Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

When a new way to play rekindles your love for an old favorite

Illustration for article titled When a new way to play rekindles your love for an old favorite

Welcome to our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans, nagging questions, and whatever else we feel like talking about. No matter what the topic, we invite everyone in the comments to tell us: What Are You Playing This Weekend?


I don’t think I’ll have a ton of time to play anything in the next couple of days (it being Valentine’s Day weekend and all), so it’s good that my current gaming obsession is all about speed. My undying love for and exploits within Derek Yu’s Spelunky are well documented around these parts. After playing it across various platforms for what has to be at least 150 hours and mastering its bevy of traps and tricks (as well I think I could, anyway) I’ve embarked on its only challenge that I’ve ignored up to this point: “Speedlunky.”

Speedlunky is the name given to the almost unimaginable feat of finishing a full run through Spelunky’s ever-shifting stages in less than eight minutes. (For reference, a normal playthrough would usually take around 30 minutes.) Even with 150 Spelunky hours under my belt, it sounded impossible, but once I started making attempts, I realized that the achievement is entirely doable and just barely out of reach. I’m so tantalizingly close that it’s kind of driving me crazy, and I’m starting to fear for the life of my PlayStation 4 controller. (Thank God those things are relatively sturdy. I’ve taken to twisting it in rage after any especially infuriating deaths.)

What I didn’t understand before setting out on this hunt was how much fun it would be to impose new rules on a game that I love and have already turned into a loose science. Spelunky is a design marvel, and the key to success is recognizing how to make any lemonade you can from the rotten, dried-up lemons it constantly hurls at your face. You develop universal strategies, learning when it’s best to take a chance and when you’re better off moving on. My internal Spelunky player’s guide is probably pushing 100 pages at this point, but all of that is out the window now. The basics are still the same, but when you’re playing for speed, hazards that were once laughable—when you had the time to properly deal with them—become mortal enemies. The tactical keystones I relied on for normal runs are often made useless when I’m in Speedlunky mode.

While I still loved playing Spelunky before embarking on this fool’s errand, I can recognize that it had become a soulless part of my routine, something I played to waste time because I was so comfortable with it. I had learned all there was to learn. Going after Speedlunky, though, has restored the thrill of dissection, education, and, most importantly, purpose that made me fall in love with Spelunky in the first place.