake kind) stems largely from its crap controls. And how terrible exactly are its controls, then? So terrible that they remind me, not of early console or arcade games, but even worse: of early home computer games — Spectrum, Amstrad, Commodore and the like — that's how bad they are. Hit detection is atrocious; I've on occasion killed enemies without even touching them. Movement can be spotty, as if the machine is occasionally skipping frames, and jumping is so laggy and hard to judge that it's better to avoid doing so in the vicinity of enemies (in a fucking platformer, lol). The game doesn't even SCROLL properly, and that on a PC that's only about 10,000 times overpowered to run it. There's so much blurringness and tearing going on that you'll be wondering whether you've loaded up some freeware PC sidescroller from the '80s by mistake. — But then again, come to think of it, perhaps smooth controls and proper scrolling were "restrictive conventions" which Mr. Yu's subtly refined artistic instincts instructed him to abandon, thus taking us back to the glorious days of the '70s, before the videogame industry had been brainwashed to universally adopt them. Universally, that is to say, except for the indie bums, who are still struggling with issues that the rest of the industry has overcome since the mid-1980s. But it's okay fagots, you are only three decades behind, lol. By the time I am dead you might even have managed to get close to something like Super Mario Bros. — Just maybe. If you completely shut yourselves inside your parents' basements and dedicate every waking moment of the rest of your lives to the task.
  

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