Go dig your own hole.
I have no idea what Spelunking is, but based upon the few games that have the word in their title, I am guessing that is has something to do with exploring caves. Sounds like fun. But you know what would make it more fun? A party, that’s what. Well, that’s the theory anyway. But in reality, Spelunker Party is more of a party pooper.
The first thing that I noticed when firing up Spelunker Party was how budget this game looks and sounds. The use of bright colors and annoyingly chirpy and repetitive music tries to distract you from the fact that the gameplay is very lackluster. It feels like the developers have tried to go for that “charm” factor, but it comes off feeling like a game made for children. The design of the Spelunkers adds to this with their basic looks and animation. Reminiscent of a Mii, it makes me wonder if this game was originally planned for the Wii U, but changed direction after the success of the Switch. The gameplay would certainly seem to support this by feeling rushed and janky, feeling more like some kind of mobile game than a full priced console release.
Platform: PC, Nintendo Switch (Reviewed)
Multiplayer: 4-player co-op
Price I’d pay: $7.99
The aim of the game is to explore each cave, hunting for money and artifacts. Each artifact collected goes to towards unlocking new items to take with you into the caves. These give enhancements to aid you along the way, and boy do you need some help. For a game that is all about exploration and platforming, it has some of the most infuriating controls I’ve seen.
As you can imagine, there is a lot of jumping required to navigate the caves, a shame then that mistiming the jumps by a millisecond results in failure. There is no room for error and caused many an unnecessary death throughout my time with the game.
Along with the controls and character movement issues, the game also punishes players with death if they fall from too high, which would be fine if it wasn’t for that fact that too high is about 3 feet. I even died when jumping on a downward slope because apparently that’s too high as well. Given the amount of times players need to make jumps in this game, it can get real annoying. As the title suggests, this game is a party, and that means up to 4 player co-op; either local or online. Firstly, online is a ghost town, so don’t expect much action there. But at least I could get four friends over and really have that party they promise. Unfortunately, there is no fun in that either. Given the frustrations the game, having four people experiencing the same issues results in no one having fun, unless you like laughing at other people’s failures that is.
The money found in the caves is used to buy candy for the dog, Pooch. Give Pooch candy and he will go hunting for extra artifact pieces, which is a help due to the shear amount of collectables in the game. Sending him out however is very expensive and although they give the first one for free, I never bothered sending him out again. Progressing through the game will offer up other companions, if a dog isn’t for you.
Players need four artifact pieces to unlock a new item and each item is character specific, so unlocking the Fireman’s helmet will only be able to be equipped by the male Spelunker, essentially doubling the amount of things to collect. Wearing an item and completing caves will level up those items, giving them better bonuses. But the pacing in which I unlocked items was painfully slow, much like the rest of the game. I have no doubt that kitting out the character with gear will aid play, and maybe make it slightly less of a chore, but getting those items and leveling them up will require way too much time than I can recommend anyone plays.
Spelunker Party seems completely at odds with the type of game it is trying to be. Frustrating controls and poor gameplay design are the things you want to try and avoid when making a platformer. But it is the slow pace of both the game and the progression that feels most out of place and one that makes this game the kind you want to avoid.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.