I have been liking many "indie" titles, whether it is a kickstarter project such as Shadowrun Returns, or a goofy game like Binding of Isaac, or something simple yet satisfying such as Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. My problem with most of those games is that there is always a rough edge, even slightly, one can feel an indie title works on a limited budget or other ideas that have not been completely polished.
I feel however that Spelunky is the first actual indiegame that I have played that is polished, has good working mechanics and gameplay, as well as charming graphics and soundtrack. It is an effective hommage to classic games while being its own thing, a rogue-like platformer.
The story is simple. You are a spelunker that gets lost in a network of caves. he ends up in some sort of limbo, each time he dies, he is alive.. back at the top, only by defeating the mystical Olmec, he can escape this living hell.
The graphics are an upgrade from the original game, which you can play for free at www.spelunkyworld.com , it is 2d HD graphics with some neat lighting effects. They are sharp, clear, and do the job. The sound is pretty standard, it does the job and is not buggy. The music is this pseudo chiptune music from the Sega Megadrive/Genesis era, especially some of the "secret" tunes you can find throughout the game.
The gameplay however is the high note for me. The basic premise of Spelunky is simple, for 4 (or if you know how to, 5) worlds you need to get down from the top of one level to the next. each world exists out of 4 levels. You encounter all kinds of enemies. bats, spiders, crazy tribesmen, bees, mummies, yetis and even aliens, the list goes on for quite a bit. But your worst enemy is probably the environment, treacherous spikes and pits can be the death of your little Spelunker. You will never die because of the game bugging on you, you will die because it is your own fault, you will die a lot, and learn the game slowly but surely. Even once you get the hang of the game, death still looms over you at the strangest turns due to the game's random level generator. Each time you play, the game is completely different in its levels. The only persistent thing is the the world themes and the final boss.
The way you play the game is where it is really at. Okay, it is not exactly Mass Effect or Dragon Age in its moral choices, but there are quite a few that affect the way you play the game. Most of the levels have a damsel in distress that you can save to get extra health, or, if there is an altar in the level, you bring her to there instead and sacrifice her for the chance on an exclusive item or something else that will help you out.
There are also shopkeepers that are spread throughout the game. They will sell valuable items against pretty large gold prices. gold is a pretty important currency in the game. Gold does not only decide what you buy, it also decides your final score. You can instead of being a good little customer, also walk the path of stealing and anger the shopkeepers. This gives you the option to get a lot of money for killing them, as well as get all their items for free, but the catch is that they will hunt you down for the rest of the game, and there will even be a shopkeeper guarding each exit. My advice: get a shotgun and take care of them, fast!
There are many secrets in Spelunky, warpworms, alien spaceship, golden cities, and even a secret fifth world with a new final boss which is not easy to get to. Spelunky has been out for quite a while on Steam as well as on Xbox Live. If you decide to jump into it, I wish you good luck. If you are not sure if you like the game at all, I once more recommend going to www.spelunkyworld.com and download the free, much simpler version before buying this little gem!