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Music Monday: Spelunky

I remember hearing a Scottish games journalist (whose name escapes me – many apologies) enthusing about the original, free PC version of Spelunky on his “Best Worst Games” feature on the One Life Left podcast, soon after the game’s first public release in late 2008.

It sounded intriguing, especially for someone like me who is old enough to remember similarly brutal 2D platformers from the 8 and 16-bit eras, and specifically both Spelunker (1983) and the similar-looking – and similarly difficult – though much less fair Rick Dangerous (1989).

I bought the ‘HD’ version the morning of July 4th 2012 when it went on sale for Xbox 360 and, as is so often the case, dabbled a bit before putting it to one side for a future rainy day. Or probably more like a rainy winter in this case.

I’m such a latecomer to the Spelunky club that I’m not even down to join our resident experts Josh, Darren, James and Sean for our forthcoming podcast (issue 160, scheduled to be released on January 25th).

Yet I find myself latterly addicted to the game. I currently have it installed on four formats since the game’s PSN/PS+ release, and dive in for a series of runs – some short, some slightly less short (as is the nature of the beast) whenever I have my 360, PS3, Vita or PS4 switched on.

As well as the impeccably precise and scientifically fascinating gameplay, the pleasure is enhanced by the inclusion of a number of tunes which vary pleasingly.

A real boon when you are facing the same one of the four basic stages for the umpteenth tooth-grinding yet hilariously doomed attempt in a row.

Our Super-Deformed Tomb Raiders’ treacherous, Indiana Jones-esque quests play out to some brilliantly catchy and corner-of-the-mouth twitching tunes.

Firstly though, the classic chiptune style music of Jonathan Perry and George Buzinkai that accompanies the free PC version is well worth checking out on its own merit, even if you’re playing the game on console.

Eirik Suhrke (Hotline Miami, Ridiculous Fishing) came up with all new pieces for the ‘HD’ version of the game and these are the tracks that have been on heavy rotation in my internal jukebox for the last few weeks.

YouTube’s Mister Potatoman has kindly created a medley of three of the Mines melodies for us to enjoy, without the constant pressure of concentration that goes along with playing Spelunky.

But I can’t let this go without also sharing Mine Music #4 with it’s jarringly syncopated hook.

Anyone who’s been following Music Monday for a while – or listened to our new videogames music podcast Sound of Play – will know that I am partial to a healthy plate of cheese from time to time. And saxophones.

So this Yeti-themed ice caves piece, which wouldn’t sound out of place backing a ‘pages from CEEFAX’ during BBC2’s afternoon closedown in the 70s/80s.

So silly, such fun.

My message to you is if you have Spelunky as part of your PlayStation Plus subscription don’t let it pass you by.

Yes, it can seem unforgiving at first but repeated play reveals that the game is less about pure platforming skills than learning and exploiting the clearly defined rules of Spelunky’s world.

Progress is hard won but hugely satisfying and the ‘feel’ of the game is just spot on, especially the PS4 version which for me offers the smoothest and most enjoyable experience, though many swear by the portability of the Vita version.

Anyway, check it out, and enjoy the music while you’re at it.

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