"Spelunky" (Mossmouth, for the Xbox 360, $15) is one of the
friendliest-looking games on Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade, with an
adorably stout hero who will remind you of a certain lovable plumber.
But once you take a few steps into its mysterious mines, you'll realize
this is one of the nastiest games ever created.
Each level is a
two-dimensional maze filled with treasure, traps and monsters. Some
traps will kill you outright; others will nibble away at your health.
It's fairly easy to survive the first few levels, but you will
eventually die. And there are no saves or checkpoints in "Spelunky" -
every defeat sends you back to the very beginning.
"Spelunky" requires playing each group of mazes over and over until you
discover a way to tunnel through. The levels are randomly generated, so
you don't see quite the same thing every time - but after dozens of
fruitless trips, they start to blur. Deaths are frequent and cheap, and
escape feels too often like a matter of luck. Some of the more hardcore
gamers I know are raving about the unforgiving difficulty of "Spelunky,"
but I found it tedious and even somewhat mean-spirited.
Rating: Two stars out of four