“Pain.” That’s the best word to describe “Spelunky 2.”
That feeling of frustration and anguish shows that the follow-up to the cult classic platformer doesn’t stray far from the original. In many ways, it’s almost identical save for a handful of new features such as mounts, more characters and new power-ups. The core experience remains — for better or worse — the same.
It’s a title that demands precision and careful platforming as Ana Spelunky, the daughter of the original’s explorer, and a roster of other playable characters delve into a new dungeon on the moon. The reason for the lunar journey isn’t explained in detail but they arrive via spaceship and look for treasure beneath the surface.
Yes, the story has never been a focus of the franchise. Instead, “Spelunky 2” is more concerned with gameplay and the purity of the platforming. The game randomly mixes different dungeon parts and enemies almost like Lego pieces snapping together, and players will have to navigate the product. That means stages can’t be memorized because no two are exactly the same.
This forces players to focus on technique and theory rather than rote execution. The goal for each stage is to reach the exit at the bottom, and players will go through at least six worlds to finish the campaign. Players will find all manner of friend and foe during each stage. They’ll collect treasure to buy items from shops, hire helpers or gamble it away for valuable items.
Scattered throughout certain levels players will run across turkeys, rock dogs and axolotls. Players have to tame them, then they can ride them across stages.
As in the previous game, death is painful in “Spelunky 2.” Dying means starting over from the beginning. The intense difficulty is maddening at times, but this sequel is equally rewarding. Players get satisfaction from uncovering the intricacies of gameplay and coming up with strategies in dealing with situations.
Failure is punishing, but at the same time, it’s oddly addictive. Players will want to hit the retry button because they realize that better execution could lead to success or they have discovered a trick to reach the next level.