Spelunky 2 review: More dangerous than ever to go alone

Exploring the ruins on the moon in Spelunky 2 has somehow proven more harrowing than exploring ruins on Earth. And it's proven more fun, too! Our review.


There's danger around every corner when you explore ruins. At least that's the rule on Earth. But as it turns out, when you explore ruins on the moon, they also appear to be filled with danger around every corner. There isn't a lot that's new in Spelunky 2, but when it's coming off the fun and randomized experience of its predecessor, there's little else that needs to be done. Spelunky 2 is as much of a good time as the original, only with more ways to kill you.

That belongs on the moon

Those who played the original Spelunky will be happy to hear that the original Spelunky Guy settled down and raised a family. He hasn't stopped exploring, though, and his latest journey took him up to the moon. But everything that happened in the first game looks to be coming back to haunt him, because he's now gone missing. That serves as the introduction for new protagonist, Ana Spelunky, to take her friends to the moon and search the series of ruins where her father was last seen.

The lore injection is a fun inclusion, but here's everything you need to know about Spelunky 2. It's more Spelunky. There are more ruins, more enemies, more effects, and more ways to die. Players have at least four characters to choose from or join up with for cooperative exploration. And you'll have plenty of chances to explore, because if there's one thing that Spelunky 2 made painfully clear to me, it's that players are going to die. They're going to die a lot.

Temples of doom

Spelunky 2's objective is straightforward. You're lost in a series of ruins and the idea is to find each chamber's exit, carrying along any treasure you can find along your way. Each area is filled with all sorts of wild creatures, dangerous natives, and hazardous traps just waiting to kill you. And even if you're careful not to try and disturb anything, you might trip over something or break a random pot and still find something waiting to kill you.

Success in Spelunky 2 isn't about memorization, at least for the most part. Every level in the game is randomly generated, so the only things you can really commit to memory are the various enemies and the designs for each trap and what triggers them. There's a lot of skill involved in making it out alive, but more often than not, much of your survival (or lack thereof) will end up attributed to dumb luck.

There are ways to defend yourself, of course. Players have a standard issue whip, which can take out minor enemies and momentarily stun bigger ones. They'll also have limited resources at their disposal, specifically bombs and ropes. Ropes can help players reach out-of-the-way objects, while bombs can destroy traps, get enemies out of your way, or even create shortcuts to the level's exit. They might also get you killed in more ways than one, which is what leads me to the best thing about Spelunky 2 and the Spelunky games as a whole.

The best thing Spelunky 2 has going for it is that it gives players stories. It makes them reflect on their own performance. It makes them laugh over the silly way they died. It makes them angry over that stupid trap they tripped over for the hudredth time. And it does all of that in more ways than the first Spelunky did, because for as much as the game brought back, it also introduced some new ideas with liquid physics.

Sure, I died in some of the standard ways. I got skewered by a spear trap, I got punched out by a bear trap, then later I grabbed an idol and got flattened by falling pillar. I got chewed up by a mole, bitten by a cobra, impaled by spikes, and the list goes on and on. Death by liquid, however, is a whole new kettle of fish, where I could get washed away by a flood or melted by lava. And more often than not, you'll know not to get near the hazardous liquids, but you'll somehow end up engulfed in them anyway. For example, imagine how stupid I felt when I threw up a rope to try and climb to a nearby treasure, only to not realize until it was too late that the lava was burning the rope to a crisp, leaving me to fall into the fiery drink. Or imagine how dumb I felt when I jumped on a robot and sent it malfunctioning into a box of explosives, which opened up a wall and sent a wave of lava straight into me.

After playing for hours and realizing how terrible I was at Spelunky 2, I couldn't deny that I was having fun with it. My deaths were often a result of my own stupidity, though I will say that the ones that weren't were because the characters sometimes move a bit too fast, making it a little hard to aim for platforms. But for as often as I died, I felt more and more motivated to keep trying. I knew that it would just take one lucky run to make it through to the next stage. Fortunately, this roguelike isn't too merciless. Players will sometimes run into a character who's actively working on shortcut tunnels. Simply pay her what she needs and she'll eventually work up some shortcuts, which should take you out of the early part of the game. And as someone who died often, let me say that nothing feels better than when that shortcut tunnel first opens up.

The journey's just beginning

As much fun as I'm having with Spelunky 2, there's still quite a bit to explore. This review is based on the PC version, which does not have online servers active. However, the addition of online multiplayer is going to be a godsend, just because of how much of a help more players will be. It'll also be more fun, just because of how many more things can go wrong with the presence of more players. I'm just waiting for the first instance where a flood of lava comes in my direction because one of my partners decided to be a knob and blow up one of the walls keeping it contained.

But as a solo experience, Spelunky 2 was fun and frustrating, both in a good way. It never felt boring. I constantly felt the need to keep trying. And if I died, it felt like I was being encouraged to examine where I went wrong and do better. And even after I eventually conquer the full Adventure, the Daily Challenges will keep the fun going for a long time to come. Spelunky 2 is a treasure in every way, one you'll be glad you've discovered.

This review is based on a PC code provided by the publisher. Spelunky 2 will be available on the PlayStation Store on September 15 and on Steam on September 29 . The game is not yet rated by the ESRB.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

Review for
Spelunky 2
  • Easy to grasp controls
  • Procedurally-generated stages that are fun to explore
  • Multiple ways to approach levels
  • Deaths are plentiful, but never really feel cheap
  • Local and online co-op available
  • Shortcut tunnels give you a sense that you're making progress
  • Characters can move so fast that it's sometimes hard to aim precisely
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