I Was Ready for 'Spelunky 2,' And Then 'Hades' Showed Up

I've spent much of the past few years wondering when Spelunky 2 would come out. It's a sequel to one of my all-time favorites, an experience I've argued is the closest approximations I can make to a perfect game. Who wouldn't want a sequel to that? Don't video games usually get even better the second time around, lessons learned and all that?


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/7kpnyb/i-was-ready-for-spelunky-2-and-then-hades-showed-up
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I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone enjoy themselves while playing Spelunky. I only ever see pain or relief.

I have to say, I agree with the general sentiment of Patrick’s article - I had exactly the same thing happen to me, and I only realised Spelunky 2 had launched and I’d forgotten about it after several days of Hades. [And I’ve still not gotten Spelunky 2.]

However:

I dunno: even roguelites aren’t something I particularly associate with the Switch [I know I’m being pedantic, but the roguelite/roguelike distinction is actually useful!]… is this a sentiment that I’ve missed with people? I’ve always strongly associated both roguelikes and roguelites with PC, not console play, and certainly not with handhelds…

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I’m the same way. I have a grand total of one roguelite/like on my Switch, and I rarely ever touch it. Meanwhile I play Dead Cells, Hades, Slay the Spire, Griftlands, Star Renegades, etc. on my PC, and have never thought to myself “I also need this on the handheld console with the controller I hate using.” Maybe it’s down to how people use it? Whether it’s mostly home/on-the-go; where they physically play it? For me, I’ve just never personally had that sort of association with the Switch as the roguelite/like console when I play all of those on PC.

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.

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I… honestly don’t know if I’ve ever played an actual roguelike, depending on where you draw that particular line (e.g., it has to be turn-based, permadeath, ASCII, dungeon-crawling, etc.). The closest I can think of is probably the dungeon-crawling section of A Dark Room, because it’s ASCII and turn-based, but still has some upgrade persistence between runs. In any case, that’s a game I definitely associate more with a PC.

But roguelites I definitely play most commonly on my Switch, to the point where I bought multiple ones on my Switch despite owning them on PC (those being Enter the Gungeon, Into the Breach, and Dead Cells) because I felt like run-based gameplay fit very well with the pick-up/put-down flow of handheld gaming. Beyond those two I have a bunch more on Switch — Immortal Redneck, Flinthook, Sky Rogue, Crypt of the Necrodancer, Wizard of Legend, Overland… possibly more. And I saved Hades for Switch as well, despite being tempted to get into EA at various points. All very much games I associate with my Switch.

(also, I’ve heard Pokemon Mystery Dungeon called a roguelite because of the procgen dungeons and turn-based combat, though permadeath is very much not present in those. Needless to say, those are also games I heavily associate with handhelds… because that’s all they’re available on.)

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All y’all disrespecting the Vita, which is clearly the best roguelike/roguelite console.

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I think it is kind of silly to compare the two games personally, and this is where the idea of the roguelite starts to look a little dubious to me.

If anything, Hades, most closely resembles a game like Diablo (something that does have a connection with roguelikes, as the original Diablo was heavily inspired by NetHack). It really is about building up your power over time. You’re interrupted by death, but it never sets you back. But also, and this is important, while the power-ups and boons in each run are randomized, what you are doing in each run isn’t.

Each run of Hades is basically going to feel the same to me. That’s okay because the core design is good enough, and the writing is excellent. But that makes it a very different offer from Spelunky where every run feels very different to me each time I play it.

I think one thing Derek Yu gets about roguelikes that a lot of people working in the roguelite space don’t get is that what makes a game like NetHack work isn’t the permadeath and random dungeons, it is the density of interconnected systems playing off of each other. That means I have no idea what is going to happen on any level because of how complicated and chaotic things can get, whereas with a game like Hades you always know how these things are going to play out.

I get why Hades would be more appealing for Patrick because the charm of the game is off the charts. But for someone that has been playing the game in early access for the last year, I am ready for the unpredictability and audacity of occurances that happen in Spelunky 2.

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My hottest gamer take for years was that until the Switch got Spelunky, Luftrausers, Rogue Legacy and Nuclear Throne. It would always be the second best portable games console next to the Vita

I think Nuclear Throne and Rogue Legacy already came out on switch, once Spelunky 2 comes out I guess it’s closer. But it’s still not going to have all the PS1 games, or PSP games like Patapon or The Warriors. So still a mere pretender.

On Spelunky 2, I’ve sank more time into it on PS4. It’s hard and punishingly, sometimes it feels as if there is some infernal system in the code that NEVER FAILS to kill me before I hit the door of the last level of the first zone. I think I am having more fun with Hades ultimately, it just feels so slick to play but there is some dark magic in Spelunky 2 that does make it special in it’s own way.

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So, I think this is a very good point, and one reason why I think more shades of definition other than just “roguelike” are useful in this kind of conversation. Spelunky is one of the few roguelites that I’m less annoyed about people calling a “roguelike” as a result.
A lot of “roguelites” just take the permadeath, proc-gen combination, add some kind of meta-progression to ease the pain of loss, and call it a day. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s clearly not in the spirit of the original game [and certainly not in the spirit of Rogue’s close descendants which helped to formalise the roguelike community’s sense of what their genre looked like].

(I sort of don’t want to get into a formal definition of roguelike v roguelite v roguelikelike etc here, because it’s really for me a bit of a sprachspiel thing; a roguelike is what I point at when I say “that’s a roguelike”. But you can point at a bag of “tags” that make a game more “roguelike”, and “complexity of interacting systems” is definitely one of them*.)

*as an aside, other than the common aspects with roguelites - permadeath, proc-gen maps - I’d suggest that true roguelikes are also generally turn-based, tile-based and (unlike roguelites) don’t have a metagame progression. Honestly, the hardest “edge-case” for me has always been Dwarf Fortress, since Adventure Mode is clearly roguelike, but the overwhemlingly more popular Fortress Mode is something liminal in the categorisation. But, again, this is all subject as much to “feel” as anything else, so it’s not a formally restrictive hard set.

Rogue is an incredibly simple game, though. If nethack-like complicated systems are a defining quality, then surely they should be called hacklikes?

Well, this is why I say that “roguelike” is also more of a sprachspiel than a hard category. Historically, “roguelike” was a term developed by the community that developed and played games inspired by or derived from rogue - nethack, ADOM, Angband and so on - and really defines its categories by reference to how similar games are to those “second generation” rogue-derived games, not from rogue itself. [In that sense, rogue is a sort of “proto-roguelike”, in multiple senses.]

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