Spelunker World is a free-to-play adventure platforming game for 1-6 online players. It was developed by Tozai Games and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation 4, released first in Japan on March 19th, 2015 and in the U.S. on November 11th, 2015. A cross-play PlayStation Vita version was released in Japan on May 21st, 2015.
You play as the son of the legendary Spelunker from the original game who disappeared on his most dangerous expedition. Now, 10 years later, you set out on your first caving adventure to find your father and seek fortune and glory of your own.
Stages are presented on an overworld map in a linear path through three (current) zones; Abandoned Mine, Underground Ocean and Forgotten Ruins. Each zone contains 25 stages and a boss battle. The Forgotten Ruins section was unlocked on May 1st, 2015 in the Japanese version but is available at launch in the U.S. version. A 4th zone is currently in development as of November 2015. Each stage consists of a series of levels and are typically themed around one obstacle or gameplay concept (giant boulders, ghosts, geysers, elevators, etc).
Stages can be played by a single player or a lobby can be set up to invite or join online players. Depending on its size and structure stages can support up to six players at once while some cater to only four players. While playing with others the screen is split into six quadrants providing a real time (albeit hectic) view of each player with a larger box displaying your own game. This view can be toggled to the standard fullscreen view by clicking in the right analog stick.
Stages 1-1 through 1-5 are tutorial stages where you play as the original Spelunker hero. Here you are provided with a larger energy/oxygen bar, free continues and powered-up gear. The first time through players are also accompanied by their trusty “pooch” who can dig up additional treasures. After the tutorial, Pooch is presented as the in-game shop where players can trade Candy, Cakes and Moon Gems for a chance to win a selection of completed and powered-up gear.
To allow customization and specialization among players, the game contains dozens of items that have their own look and function. These allow players to take additional damage from obstacles, gain more energy/oxygen, carry more dynamite or flares and boost their score or experience totals. Pieces of gear (Litho-Stones) are found in two types of Litho-Orbs that are hidden in each stage. The copper orbs will contain a random piece of a low level item and the silver orbs will contain a piece of a higher level item. Many silver orbs require multiple players working together to access; one player will stand on a switch to create a path to the orb for another player.
Players must collect all pieces of an item in order to use it and the number of individual pieces increases with the level of the item. Level 1 (1 Star) gear contains four pieces while limited time, specialty items (3+ Star) can contain 9 or more pieces. Once the pieces are combined the player can equip the item and begin leveling it up to increase its abilities. Ultimately, players can fuse multiple, high level items together to combine their effects and increase their level cap. Litho-Stone pieces and completed gear can also be sold for gold which is required when fusing high level items.
Upgrading and Fusing Gear and Upgrade Stones
Once items are completed they can be upgraded by “feeding” them Rare Material/upgrade stones or another of the same item. These upgrade stones can be obtained by playing the Rare Materials Dig Event (uses silver keys), through daily login and challenge bonuses or through the "Doggie Digging" candy exchange.
Each of the three types of upgrade stones confers a specific number of experience points to the item and boosts its level from G up to S. Each level increases the item’s ability, for example, allowing players to take more and more hits from geysers or bat guano. Once the item is at max level it can be fused with another max level item to increase its star rating and level cap. The fusion process requires more and more gold as the item quality increases. Gold is acquired as players find treasure in stages or use gold keys to play the Gold Rush money levels.
Free-to-Play Mechanics and Microtransactions
It’s worth noting that the entire game can be completed by a single player without spending any real world money in roughly 8-12 hours. It can also be completed without creating any gear and requires no grinding or replaying of previous stages.
The only thing that can be purchased from the PlayStation Store are Moon Gems which are used to:
Purchase a Continue if a player runs out of lives during a stage or isn’t revived by another player
Purchase Candy or Cakes to play the "Doggie Digging" event in exchange for random pieces of gear
Purchase a Silver or Gold key if the player doesn’t have any in order to play the Rare Materials and Gold Rush stages
Moon Gem prices range from $0.99 for 100 up to $79.99 for 18,000.
While all of the gear is obtainable from replaying previous stages, the ease at which you can acquire completed, powered-up items from the "Doggie Digging" exchange makes for a serious temptation.
Other mechanics provide incentive to return to the game frequently. Daily login bonuses dole out the game’s consumable items (Gold and Silver keys, Candy, Upgrade Stones, Moon Gems and gold) as players return. There is also a series of challenges that offer those same consumable rewards for completing specific tasks like crafting 30 pieces of gear or dying 50 times.
Another consumable, the Spelamin Z energy drink, lasts for 60 minutes and boosts the amount of gold (1.5x) and experience (2x) received at the end of levels. It also increases the probability of rare Litho-Stone drops at the end of levels.
The game utilizes the PlayStation 4’s built-in web browser to pop up regular updates from the Japanese and English official sites, depending on the region. These updates have included news about limited time events, bug fixes, network maintenance and other Spelunker related news. Famitsu.com also maintains a wiki for the Japanese version and its growing collection of gear.
The U.S. version of the game featured several simultaneous events at launch that were spread out for the Japanese version. Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris gear, Snowball the dog, and the harder Championship Stages were all launched at once. Several items from Japanese events are also available through the “Doggie Digging” exchange. It is assumed that new events will roll out on a bi-weekly and monthly basis as in the Japanese version. Below is a recap of new items and events added in the Japanese version:
As of May 2015 new monthly events have been added since the game’s release. The month of April featured a special collection of stages based on the original Spelunker and gear fashioned after Mainichi Issho’s Toro and Kuro. The month of May offered gear based on Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris and saw the addition of Mike the Cat*, a new companion who can turn nearby enemies into Japanese ovals. Events have routinely been extended and brought back to compensate for server downtime. Other cross-promotions have featured Atlantis no Nazo, Seiken Densetsu 2, Hyperdimension Neptunia, MSSP (a collaboration of Japanese YouTube users) and Kaku-San-Sei Million Arthur as of September 2015.
The game was originally teased as ‘Project Code Z’ through a countdown website launched on January 28th, 2015. Minna de Spelunker Z was revealed at the end of that countdown on January 31st during a NicoNico livestream as part of Tokaigi 2015. In contrast, only the U.S. PlayStation blog mentioned the U.S. version just days before its release.