Aww, I genuinely enjoy playing Spelunky and it actually is one of my favourite games to unwind and relax while listening to podcasts, to the point where it’s by far my most played game on Steam with about 400 hours, and I even ended up getting all of the achievements, which is something I never really intentionally do.
I’ve been playing a lot of Hades and Spelunky 2 these past couple of days and I really like them both precisely because they’re doing very different things, despite being under this big roguelike/lite umbrella. Personally I think what draws me slightly more to Spelunky is the clarity of the action and how deceptively simple it is; the fact that everything follows the same physics and rules (including the player); and the way that the randomness often allows for new chain reactions and unique interactions between all of its existing components. I feel like there’s always something new happening that I’ve never seen before and so much to explore and uncover, especially now that the game is new. As Derek Yu himself pointed out in a recent interview, the best way to enjoy Spelunky is to not conflate death in the game with failure, which is an idea that really resonates with me.
But I also really appreciate how friendly Hades is in comparison and how it actively works to decouple this notion of death with failure by constantly propelling you forward, even more or less independent of your skill. I’m terrible at anything remotely adjacent to bullet hells so I was expecting to really struggle through a lot of this game (I find the combat a bit too chaotic and illegible at times), but I still managed to get to the final boss 2 times in about 12 tries, and honestly, that has a lot more to do with the design of the game itself than my own skill (which I’m a-okay with lol). Hades wants and encourages people to keep going with the fun characters, tons of dialogue and text to read, the drip-feed narrative, new weapons etc, and it also makes itself slightly easier and more flexible every single run via its own systems, with the all the different upgrades, different weapons and combos, and so on. Meanwhile, Spelunky, as Patrick pointed out, is ultimately indifferent towards the player: besides the purely cosmetic characters, there’s no unlockables, no progress bar, no narrative or built-in progression, no collectibles. For me, the point of Spelunky is the exploration itself.