DON'T LET its aesthetics fool you: Spelunky is a very, very difficult game. Sure, it looks cuddly with its colorful, cartoony characters and wide range of clever devices to aid in your subterranean exploration, but beneath that charming exterior is a title that delights in killing players. I died three times in the tutorial alone!
Normally this kind of crazy difficulty would be the result of poor design, but Spelunky was purposefully built to make players suffer. Its basic tenets match classic platformer design—acrobatic jumping is key, and your most useful weapon is a weak, Indiana Jones-esque whip—but by randomizing the levels every time the game begins, and crafting a surprisingly sophisticated physics system, developer Derek Yu has built a game that's difficult but never unfair. There's no situation in Spelunky that can't be overcome, though to earn the skills necessary to finish the game you're going to have to put in weeks of work (triple that estimate if you hope to earn the achievement for beating the whole thing in less than eight minutes).
Despite relying on classic gaming tropes and unapologetic difficulty, Spelunky also includes a pretty large swath of modern accoutrements: There are tons of extra characters to unlock, enemies to discover, and a wealth of bizarre items to collect. It may not make the game much easier, but wearing spiked boots and toting a shotgun certainly does wonders for a player's confidence.
Granted, Spelunky isn't for everyone. If you can't stomach the idea of dying over and over again in the hope that you might inch your way deeper into the game's labyrinth, you should probably stick to something a bit more user friendly. This is a game designed for people who want to bash their heads repeatedly against a problem until finally stumbling upon victory by sheer luck. Spelunky is stingy with its rewards, but for those with perseverance, the feeling of finally completing the adventure is almost unmatched.