Spelunky began as a freeware 2D roguelike platformer developed and released by Derek Yu for the PC on September 1, 2009. Players play as an adventurer named "Spelunker Dan" (similar to Indiana Jones) who, starting with a whip, some rope, and a few bombs, explores a series of dangerous randomly generated caves while amassing a fortune in treasure, acquiring better equipment, defeating relentless monsters, avoiding unforgiving traps, and saving damsels in distress along the way. However, players start with limited health, have little chance to replenish it, and are not immune to "permadeath", in which death results in restarting the adventure from the very beginning.
Soon after releasing the game, Derek Yu founded a small independent developer named Mossmouth with Andy Hull, which then developed an updated version of Spelunky for the Xbox 360 (via Xbox Live Arcade). It was published by Microsoft on July 4th, 2012 for 1200 MSP (USD$15). Along with redone high-definition graphics and advanced graphical effects, the update includes local multiplayer (in both the traditional "adventure" mode and a new competitive "deathmatch" mode, which is a series of "last man standing" bouts in similar vein to the Bomberman series) for up to four simultaneous players and/or bots, a brand new soundtrack, online leaderboards, and 20 achievements (worth 400 Gamerscore).
The updated version of the game was released for PC via Steam and Gog.com on August 8.
As a 2D cave platformer, the core abilities of the player include: attack, stomp, run, jump, ledge grab, and climb. The player may fall a significant distance before taking damage, which can be avoided by careful ledge grabs or equipment use. Ledges two blocks high can be grabbed normally, and equipment can greatly improve the player's traversal. Knockback physics are a significant aspect of taking damage, throwing items, and using bombs to affect the environment or attack. Air control in mid-jump includes the ability to start running, allowing for very precise and practiced maneuvers.
Items and monetary rewards such as gold and jewels are scattered through every level, out in the open or inside containers. These containers range from breakable jars, to locked chests, to the very ground itself. Rewards are converted to specific amounts of money which serves as the player's final accumulated score. Equipment can also be discovered in the world, or purchased from shops.
One or more "Damsels" can be rescued throughout the levels. They exist stationary until picked up, at which point they will begin walking if put down or thrown. They will not jump out of pits and will not pass through webs. Damsels have hit points just like the player, and can act as a limited damage sponge while being carried or thrown to trigger traps.
In the Xbox 360 version, the sprites used for damsels can be swapped between either a woman, man (aka "Chippendamsel"), and dog or one of the three randomly. All damsels rescued reward the player (at the level complete screen) with a kiss that restores one heart each.
In addition to rescuing damsels, players can choose to use them as sacrifice them at altars to gain favor with Kali. This will net the player useful items that can used as they descend further and further.
The player can purchase various goods from stores that can exist on the map. There are gun shops, bomb shops, general stores, gambling rooms, and even a sort of brothel complete with a spinning red light. It is possible simply to purchase a gun and then shoot the shopkeeper, resulting in free items and some dropped money. This carries grave consequences, as the player will become "wanted" and will no longer be welcome in stores. Entering any store after shoplifting will result in the shopkeeper becoming immediately hostile and trigger a shopkeeper standing near the exit to every level until the player dies or escapes the caves. This makes the game much more difficult, as one has to either scavenge for health and supplies or risk their life to rob another store. Any damage caused to a store will similarly make you wanted. This includes boulders from picking up an idol, and any stray bombs. Warning! If a shopkeeper ever drops his shotgun by taking damage, he is entirely capable of picking up other weapons from his inventory! An angry NPC with a rapid fire energy weapon is a fast track to death.
- Gun shops contain a random assortment of firearms or bows.
- Bomb shops can contain more bombs, or the sticky bomb upgrade.
- General stores can offer a wide variety of things. It could be more ropes or bombs or a multitude of player upgrades (A cape for slowing falls, spring boots for higher jumps, a pitchers glove for faster throws, a climbing glove for MUCH easier navigation, etc.)
- Whip - The whip is your most basic weapon, and also one of the most versatile. The whip has a damage of 3, and can reach one square, but can also hit an enemy that's behind you if it's close enough. Will carry you through the entire game.
- Machete - While the machete does less damage than the whip, it has a much faster attack speed, and wider arc range. A useful weapon, but doesn't replace the whip, meaning it takes up a handslot.
- Bow - The bow is the most basic of projectile weapons. An arrow can be nocked into the bow, and charged for additional damage. The Bow uses limited ammunition, but can be refilled if the player picks up the missed arrows.
- Pistol - The pistol is a basic weapon with unlimited ammunition that does more damage than the bow, but is still low damage.
- Shotgun - A powerful weapon that fires a spread of pellets at the enemy. It can take down nearly any normal enemy in one hit at close range. All shopkeepers carry these, and the weapon can be looted from a shopkeeper's body after he is killed.
- Webgun - The webgun shoots a spiderweb into the world, which takes up one square, and considerably slows down any enemies caught in it. Often used to kill shopkeepers with the "unlimited bounce trick". Webs will also stop arrows fired by traps.
