Date: 12-18-2010 23:01
Author: Zahir Merchant

PDC profile: Zahir

Spelunker HD is a high definition port of an old 1983 NES game that I have never heard of in my life. The HD remake has sold extremely well on the Japanese PlayStation Store, and has now been localized to gather even more fans. Here's how it stacks up.

Time to Hunt for Treasure!

Let me get this out of the way now, Spelunker HD is not an easy game. You will die, and you will die a lot. If you are the type of gamer that throws controllers through TVs and such, steer clear of this game. Also, don't expect too much from the game's story, as it is very bare bones. You are an extremely fragile underground explorer, called a Spelunker, who is in search of treasure. As you go deeper underground in your quest for treasure, many things will obstruct your path, such as the ghosts of fallen Spelunkers. Anything and everything will kill you in this game, including any falls that are roughly higher than your waist, snakes, your own flares, bat poo, water, steam, spiders, and more. You also have an oxygen meter that is constantly depleting. You refill this with oxygen tanks found in each stage. If you fail to keep your oxygen level up, you die. This becomes more vital later in the game, because oxygen tanks are harder to come by.

It's Dangerous to go Alone...
The game can be played alone, up to 3 other people locally, or you can play with up to 5 others online, either co-op or competitive. I got about halfway through the single player before I got stuck in a bad situation where I kept running out of oxygen and got so frustrated I gave up. There are 10 areas with 10 stages contained within them. Each area and stage goes deeper into the earth. The deeper you go in, the higher the score you accumulate. Whether you choose to go alone or along with friends, you will have a few tools at your disposal. Bombs can destroy boulders and scare off snakes, flares scare away bats and other flying enemies. You also have a portable fan that is used to destroy ghosts by sacrificing a chunk of your oxygen gauge and being forced to stand still, which leaves you vulnerable to attacks while using the fan. The game has a Quick Save feature, but it only has one slot and makes you quit the game when you save. I personally became so paranoid of dying, I saved every time I beat a stage. I've spent most of my time exploring on my own, but I did hop online to play with some strangers. While it works just fine, the way the game puts all the player screens on your screen, even when you are online, is extremely frustrating, especially because I was playing on a SD TV, which made some of the traps harder to spot. Voice chat is supported, as well as a set of emoticons accessed by pressing the L1 and R1 buttons.

Stylish Survival
The graphics in Spelunker can be viewed in either classic retro style, or with the new HD visuals. I personally preferred playing in HD. While I liked the HD version of the environments, the character design of the HD Spelunker disappointed me slightly because he just looks a bit goofy. The proportions are just super cartoonish in a way that doesn't really seem to mesh well with the environments in my opinion. This is a minor gripe, but it still annoyed me. Something I found pretty cool was that along with the change in visuals, the soundtrack changes appropriately. Each area's song is arranged for retro and HD play, which makes it more fun when listening to the catchy, slightly repetitive soundtrack.

There's No Place like Home
As I said earlier, the online activity in Spelunker HD is pretty minimal. Thankfully, PlayStation Home has a space that helps remedy this entitled, "A Meeting Place for Cave Explorers," which features a cave that is completely Spelunker themed. Here, you can recruit people to join your multiplayer games by having a giant sign float over your head. It is refreshing to see PS Home integration actually enhance a game. You get home rewards for earning trophies for clearing areas in single player, as well as having people join your game from the Home space .

The Light at the End of the Tunnel
At the end of the day, Spelunker HD is a solid, yet frustrating game. There is plenty of treasure to collect, and 100 brutal stages is going to have you and your friends coming back for more punishment, even when you don't think you can take anymore of it. This game was built to be as challenging as possible, and it does a really good job of doing just that.. If you can handle that, the experience can be extremely rewarding. If not, stay away ... far, far away.

Spelunker HD was developed by Tozai Games, and is available now for the PS3 for $9.99 in the NA PlayStation Store. I played the single player mode for roughly 4 hours and the multiplayer for about an hour. According to the game, I died 310 times. Special thanks to PSN user unbelievable1 for posing for the PS Home pics (the last two images below).

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