Spelunky Makes Me Want to Stab But I Can’t Stop Playing

The brave adventurer lets the damsel take the lead.

I made it through this year’s Steam sales largely unscathed, if only because I already own most of the games that went on sale. I did still pick up a few things (because I have no willpower), but the one game that has captured my attention the most is Spelunky, a “procedurally generated” platformer that is maddeningly difficult, occasionally cruel, full of cheap deaths, and surprisingly addictive. I’ve already put in more than eight hours of playtime, and I’m starting to wonder why I do this to myself.

Spelunky has a lot of mechanics designed to make you throw your controller at the wall. Health is limited and hard to refill. Dying means starting over completely. Checkpoints are non-existent and short-cuts require beating every world multiple times under specific conditions. Half the monsters in every level can kill you with one hit, and most of the traps you come across cause instant death. Sometimes the levels are dark or under water or full of the undead and oh if you take too long a giant ghost starts chasing you around until you die or manage to escape. You get the picture.

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