Spelunky Stories; How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Praise Kali

"This is turning out to be a pretty good run." Those were my last words, uttered seconds before being nudged by a frog towards an aggressive tribal whose punch, in turn, sent me careening into a spiked tiki trap, extinguishing my life. And despite making my way through the mines without a scratch, and rescuing enough damsels to raise my paltry starting health count of four to a modest eight, I was back in the beginning of the game, with nothing to do but nervously laugh and try to pick up the pieces on the next run.

But this new run just didn't feel right from the start. Using half of my resources, I managed to rescue one damsel and obtain a thoroughly useless powerup. Lamenting the loss of the bombs I moved on to the next room of the mines with the cold comfort of knowing that I had, at the very least, increased my health counter by one. Not three steps into the next room, I was smacked in the face by a bat and sent flying down a hole, taking an additional one point of fall damage. Fuck!

Yet, as soon as I was feeling ready to give up, I noticed that I fell near a sacrificial altar. These altars allow you to sacrifice stunned or dead bodies in order to accrue favor with the goddess, and potentially gain important items... and low and behold the altar was also just a few feet away from a helpless damsel. "Fuck this. I'm never going to beat this game on this run, I'm just going to see how many people I can sacrifice." After being placed on the altar, the poor girl exploded in a shower of blood and in her place was a magic cape that allows its owner to fall slowly.

And thus began my slow decent in murderous depravity. Throughout this one playthrough, I noticed that the altars, which I usually had to fight to get to, were laid out before me on my path, often nearby a copious treasure trove of victims, ranging from helpless damsels, tribal worshipers, and idiotic cavemen. And like a good dark disciple, I rounded them all up for my evil master. Within two levels I had curried enough favor to obtain the Kappala Cup, a fiendish powerup that absorbs blood and converts it to health. By the time I left the mines and entered the forest, my spelunker had equipped himself with high jump boots, a throwing upgrade, and a jump damage upgrade. Along with this demonic cup, he was essentially a diabolic ninja servant to a bloodthirsty goddess...

I made my through the jungle, taking a small detour for a completely disappointing night time variant on the Black Market stage to pick up a climbing upgrade. By the last stage of the forest, my sacrificial slaughter had pleased Kali so much that she gave me an extra eight health. Combined with the blood I was draining from all of my victims, I was up to nineteen.

Next came the slippery ice caves with their landmines, bottomless pits, instant-death ice-breath mammoths, and irate yetis. Being the good dark servant I was, I spent extra time in each level harvesting the dead bodies of those hapless yetis for my master, each sacrifice erupting in a shower of blood that continued to make me stronger. With the climbing upgrade and the cape, I easily made short work of the ice caves and moved on to the temple.

Now, almost every other time I've been to the temple (without using any shortcuts) I tend to die on the first screen. Temple levels are often filled with horribly obtuse combinations of lethal traps and enemies with one hit kills. But on this occasion I managed to have a large satchel of bombs and, combined with my throwing upgrade, I easily bypassed most of the temples more annoying trials. However, as soon as I got to the exit of the first stage in the temple, I ran across Anubis, the jackal headed god of death. He filled the room with horrible pulsating purple globes which kill instantly upon being touched. Carefully, using the slow fall from the cape, I threaded the needle between projectiles and made my way past him to the exit...

However, not before Anubis managed to anger the nearby shopkeeper.

This requires a slight bit of explanation, but in Spelunky, if anything perturbs the shopkeeper, he immediately assumes it was your fault, and will then grab a shotgun and pursue you. Even if you manage to evade him, he will show up at the exit of every stage and wait for you with his shotgun. Usually, one blast from his weapon will completely destroy you.

Naturally, I ran into the exit as fast as I could.

The next stage of the temple offered up another altar with four more victims literally spoon-fed to me. I gladly indulged in my dark practice, raising my health counter to twenty five. Things were going well until I accidentally found the exit, and the shopkeeper lunged at me, blasting his shotgun. I took the full brunt of the shot which pushing me into a nearby pit. A "thwomp-like" moving block trap slid to the left and hit the shopkeeper in mid air, flinging him off the screen. I sighed, figuring that I must be dead.

But apparently a shotgun blast only takes eight health off. I was at seventeen health. My dark lord, my goddess, had protected me so that I could continue her work. The shopkeepers shotgun lay next to me. I picked it up, and exited the room for the final stage of the temple.

My thunderous weapon blasted through all of the tribal warriors and cultists, killing them instantly and showering me in their life giving blood. In no time I had cleared the temple and made my way to the final boss, Olmec, a giant golden idol that you kill by forcing him to fall through the floor into the lava below. Sadly, this is the part of the story that... isn't really interesting. Mostly, it's because I was so well equipped that I just used my bombs to make a large enough hole for Olmec to "accidentally" fall into the lava. There weren't any close calls or dangerous scrapes. I pretty much wrecked him.

Making my way into the final room, I saw a giant chest before me. It popped open and revealed my prize, a really big golden idol. Then, the platform I was standing on rose and carried me and my ill gotten gain out of the dungeon and back into the desert. And as I watched my stern looking spelunker ride off on his camel, shotgun in hand and cape flowing in the breeze, I wondered about the true cost of it all. Sure, I had survived the trials of the dungeon and escaped with this golden bauble, but somewhere close to thirty people (at least five of them innocent bystanders) were brutally murdered in exchange for this success. And what dark scars does that leave on the soul of the man responsible? Sure, my spelunker managed to steal the treasure, but what did he lose in those mines when he suddenly decided to take an innocent life for his own purposes? Did he really escape, or did a part of him die back there, and something else made it out?

"Well, that was fun. What am I going to do on my next run!"