Great PC Gaming Moments are bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.
How many games save their best stuff for last?
The one that comes to mind is Mass Effect 2’s suicide mission, which we still consider years later to be the highlight of the series. But otherwise, I can understand why many games are reluctant to include their best story piece, their best boss, or their best level at the very end. A surprising proportion of gamers don’t complete games, after all.
Spelunky 2, even as one of the best platformers of this generation, is no exception to this practice. According to Steam success statisticsonly 60% of players made it past the first four levels of the starting area, Housing. It takes about 10 minutes. Even taking into account people who own Spelunky 2 but haven’t played it, that’s discouraging data if you’re a developer. Further down the list of achievements, you can see that only one in five players have acquired the Ankh, a crucial item that grants extra life. You get it by defeating the game’s first boss, Olmec, the “right” way, by dropping his giant golden cabeza into the lava.
4.6% of players – less than one in 20 – managed to reach the Cosmic Ocean, the repeating sequence of 95 random levels that sits beyond the hardest ending in Spelunky 2. Honestly, I get it Why. To get there, you must perform an elaborate chain of maneuvers, the equivalent of treasure hunting while running a marathon.
- Obtain the Oudjat Eye by finding the Golden Key in The Dwelling
- Complete the Moon Challenge
- Defeat Quillback and reach Volcana
- (Not always possible, but very useful) Obtain the Kapala by sacrificing damsels or enemies on the altar
- Complete the moon challenge, get the bow
- Rescue Van Horseing
- Drill deep into Volcana to reach Vlad’s castle, kill Vlad, take his cape and crown
- Defeat the Olmecs
- Take on Excalibur in the second stage of the Tide Pool
- Defeat Kingu, receive the Tablet of Destiny
- In Neo Babylon, take the correct Ushabti
- Ride the Qilin flying mount to the top of Tiamat’s Lair, reaching the Sunken City
- Survive the Sun Challenge to receive the Arrow of Light
- Defeat Hundun, the toughest boss in the game
- Shoot Hundun’s Eye with the Light Arrow you picked up earlier
Phew. All of this in a procedurally generated world where lava, wasps and teleporting crocodile men mingle in a world of knife drawers.
But waiting for the end of this elaborate chain is something magical: the cosmic ocean, a 94-level celestial marathon culminating in Spelunky 2. It’s Spelunky’s endgame, and it’s ingeniously crafted transcendent mayhem. . Spelunky 2 shuffles tile sets from eight of its previous stages and pits them against a starry infinity – if you fall off the edge, you simply return to the top of the level. A giant cosmic jellyfish blocks the doorway until you (or something in the environment) pop three purple orbs, which releases the jellyfish in a circular path and back onto your character.
Mossmouth’s decision to reuse existing levels gives them new life. Your techniques for dealing with familiar enemies and traps must adapt to their new context: in the infinite void, a poisoned arrow or a clumsy caveman may fall forever.
This stamina slog (the world’s best Spelunky 2 players can sprint 7-99 in just under an hour) is sweetened by the best music in the game: an 11-minute melody that coats every tense moment with a zen calm. It’s a perfect coda that gives Spelunky 2’s acrobatic speedrunners a treacherous stage to show off, and for the average gamer, a sense of wonder that lasts as long as you can stay alive.