Spelunker HD Deluxe PlayStation 4 Review

Spelunker HD Deluxe is a re-release that doesn’t improve on old flaws.

By Fragnarok, Posted 15 Aug 2021

Spelunker HD Deluxe is a remaster of 2010’s Spelunker HD by Tozai Games, which in itself was a remake of the original 1983 Spelunker. Just like the first iteration, Spelunker HD Deluxe is a platformer where players explore a cave filled with both dangers and treasures. The modern generation version adds in new multiplayer modes, but keeps the old school challenge and feel.
 

 Spelunker HD Deluxe|Platformer|ININ Games|Tozai Games
 

The default experience is the single-player option, where players will need to traverse through six different levels that make up the whole cave. Players will start with three lives (though this stock can be increased to up to 99), an air blast gun, and bombs. The main miner character’s abilities pale in comparison to iconic platform heroes like Mario and Mega Man: the biggest surprise is that falling short distances will trigger death even before landing. This often means that there is no chance to recover or react when platforming and instead death detection will be activated instantly. It is even possible to die from jumping too high from a rope or ladder. After dying, players will instantly respawn at the last checkpoint.
 

 Spelunker HD Deluxe|Platformer|ININ Games|Tozai Games
 

To make things a bit more perilous, outside of lives players will also need to monitor oxygen levels. The deeper one goes into the cave and more quickly, the faster oxygen will deplete; when it hits zero it means another instant death. However, there are oxygen capsules available throughout each level. Worse, oxygen is also what powers the offensive air blast, one of the only means of combating ghosts within some sections of the cave. It becomes are careful balancing act to ration out oxygen to defeat enemies versus staying alive. Other enemies and obstacles can be dealt with via bombs, though its splash damage is also enough to hurt players that stand too close to the blast radius.

Spelunker HD Deluxe features two graphics modes: 8-bit and modern 3D. The 8-bit style perfectly emulates the Nintendo Entertainment version, with clear sprites, retro sound effects, and good hit detection. Though, both the bombs and air blast radius seem a tad inaccurate. The 3D option however can often feel disjointed. Characters often don’t move at the same rate as their actual animations (either too slow or too fast). It can also be very hard to parse what is a background element versus a foreground obstacle or interactable. One good thing is that explosions and other particle effects seem to have a clearer hitbox compared to the 8-bit style.
 

Spelunker HD Deluxe|Platformer|ININ Games|Tozai Games
 

Outside of the static set levels, there is an endless dungeon mode that creates a random cave configuration, allowing players unknown challenges until they perish and gain a new high score. Additionally, there is championship mode which grants players 50 lives right from the start and places them in a more difficult cave, though it is possible to save a suspended state and temporally quit out during the middle of a run. Both of these options wind up being a better experience than the base adventure mode, as it mixes up the stage layout and enemy placement. 

The big feature of the deluxe version is the multiplayer features, which can either be played locally via split-screen or online for up to four players. Players can either play co-operatively through the main adventure, championship or endless. However, there are also competitive modes where players will have infinite lives. In these the objective may either be to score the points, reaching a certain area, or simply outperform the other players. Unfortunately, the current player base on PlayStation 4 seems to be rather low, making it very unreliable to get a four-player online match going. Those wanting to mainly play multiplayer will have better luck playing locally with three friends for more consistent matches. However, the four quadrants of a local game can be a bit too tiny on smaller and non-widescreen televisions and there is no setting to reduce space when playing with just two or three people.
 

Spelunker HD Deluxe|Platformer|ININ Games|Tozai Games
 

Overall, the presentation of the game still seems like a PlayStation 3 game. The graphics and sound design feel severely outdated and don’t seem like much was remastered. Load times are almost a non-factor, as they weren’t long on the previous version either. Those that still happen to own Spelunker HD won’t find the new features enough to differentiate it enough from Spelunker HD Deluxe. Owning both would more just be a means of playing the same game on a newer console.

Spelunker HD Deluxe maintains the punishing aspects of a retro platformer. It is challenging, but not necessarily rewarding. The controls and detection can often misalign with what is actually happening on screen, leading to a lot of confusion or frustration. The multiplayer suite is interesting for those that have three others to play constantly with but should pass if looking for strictly online competition.
 

Kurtis Seid, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): PS4, Switch
Publisher(s): ININ Games
Developer(s): Tozai Games
Genres: 3D Platformer
Themes: Treasure Hunting, Cave Exploration, Ghosts
Release Date: 2021-08-05

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