Spelunker HD PS3 Review

Retro video games are a bittersweet treat. In some instances, that touch of nostalgia can really lift the spirits of an afternoon stay home. In others, it can frustrate you with unforgiving traps, jumps that require point-blank accuracy, and a strong reliance on your own wits to guide yourself in the right direction. Failure to overcome any one of these prevalent obstacles will usually result in one thing: Death. And you can bet you’ll be dying a lot in Tozai’s Spelunker HD.

As the title most obviously suggests, Spelunker HD puts you in the shoes of a ‘spelunker’ (Fancy for ‘cave explorer’) who must brave the depths and crevices of the Earth in search of treasure and coloured keys that will eventually lead him to…

Deeper depths and crevices of the Earth.

Yeah, not exactly the most breathtaking premise, but story isn’t everything. Spelunker HD brings back an old classic, sprinkles a new multiplayer component onto it, and remasters it with a complete graphical overhaul (all while keeping the insane difficulty).

The game is simply unsympathetic in almost every way, shape, and form. You will die over many things, from the simplest to the most classically unfair. Jump to early?  You die. Jump too late? You die. Hit the roof? You die. Walk on what seems to be solid ground only to have it crumble beneath your feet? You die. The game will punish you for any mistake or lapse in judgement. Your jumps, ladder hikes, and rope climbs must be done with immaculate execution or guess what? You die. Now don’t get me wrong, the controls themselves are responsive and clean, but the precision required can at times just feel inhuman. After my first (though most certainly not my last) time dying, I was granted this message:

The spelunker *my PSN username* did once venture into a cavern of untold mysteries. Alas, having committed one error after another, he perished at Stage 1 at a depth of 48 metres from tripping from an insignificant height. And so the journey came to an end

Gee, thanks.

The soundtrack in Spelunker HD isn’t anything to write home about. You won’t hear any catchy Zelda or Mario-esque themes here, only a nostalgic, repetitive 8-bit beat that loops over and over again as you traverse one of 10 ‘Stages’. Special effects are clear and sounded fine through my television but overall nothing was extremely memorable. If anything, the game takes pleasure in taunting your every death by playing something of a mocking tone when you (inevitably) meet your demise. Ugh.

Graphically, Spelunker HD isn’t anything fantastical, but is just fine for a remastered title of its caliber. What I am impressed by, however, is the game’s option to play in either ‘Classic’ or ‘Remake’ graphics. At the beginning of each ‘excursion’, you are given the chance to select one of the two options, the former being 100% nostalgic 8-bit goodness, and the latter being the remastered filter where everything has been brought into modern 3D. Either mode plays fine, however I personally found ‘Remake’ mode allowed me to play better but it may have just been personal preference.

Finally, I will lend as much insight as I can on the multiplayer element. During my playthroughs I was absolutely unable to connect to anyone. The game would time out very shortly (read 5 seconds) and return with the following message: “No Player Found”. Seeing as my connection to the internet is quite good, I can only deduce that the Spelunker HD multiplayer servers are used by other network players quite rarely, if at all. Playing with a mate in 2-player co-op was as fun as constantly dying could possibly get with a friend. What’s commendable is that the game will allow up to four player co-op offline and six player co-op online. What could have been some extremely satisfying cave-digging with a number of online buds was utterly obstructed by what has to be dead servers. Truly a shame.

Spelunker HD has all the elements of a decent throwback renewed with high definition graphics. Some elements work well, but others (such as the sound and barren network element) showcase what could be considered an almost dated online and’HD’ experience. The £7.99 asking price is reasonable and well worth an experience to test the patience of both you and any mates you happen to have lying around.

7 out of 10
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