'Spelunky 2' Is Fascinating Because It Doesn't Need to Exist

It's not often a video game announcement genuinely shocks me—I'm usually aware of news ahead of time, and it's an industry built on revivals and sequels—but when a trailer started rolling yesterday with imagery reminiscent of Spelunky, I stopped in my tracks, and basically refused to acknowledge the reality of the situation, until the Spelunky 2 logo appeared in full.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/43naqj/spelunky-2-is-fascinating-because-it-doesnt-need-to-exist

I kind of wonder if some established indie developers are starting to see what can happen when other indies follow up successful games with a brand-new IP these days. Is Spelunky 2 a result of Yu wanting to play it safe and work some new ideas in under the Spelunky name rather than create a brand-new game and risk losing the visibility that a new Spelunky has?

Times are tougher for indies than ever in 2017.

True story: I had only ever played the early free version of Spelunky Yu put out way back in the day, before it got nice graphics and music and shit. I thought it was pretty rad but then I kind of forgot about it, and when the fancy version dropped I never got into it. Then that trailer for a sequel showed yesterday, and it happened to be like $1.40 or something on Steam, and uh…

Well, that’s where my day went (I had the day off for some holiday or other). So yeah, now I’m interested in seeing whatever the sequel will be.

More to the point of the article, I think Yu probably (rightfully) figures it is worth putting a sequel out because it will sell well - not to say he’s just shoveling out a half-assed sequel, because everything I know about the dude suggests that is very much not his style - but being able to play around with new ideas in a game that you know will probably sell well based on name recognition alone is hardly a bad move. Plus it will most likely help fund UFO 50 or whatever it’s called, and that’s also a good thing. Spelunky has already devoured like an entire day for me so I can see myself grabbing its sequel (especially since he indicated it would release on the Switch, aka the Perfect Place for it).

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There’s no way Spelunky 2 is happening merely because Derek could use some child rearing funds, I simply refuse to believe it. He’s too smart of a designer for there not to be aspirational things he really wants to get out there; the fact that we’re gonna put his kid through school is pure gravy.

In another thread I saw some speculation that the “weeping moon” symbol in the logo hinted at a sci-fi twist or that one of the goals would be platforming up to the moon somehow, but I have a different take. My initial reaction to the “moon drop” logo was that it gives the ‘2’ a sort of Middle Eastern look. The original game draws on lots of cultural mythologies after all, from the East Asian Yama and Hindu Kali, to the Mesoamerican Olmec and Egyptian Anubis.

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I’m really hoping this he has some wild new ideas and can’t stop fantasizing what they could be. What really stands out for me about the original is how well it translates what is good about roguelikes into a platformer. I think my dream Spelunky 2 goes further in that direction and adapts more roguelike inspired mechanics. It could be more open world and story focused like Qud or ADOM (or Steamworld Dig 2). Or cursed items. Or potions that you need to experiment with so you can identify them. Or some sort of class system. Or more permanent progression like a Rogue Legacy. I don’t think a lot of these are that likely and not sure if they’d be great fits but the possibility excites.

Regardless of what Spelunky 2 is I predict that it will be divisive as hell like Frog Factions 2 was. If it’s more of the same it will probably be a disappointment for a lot of people but if it really changes up the formula it’s probably going to turn offs those who don’t like the shift for whatever reason. But so stoked to see what the hell this thing even is.

What makes this kind of interesting is most Roguelikes don’t need sequels because the classic roguelikes (Hack & Nethack, Moria, etc.) are free, and have about as much narrative depth as Wizardry I. This is somewhat literal - Wizardry I has you going after the same McGuffin as Nethack - the Amulet of Yendor. Moria added a town to the game experience, but I’m pretty sure the Mystery Dungeon series is what gave those characters, well… character, and once you get characters to interact with, and an actual story (and in some cases side-quests, as with Diablo, where you’re doing things with those characters), you end up with a reason for sequels.

To put it another way, Diablo was a rogue-like, and Diablo 2 didn’t need to exist - but it’s great that it does exist. For that matter, neither did any of the other “Mystery Dungeon” games, yet it’s good that they do, because those sequels do some interesting things. I never really got into Spelunky, but what Spelunky 2 does (particularly as a rogue-like platformer) could be really fascinating.

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I only seem to remember dreams about games that have made their way deep into who I am, and I had a dream about Spelunky 2 last night…

The details are, as always, hazy, but I recall initially starting with 6 hearts, (probably to ease beginners into dying) and starting with less health afforded different starting loadouts, like a longer whip or more bombs/ropes. I can’t remember if these choices mapped to different skins/characters though, and I KNOW I failed to retain some sense of the greater structure, but damn…

The walls really are shifting in me again.

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I still have yet to beat the first one. I think the first one is a master class is gaming design.

One of my fondest memories of the original Spelunky was high school theater class. I was in the acting part and my friend was a tech. We had a very small, intimate play going on as our green room also had a stage and he was tech. he’d spend all the downtime playing Spelunky and we’d both get into it. We actually got into a bit of trouble haha.

Beyond just sharing a personal story, I do wonder if Spelunky 2 is able to reach that same height and inspire similar stories in other people who missed the big events of the first one. i’m cautiously optimistic that it’ll be a great game in its own right. It’ll be a very interesting leadup to release for sure.