- Magic Scepter - The spelunkers best friend. This weapon shoots homing rings of death towards the closest enemy, which will one-hit kill any enemy (In theory. The item is only obtainable in the Ancient Ruins, after which the other "Boss" enemies can no longer be encountered).
- Boomerang - A large bent stick that will return horizontally after being thrown across the screen. Found often in the Jungle levels. When thrown by cavemen it can juggle and damage the player multiple times. (360)
Certain types of equipment are always active once obtained. These appear in their icon form underneath the life, bomb, and rope counters. Others work like carried items and can be picked up or left behind at will.
- Catchers Mitt - The catchers mitt enhances the Spelunkers throw distance with pots/rocks/females to be rescued. It doubles the distance in which projectiles can be launched.
- Spring Boots - The spring boots boost the Spelunkers jump height from 2 squares to 4, making it double the height, and oftentimes, double the danger, in which the player will jump too high, and land in spikes!
- Spike Boots - The Spike Boots add...spikes to the shoes of the adventurer, making him do 3 damage on landing, instead of 1 and increasing traction (even on ice).
- Ropes - Ropes are the bread and butter of the starting adventurers inventory, allowing one to climb up to hard to reach treasures, or allowing a safe way to climb off a ledge when the view down may not be visible.
- Jetpack - Arguably the best item in game. The Jetpack is the most expensive item, but can be reliably found behind the psychic alien found in the Ice caves. This item makes any jumping hazard a breeze, albeit having limited fuel per jump.
- Flares - Flares are used to light up dark areas when there is no other light source, and can also be used as a makeshift projectile.
- Spectacles - Spectacles give the player the ability to see gems and items hidden in rocks, as well as give the character the ability to have a wider range of view in dark levels.
- Udjat Eye - The Udjat eye does what the spectacles do, only blinks near the entrance of the black market, making it a useful item, should the character wish to visit the Lost City of Gold.
- Teleporter - Allows you to teleport to the direction you are looking or pressing but if you teleport inside the ground or outside the level, you will die instantly.
- Hedjet - Provides light in dark areas, prevents spawning of ghosts and is used with scepter to open the secret door to the city of gold.
- Climbing Gloves - Allows wall climbing on any surface.
- Compass - Provides a large arrow on the screen pointing to the exit door.
- Mattock (Pickaxe) - Allows digging through up up 4 ground blocks, recovering any minerals within
- Parachute - Will deploy automatically during any fall that would cause damage.
- Camera - The flash distracts nearby enemies and can stun ghosts for several seconds. (360 only)
- Spikes - Instant death.
- Arrow Trap - 2 hearts damage. Will trigger with anything that crosses its line of sight.
- Tiki Trap - Tiki poles that shoot spikes out the side when the player approaches.
- Mines - Explode when you run over them.
- Powder Box - An explosive box filled with black power
- Boulder - Demolishes all in its horizontal path. Used to protect treasure. Will crush any spelunker that gets in its way. Triggered when taking a golden idol in the mines.
- Lava - Molten rock that will melt just about anything.
- Ceiling Trap - A spiked ceiling that will begin drop when you attempt to take a golden idol in the temple.
- Crush Trap - Heavy stone that locks to the player in both vertical and horizontal direction in an attempt crush them into a wall.
- Turret - Standard spaceship defense system used to deter intruders.
- Snake - The bane of every adventurer. It enjoys hiding in pots.
- Cobra - A deadly serpent with a distinctive hood and venomous spit.
- Bat - It prefers eating bugs, but will attack human beings if it's hungry enough.
- Spider - Larger than your average household variety. Don't let it get the drop on you.
- Spinning Spider - It hangs from the ceilings on a silky thread.
- Giant Spider - A gargantuan spider the size of a car. She traps her prey in sticky webs.
- Skeleton - A living skeleton straight out of your nightmares.
- Scorpion - A predatory arachnid with a poisonous stinger on its tail.
- Caveman - One of man's primitive ancestors.
- Scarab - A flying insect made of pure gold that's worshipped in some cultures. Used to light the way in dark areas.
- Tiki Man - Just your average masked cannibal wielding a giant boomerang.
- Frog - A large cave frog.
- Fire Frog - A rare species of frog that's filled with explosive swamp gas.
- Giant Frog - This extra-large amphibian carries its children inside of its mouth.
- Mantrap - Carnivorous plant with a taste for human flesh and just about anything else breathing you throw its way.
- Piranha - A group of the can skeletonize a cow in two minutes just think of what it can do to a spelunker!
- Killer Bee - A bee with a harpoon sized stinger. It's very protective of its hive.
- Queen Bee - Bee royalty. She might have some delicious royal jelly stuck in her abdomen.
- Snail - A slimy mollusk that blows acidic bubbles when it's agitated.
- Monkey - Its pranks are the leading causes of injury to unwary jungle explorers.
