A Spelunky Obsession Defeated

After many hours of 'spelunking' into caves, treasure troves, and traps, I finally got to the end

A Spelunky Obsession Defeated
Source: Nintendo. 

Roughly 1210 deaths later, I have done it. Olmec went down into the flames. It took about three weeks of consistent playing after work and on the weekends. Mark the date as January 8, 2022. Now I can put the game away and resist the siren call after becoming invested in 2020.

Now I can put the game away and resist the siren call after becoming invested in 2020.

Why did it take this long, you ask? My desktop crashed last year and Spelunky save files do not transfer between computers. As a result, shortly after doing the key quest to get the Spelunky shortcut, I had to redo my progress. It may seem like an incredible amount of work and effort (it is!), but it is a labor of love. Spelunky excels in keeping players invested.

Source: Mossmouth.

The Allure of Spelunky

Spelunky is not my usual cup of tea. I was searching for edutainment (video games featuring an educational aspect). As I browsed through the tag on Steam, Spelunky incorrectly popping up. It’s a strange happening that I explored in ‘How I Blew My Spelunky Resolution and Delivered a Key’. Hopefully Steam will refine their filters soon, but it turned out to be a fortunate mistake. I soon found myself playing the game and too far into this platformer that features monsters, a wild amount of traps, and strategy.

Spelunky has impressive designs, animation, and music. The game quickly immerses you into the world and mindset of an explorer, navigating underground caverns to gather treasure and survive. After the first dozen deaths, players will notice tally marks on the cave wall showing the amount of deaths. The tally marks will come to a halt after 100. It’s the small details such as these that make this platformer standout.

The game features great pacing and randomized levels to keep the game and stakes interesting. My only qualm is the time limit, as it adds to another nerve-wracking stake. It exists as a Ghost who will come and chase you, their touch leading to instant death. This feature makes it so players cannot loiter around, encouraging players to decide and move smartly and quickly. While for me I did not enjoy its presence, others may revel in this new challenge to loot as much treasure as possible while racing away from a guaranteed death.

Source: Tenor.

There is an addictive power in realizing how far you can go when playing. Spelunky could easily equate to Skinner’s study of rats who quickly associated the pushing of a lever to snacks. The rats that frequently pushed the lever received more.

Your victory partly comes from randomness. It’s luck of the draw if you see high-end items on a run and either have the resources to buy them, or the courage to steal them if you want to face the shopkeepers. While some advanced players can beat the game with no problem, no matter how much the odds are against them, I am not advanced.

It took having a jetpack, a lot of bombs, enough health, and a strong sense of knowing when to use these resources to finally win.

Source: IGN.

Deciding Not to Fight Yama, the God of Death

I did a basic main run. If you want to do a complete hell run, you need to take advantage of certain secret levels. Specifically, you need to buy or steal the Ankh from the Floating Market, deliberately die in the ice caves to activate the Ankh, and kill Anubis in the Temple (his scepter opens the door to the City of Gold). There, you steal the Book of the Dead. Finally, after killing Olmec, you open a door to Hell.

While I’m not religious, my family was Hindu before my dad died. We had a lot of Amar Chitra Katha mythology comics that showed Yama as the God of Death. Yama is a pretty chill guy in Hinduism. He’s the God of Death, but is more of an escort than a reaper. As he tells Savitri when her husband is doomed to die, he comes for those with special destinies to ensure they are given a peaceful afterlife. You can reason with him, and one can make him smile with integrity or wits.

The Yama in the games looks annoyed you bothered him, and it’s understandable. Most of the other gods lay the offensive. Anubis straight up attacks you and lays the first hit. You have to face Olmec to beat the game. To face Yama though? You need to do extra work to go after the Hindu God of Death.

He's here just minding his own business. Why would I want to hurt that guy?

Not to mention the hell run has many more requirements. It makes little sense to do these additional steps unless you’re interested in claiming bragging rights. Just making it to the end once was nice. I don’t need to do it again and commit potential… blasphemy? Even if I’m not Hindu, it feels like kicking a god when they’re down. Later this year, I may go into the nuances of the religion.

What Now?

I’m taking a break from games that are similar to Spelunky. While I’m glad that I got to make it this far, playing Spelunky and learning the skills was time-consuming.

Still, Spelunky got me through the holidays. I am grateful for that and my progress. It only took two hundred more deaths to reach the same progress that I did on the original desktop. Being in the underground mines, facing off bats and giant spiders, helped a lot with the real world. While a difficult game, thank you creating this fun game, Derek Yu!


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