Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Demo Hotness: Spelunker Party

A great thing about Nintendo’s eShop is the proliferation of demos. On many occasions, demos have turned me to new franchises and genres that I would have never discovered otherwise. In other cases, they’ve shown me that a game that sounds like a good fit for me on paper just doesn’t work for me in practice. Square Enix’s new co-op 2D platformer, Spelunker Party, unfortunately fell into the latter of those two groups. Some thoughts on the experience my wife and I had with the demo:
  • The game has a simple and cute visual style. However, the male spelunker, female spelunker, and their animal companions all look like they were drawn by different artists, giving the game a somewhat uneven look.
  • In local co-op mode when playing with the Switch docked, the screen splits into small windows even though additional screen space is available when playing with two characters. This can be problematic as it makes many of the game’s already tiny obstacles, traps, and items even harder to see. For visibility’s sake, it would probably be best to play this game on two Switches.
  • Spelunker Party is extremely unforgiving for a game with the word “Party” in its title. Touching any of the cave’s tiny obstacles is instant death as is missing a jump or even falling from minimal heights. These deaths are in fact so instantaneous that the game strangely doesn’t bother to animate your character falling, but instead just displays the death animation the moment his/her feet leaves the ground if your jump or fall trajectory would result in death. It also doesn’t help that two characters can’t grab the same rope at the same time,
  • Spelunkers also have a finite amount of air in the cave (yet another way to die), but thankfully checkpoints with air refills are easy to find. However, once you’ve lost five lives, the whole level must be restarted. If there’s a disparity between skill levels of the players, it’s quite likely that one will be left staring at the game over screen while the other one continues with their remaining lives. Having to sit out the rest of the level like this significantly detracts from the party potential of Spelunker Party.
  • The game’s music is simple, repetitive, and catchy. It reminds me a lot of the upbeat tunes you’d hear in Bomberman.
Based on my experience with this demo, Spelunker Party could potentially make for a decent 2D cave exploration game for those with the patience for its finicky nature. However, as a casual co-op or party game (which is what I would expect from a game with “Party” in its title), I think Spelunker Party would introduce more frustration than fun.

Note: At some point after playing the demo, it was brought to my attention that this game is a remake of an Atari game which helps to explain some of its quirks. Thus, it may have some additional appeal to retro gamers, but as somebody that lacks that nostalgia, I still can’t recommend Spelunker Party.

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