- Golden Monkey - A friendly but elusive primate that enjoys striking off on an adventure. Obtained by sacrificing a golden idol on the altar of Kali. It excretes gold.
- Jiang Shi - This restless zombie attacks humans to absorb their life essence.
- Vampire - An undead bloodsucker with superhuman strength. He can change into a bat.
- Ghost - This frightening apparition haunts the caves. Appears when a player spends too much time in a given level.
- Bacterium - A dangerous single-celled organism that feeds on decaying matter.
- Worm Baby - It looks small now, but adults can grow to a length of several miles.
- Yeti - A playful creature that unfortunately doesn't know its own strength.
- Mammoth - This furry animal was thought to be extinct. Its breath is like a blizzard and with freeze you instantly.
- Alien - Invaders from space.
- UFO - A flying saucer powered by mysterious technology. Explodes on impact with player and ejects the alien inside. Also, capable of using anything technology to destroy blocks of rock and ice.
- Alien Lord - A powerful psychic creature that commands a large spacecraft.
- Hawk Man - A dangerous leader of the Olmec cult. He's always looking for people to sacrifice.
- Croc Man - This elite temple guard has magical powers that make him very tough to kill.
- Magma Man - An elemental of fire that fashioned a body out of lava.
- Scorpion Fly - It's as dangerous on the ground as it is in the air.
- Mummy - Cursed tomb lords with a very old grudge to bear. Shoots cursed scarabs at those who disturb it.
- Anubis - A jackal-headed god who rules over the world of the dead. Watch out for his psychic powers that can kill any adventurer in an instant.
The adventure levels are procedurally generated, resulting in a unique experience every playthrough. Each world also has random events or "feelings" that may trigger when a level is generated.
World 1 - Caves
The caves are the first tileset in Spelunky. Scattered with minimal gold, spiders, scorpions, bats, snakes, and the occasional caveman, this is the easiest location. Random events include:
- "I can't see anything!" - Darkness consumes the level, a torch appears at the player's feet and there are sconces to be lit throughout the level. Firefly bugs also generate light and can be collected for 5000 gold.
- "I hear snakes! I hate snakes!" - An increased number and variety of snakes spawn. Always includes a deep shaft with a mulititude of snakes and jewels at the bottom. Also features a Mattock to dig with.
- "My Skin is Crawling..." - An increased number of all varieties of spiders and webbing.
World 2 - Jungle
The jungle is a considerable step up from the Caves. Littered with frogs, exploding frogs, spike idols, piranhas, man eating plants, and "Jaws", this is the second state of play. Unique to the Jungle is random events where zombies and vampires populate the level. Also, when players bomb tombstones marked ASH in the Jungle, a shotgun can be obtained.
World 3 - Ice Caves
The Ice Caves are considerably easier than the previous floors, with subtle differences. The Ice Caves have little traction, meaning the player can slip and slide all over, and there is no enclosed floor, meaning the player can plummet to their deaths. As well as the aforementioned perils, there are also Yetis, Alien spaceships, and a boss Psychic Alien.
World 4 - Ancient Ruins
The Ancient Ruins are the final standard levels in Spelunky. Featuring Lava pits, crush traps, earlier traps, Worshipers of Olmec, amongst many other environmental hazards, this is a test of any true Spelunker's mettle.
World 5 - Hell
Hell is the true final world accessible through the secret second exit of Level 4-4 after fighting Olmec. The exit can only be accessed with the Book of the Damned, located in the City of Gold. Hell is by far the most dangerous world in Spelunky. It is inhabited by horned demons, vampires, and succubi who pose as damsels to fool over-eager Spelunkers. Spike traps, lava pits and swinging spike balls are also plentiful. The final boss, King Yama, awaits in his throne room, should you survive long enough to meet him.
At the end of each world you will come across Tunnel Man. A miner who asks for items in exchange for building a shortcut that allows you to start at a given level. He will asks for items in a certain order, and you are only allowed to give him one item each time you see him. The requirements for each tunnel are as follows.
Jungle: 1 bomb, 1 rope then $10000
Ice Caves: 2 bombs, 2 ropes, a shotgun
Temple: 3 bombs, 3 ropes, a golden key from the mines.
On February 20th, 2013 two pieces of downloadable content were released for Spelunky. One piece of DLC included 24 new maps for use in the Spelunky's deathmatch mode while the other provided an additional 8 characters for use in the game. Both pieces of DLC are priced at 160 Microsoft Points. Developer Derek Yu stated on the Mossmouth forums that paid Spelunky DLC would be relegated to fun extras and that any additional content to the single player game such as new levels would be provided free of charge via an Xbox Live title update.
- OS: Microsoft® Windows® XP / Vista / 7 / 8
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.8GHz or equivalent processor
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Graphics: 3D graphics card
- DirectX: Version 9.0c
- Hard Drive: 200 MB available space
- Additional Notes: Xbox 360 Controller or equivalent supported