Brandon Boyer

11 Replies

There’s an easy way to tell when you’ve got a veritable indie hit on your hands: its TIGSource forum thread goes from 0 to 34 pages in just over a week, before the game’s even been properly finished. So it has gone with Derek Yu’s Spelunky.

You might know Yu from his work as co-creator of the previously mentioned Aquaria, TIGSource itself, or more mischievously from his 2006 freeware gore-em-up I’m OK, a fully playable answer to Jack Thompson’s ‘Modest Videogame Proposal’ (which I wrote up slightly more in depth at the time).

Most easily and commonly described as Spelunker meets Rogue, Yu’s game retains all of the unforgiving difficulty of both (though much more forgiving than the former’s trip-to-death strictness I noted before), but excels at the latter’s sense of procedurally-generated loot collecting and cave crawling, just now in 8-bit sidescroller form.

In your travels downward, you will die — you will die a lot, sometimes within seconds of entering the first level, for stupid reasons and even when you’re at your most careful, but every cheap death is a necessary part of the learning process (its readme.txt implores, “Don’t be afraid to die! But also don’t be afraid to live!”), and the sense of accomplishment for a smart and successful run is one of the best we’ve seen in some time.

Yu hits all the right notes from simply its run/jump physics (not since Cave Story has it felt so joyous to just move), to its itchy-trigger-fingered shopkeeper, destructible landscape and Indy Jones boulder chases, to that burdensome sense of dread that builds with each successive bar of gold you collect, knowing how important it is that this time you make it out alive. His algorithms are able to smartly weave together endless scenarios with those building blocks for players to create their own stories in ways the code couldn’t possibly have conceived.

Now thankfully natively supporting joypads (its somewhat clumsy initial keyboard configuration being the only thing hampering full-on recommendation at the time), Spelunky would have made an apt ‘best indie’ of 2008, but let’s now call it a bar set very, very, high as we plunge into 2009.

Spelunky [TIGSource]


  1. I actually recall Yu from Diabolika, one of his earlier games (rest in peace, Gamehippo/ I think my favorite work of his has to be the Accidental Video Game Porn Archive, though.

    I just played this and died on the first room, woohoo! Just like Nethack! The menu is a nice little touch- you actually climb back out of the cave to quit. Good fun, though, I look forward to messing with it more in the next few days.

  2. I LOVE procedurally-generated games, and I’m particularly excited about those that combine roguelike elements with a non-roguelike genre.

    I wish I could remember offhand the ones I’ve played in the past year or two, but by far the best one is Transcendence[1] – a free game that combines the best of Nethack and Star Control 2. Right now, it’s Windows only, but it works in Wine, with a Linux port in process).


  3. Game Maker games don’t work on the Mac yet, do they? I think the port is almost finished.

    That being said, it -might- be possible.

    I had to read and hunt a bit to figure out you had blogged a windows only game again. Please, just remember to make a note of some sort, a keyword for searching the offworld later, about what platforms, Desktop or Console or handheld, these games can work with.


  4. Okay. A Bit more info.

    The yoyo games blog (link above) has a Private Beta of Game Maker For Macintosh, which may or may not be necessary to play Spelunky (it would be necessary to write your own.

    So, if you want to play Spelunky on your Mac without booting into Boot Camp and Windows, you might be able to, but you might have to ask to beta test Game Maker for the Mac.

  5. Since this a blog about interactive media and all, why not outsource the tedious business of tagging to the community of reader? That would mean a change in the software but its definitely feasible and might make searching the archives a little better. Open tagging works rather well on other sites (though I’m not sure if any blogs have attempted it.

    Oh and I’m hopelessly addicted to Spelunky.

  6. It doesn’t have to be a separate tag link. All you have to do is merely MENTION the platform, or platform, the game in question works with. Within the article. Such as Windows Only.

    It really is not that hard.

  7. Two things I hate.
    1. Frogs in the jungle level. They are pretty much spiders only with more horizontal momentum, and more unpredictable movement patterns. They usually get just enough height to jump over your whip and whack you in the face.
    2. The ice level. I still have no idea how get the items hidden inside the pseudo moai heads with ankh’s on their foreheads. The yetis are immune to whips, and can deal 2 damage to you with a single swipe, or instantly kill if they manage to knock you off or against a wall.

    Two things I love.
    1. Using the woman as a light projectile weapon. Nothing says hilarious like using her to kill snakes, spiders, and frogs. Just don’t try the same with the carnivorous plants. Crunch.
    2. The alien boss in the ice level. It’s too freaking perfect.

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