Platforming-adventure game Spelunker Party sends you and up to 3 others diving through caves in search of a magic meteor that’s causing chaos on the earth. There is a lot of loot for you to find and hidden areas to explore along the way, making each level replayable after gaining new abilities through new loot. All of this can be a blast, assuming you have a friend to play with and can adjust to some unintuitive restrictions. This is our Spelunker Party! Switch review.
Spelunker Party’s gameplay is similar to that of the series’ previous entries, meaning that if you liked the previous games you will very likely enjoy this one as well. For those who have not played before, the Spelunker franchise prides itself on its difficult yet rewarding platforming gameplay. While the game’s difficulty starts out low, it quickly ramps up after giving you a short and spread out in-game tutorial of the few abilities that you have. Platforming requires very precise movement, which can become frustrating until learning the limits of what you can and cannot do. Jumping, for example, can be a pain point at the beginning when you find jumping down a slope can be a long enough fall to kill your character. Playing through the game quickly gets you up to speed on why Spelunker is proud to be called the “Weakest Action Hero”.
Level design is one of the highlights of Spelunker Party, with levels having multiple pathways that encourage exploration. This becomes more useful in co-op mode, where you can split from your team and each take a different route looking for treasure. Secret rooms can be hidden behind walls, layouts can be made to look similar to trick you into thinking you are backtracking, and increasingly difficult obstacles make going through each level slowly incredibly rewarding. The only problem that is found with the design in this installment is that it is required to have multiple people in many instances of the game. Switches are scattered throughout levels, requiring you to stand on one to open up pathways in other parts of the level. There is not a way to hold these down without having another player to do so, meaning you are locked out of some areas while playing alone. This does not stop you from completing the level but prevents you from collecting everything in each map. Few people were online to play with while reviewing, but a healthy population of players online would do wonders to help alleviate this issue.
Spelunker Party adds many systems to the game to make sure you have a reason to continually visit older levels with your friends. Throughout the game, you will find Litho-stones, puzzle pieces which are parts of gear you can use. Different levels of gear require different numbers of stones, with stronger gear requiring more. Power-ups will allow you to adventure deeper into levels, as you will be able to expand your energy bar, as well as carry more items such as bombs and flares. Your energy bar is your life source, as well as constantly depletes while playing the game. Performing different actions, like swimming or using your fan, consume energy faster, but push you closer to death when your energy bar is empty. Finding ways to extend this allow you to travel farther out from checkpoints, letting you get previous inaccessible items. Using items during play increases their level, which can increase their effectiveness. You are also able to find pets during gameplay, who add an extra ability to your character depending on which pet you find. There are also quests you can take on, sending you to complete objectives in different levels for extra rewards, as well as collecting gold to buy candy for rolls on random gear from your dog, Pooch, who is with you in your camp.
While Spelunker Party is definitely not your traditional platformer, playing through the game either solo or with a group is great fun. Though completionists will not be able to collect everything on their own, the quality of the game and sheer amount of things to do make this a great game to pick up. If the large number of items there are to collect in each level do not keep you feeling rewarded, the solving of increasingly difficult platforming sections will.
Note: Our Nintendo Switch copy of Spelunker Party! was provided by PR
OVERALL SCORE: 8.5
- Great level design
- Fun art style
- Rewarding gameplay
- Areas requiring multiple players
- Above-average learning curve