The Spelunky Journal is a series of posts where I describe my experiences with the game Spelunky and my game design thoughts that come out as a result. In the first post I described the ordeal that was the tutorial and what I’d do differently (it’s by far the weakest part of the game).
In this second post of the journal I describe my first playthroughs and muse about the very particular menu system that Spelunky uses.
Once you finish the tutorial, the game starts. Just like that. No coaching, no further tutorial, no nothing. This is gonna be painful, I can smell it in the air. Let’s see… yep, got killed in the first 30 seconds by a combination of a snake, a spider, another snake and that same spider. I have the nagging feeling that I still have to get used to the whip. After all, running at a snake, unleashing the whip, then failing to hit it with said whip and getting hit myself is not in any way imaginable a showcase of perfect whip proficiency.
Anyhow, after that superb demonstration of skill on my part, I got dumped into the menu screen. Said screen could be described as being organic for the sake of being organic. Instead of selecting options from a normal menu, you have to make your character walk/run/jump to doors with the appropriate labels above them and press up to enter. So you have a door that says “Start” and another door that says “Scores”. In scores you’ll see how many times you died, your best run through the game, etc etc. To quit the game you press the Escape key to see the pause menu and then hit the F10 key (I wish I was kidding) …. or you could just climb the rope to the right and exit by normal means.
Now, rewinding back to the whole organic thing: It’s cute, and thankfully not many games stick to this philosophy of keeping everything into the game world, because otherwise I’d be sick of it. You know, it’s great game design that you can play with your character in a safe enviroment to learn the controls whenever you feel like it. Just walking and jumping around is fun, therefore the menu is fun. But after a thousand times, it gets a little old and I start to yearn for a retry key.
Alright, played a little and died pathetically each time but I think I’m getting used to it. I’m practically discovering new things and/or mechanics on each playthrough, and considering that each one lasts about a minute, I’d say that’s impressive. For example: There are cavemans that will run at you whenever they see you. They tend to run off cliffs and sometimes jump in the spot for no reason whatsoever. Spiders begin always upside-down hanging from a ceiling, and they won’t drop until you are exactly below them. The bats however will drop and start to fly around when you come near them, no matter the angle.
After 5 or 6 times, I finally reached the exit door at the bottom of the level. Although I have to say I was able to do this only because the level was particularly easy, but hey, a victory is a victory.
I’m greeted with a screen showing how many things I killed, the time it took me to finish the level and how much gold I acquired (4000/4000… is it 4k out of a possible 4k? I doubt it, I didn’t get all the gold that was laying around.)
Anyway, the second level starts and at my left there’s something very peculiar. It seems like a shop and indeed, it is. An old bald guy greets me and invites me to buy something. Hey, don’t mind if I do! The items seem to be laying around and I can pick them up, whenever I do, the shopkeep starts following me, saying how much it costs. To buy, press “P” he says, which strikes me as odd at first. I never liked having one key for only one verb, especially in situations like these where said verb won’t be used often, but then I reason that using the X key for buying might be convenient, but a lot more prone to accidents. Alright, I pick up the yellow… thingy, press P, let’s see what this is. Ooohhh, it’s a cape! I start jumping and whipping in the air to see if it does anything weird. At the third jump, the shopkeeper pulls out a shotgun and proceeds to shoot at me repeatedly in the face (where else?).
Alright, I admit that was hilarious, but I died man! I lost all the progress I made =(
I’m guessing that I accidentally whipped him and that’s why he shot me, but still, it was an accident! I swear!