Broderbund, the company that brought us such entertaining games as Lode Runner and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego (who I still can't believe is not in San Diego), proudly presents Spelunker. This is a game that teaches kids about their own frail existence. There are hundreds of video games characters who can, fly, jump 100 feet in the air, be shot and live, etc. Finally a video game where the main character is a little more fragile than a six-year old with hemophilia and bones made of paper mache. A character who has trouble jumping at all. A character who can die simply by standing still for too long!
The box would have you believe that you are in for an "Indiana Jones Type" adventure. The character on the box is holding a gun and wearing a safari hat. The character in the game is a pudgy little unarmed man in a miner's cap equipped with a light he never uses. Don't be fooled. Don't believe the hype.
Spelunker was designed to teach kids a little about history while dousing them with buckets of fun! Here's a little of what kids of my generation learned from Spelunker.
Legend says that deep within one of Egypt's hidden pyramids lies a fabulous fortune, that of the legendary King Tut's richer brother Tut-Tut. Guess what? I did a little research and there was no Tut-Tut. Did they think that King Tut had three brothers, an older brother, a younger brother and a richer brother?
It is written (in the Spelunker instruction booklet) that this treasure is buried in the deepest part of the deepest cave in the world. The treasure is guarded by the ghosts of those who died trying to find its riches. And of course those ghosts feel determined to slowly chase and kill you as you play this game.
Our hero, we'll call him Spelunk Boy, is willing to traverse the perilous depths of the deepest part of the deepest cave in the world (which happens to be inside one of the pyramids) to find this bounty.
Spelunk Boy finds it difficult to navigate the elevators and conveyor belts leading to the fortune, mostly because he tends to die from stubbing his toe, bumping his wittle head or getting off an elevator too early or too late or staying on the elevator. Fueling his ambition to find the fortune are the conspicuously visible keys and money bags bearing the American "$" symbol on them.
Yeah that's right kids, Broderbund made a sequel. You would think that a game this poor wouldn't exactly be "sequel worthy" but apparently Nintendo felt differently. So differently that it chose to brand its gold stamp of approval onto the box of this flop.
Upon loading the game I was delighted to discover that there was a "Player selection screen. I could now select which character I wanted from three characters. It seemed just like Gauntlet except worse graphics and fewer characters to choose from. Who do I choose? Do I choose the fancy looking wizard guy? the classic spelunker guy? or the one who looks like he may or may not have been in the band Poison?
Making my selection I move on to discover that I'm not in a cave at all but rather in a very geometrically laid out forest (looks rather like a midwest town's street map). Walking around I soon discover that there's a heck of a lot more killing of defenseless animals than there is actually "spelunking."
Wandering around I discover a nasty looking pit. Since I haven't seen any sort of cave or entrance anywhere I am torn. I have two options: 1.)Continue looking for a cave (just because I get the feeling that that should be my goal in this particular game or 2.)Go against everything I've ever learned from video games and toss myself into the deep pit in hopes that it will lead me to some sort of cave to explore.
I choose the latter and find out that I made a terrible error as I am obviously now in hell. I have great difficulty figuring out whether being in hell and seeing Satan has any negative effects until "Game Over" flashes on the screen.
The game is very different from the original. At first I felt like a stranger in a strange world. How were the skills I accumulated in Spelunker the original going to translate to this hostile new environment? Simple. Along with a few new surprises such as towers of molten lava that rise out of the ground to shock and surprise you, they few in a few familiar faces as well. For instance, our friend, the water sprayer has returned to reprise its role in Spelunker II.
I didn't precisely "explore Spelunker II to the fullest." After the disappointment my generation was caused by the original game I found it a rather unfulfilling exercise. However I felt that I needed to play this game a bit to see what exactly the purpose may be. I was shocked at how small a role that exploring of caves takes in this game. I mean there are a few "caves" but not many. Mostly they're underground with staircases leading to them. The caves are usually just dead ends with something like a wooden crate or a bag of money at the end.
The characters in Spelunker II have two power meters. One reads "life" the other reads "toku." One can assume that "toku" means "magic" only because the wizard has the most "toku." Also the wizard has the lowest amount of "life" and as we all know from Dungeons & Dragons and other assorted games, wizards aren't very strong.
All in all, Spelunker II does a very bad job living up to the original. You would think that that says good things about Spelunker, but in this case it does not. Playing Spelunker II, you long for the crappy player control and complete lack of fun that is the original Spelunker.
Ways to Die in Spelunker
It must have been pretty dangerous to spelunk! Here's just a sampling of ways that you can die on the first screen of the first board!
Death by Elevator (pt. 1)
Here Spelunk Boy dies by falling foolishly into the 6 inch gap between the elevator and the ledge.
Death by Ghost
The ghosts of those that died trying to get the treasure are not happy about you trying either. Don't try to ask them for clues. Get too close and they'll spook you... to death!
Death by Shallow Hole
If our courageous little miner boy walks into this hole that appears to be about four feet deep he will die. He doesn't seem to be fazed by it at all, but don't be fooled. If he blinks... he is dead.
Death by Water
Be careful jumping over those lumps in the ground! Sometimes they spray water with the strength of a Windex spray bottle! And sometimes the water can reach dangerous temperatures in excess of 130 degrees fahrenheit!
Death by Elevator (pt. 2)
Try to walk onto this elevator when it's more than three or four inches from being flush with the ground and you're in for a nasty death.
Death by Dust
Dust occasionally falls from the ceiling, unfortunately mining helmets are apparently not made to withstand the destructive force of some dust.
Death by Rope
Press either side of the D-pad while on a rope and you'll be in for a nasty surprise... DEATH!!
Death by Bat Poop
Here we see a bat pooping on his head and of course the contact between the bat poop and his mining helmet kills him instantly. However death by bat poop doesn't seem so bad. That's the way I want to go... it seems so peaceful.