I skid to a stop inches from a ledge, guided only by the feint glow of my torch. I've been in this section for far too long, the ghost will show up any minute and negate all my progress. It's too late to turn back and look for an alternate route.
I grab a hold of the nearby ledge and peak ever-so-gently downward. It's as dark as Satan's bowels, with no way to judge the depth of the jump. But time is running short. I jump down and pray for a safe lan-
Spikes. Of course it's the spikes. It's always the god-damn spikes.
I don't throw my controller across the room. I don't yell. I don't curse this game and all who made it.
I simply accept my punishment for failure, tap the X button and immediately start over from level 1-1.
See, unlike most other games, Spelunky could not give less of a shit about you. It doesn't care if you had a bad day at work. It doesn't care if you recently walked in on your significant other banging another person. It doesn't care if your dog just died.
Spelunky shows no mercy, and it will punish you for every mistake.
But in this difficulty, Spelunky holds more fun than any other downloadable game this year. Magical moments await in each playthrough. Every small accomplishment brings a feeling of profound joy, while every death comes with a funny story.
Spelunky brings out your inner masochist in all the best ways..
However, as a result of this extreme difficulty, Spelunky is filled with magical moments.
One particularly magical moment started with my friend and I playing Spelunky's co-op mode. In Spelunky's co-op mode, if one player dies they come back as a ghost. This ghost has the ability to affect various objects in the environment by blowing them. Though it seems useful, this feature often causes more harm than good. Thee ghost player can respawn if the other co-op partner comes across a coffin.
After a long 25-minute session, my friend found himself trapped at the very bottom platform in the ice caves arena. Alone.
The ice caves require players to make dangerous jumps from slippery platform to platform. Once players reach a certain depth the platforms stop spawning all-together and any missed jump will drop the player into an endless abyss. Players need to tread carefully to avoid sliding to their death.
Which of course, I didn't.
Earlier in the level, I had been tossed like a shotput by an angry Yeti like straight into an enemy mammoth. Force from the mammoth collision knocked me off the icy platform into the bottomless abyss.
Cut back to my friend, trapped on the last platform the abyss trying to plan his next jump as I circle around him in ghost form doing backflips.
The cave's exit sits only one platform over, but distance between the two platforms is much farther than the character can jump. With no remaining ropes or bombs, my friend has seemingly met his demise.
“Jump. Trust me, and jump,” I told my friend as I smiled. I had given him no prior reason to trust me, and in fact had “accidentally” caused his death multiple times during this playthough, but he had no other choice.
He sprints off the side of the ledge and jumps as far as his little character is able. While he's flying helplessly through the air toward certain death, I attempt to use my ghost's blowing to assist his jump. My small boost propelled him just far enough to reach the exit platform. He landed on his face, mere inches from the ledge of certain death, but very much alive.
We paused the game long enough for a raucous cheer and celebratory high five, and he went through the exit door to the next area.
Only to have his character's skull (and our hearts) crushed seconds later by a giant stone obelisk that fell from the ceiling after he accidentally stepped on a hidden switch.
A magical moment with an entire roller coaster of emotion in a two-minute span.
We were broken, we were defeated, and we immediately started again from Area 1-1 knowing another equally magical moment awaits in the very next playthrough.