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Survival Guide: Spelunky


Spelunky is a hard and unforgiving game that will bring you nothing but pain and anguish. Apparently, I'm a fan of that so I keep coming back to it again, and again, and again. If you haven't heard of it yet, The Rev did a post about it in an Indie Nation. Other Indie Nation games got me interested, this grabbed me and pulled me in kicking and screaming. I played this game a lot, and wanted to share my survival guide to Spelunky. This isn't a walkthrough, it's just a few tips to help out. If you want a walkthrough, more detail on the game, or more help, check out the wiki or find videos on youtube. Before I begin, I would recommend using a game pad of some sort, I'm using a 360 controller. It makes it a lot easier, and you can map buttons with ease. This is my setup:

X - Whip
Y - Inventory
A - Jump
B - Run
L - Bombs
R - Rope

A few things to note, the trigger buttons don't work, those are the shoulder buttons. And there was no place to map the shop purchase button so I use the default P on the keyboard (then again, I never use Inventory so I might swap that out). This kind of control scheme is comfortable for me since I'm used to playing Megaman and such, but do whatever feels comfortable for you. One of my friends prefers the keyboard over the gamepad. Only thing I dislike about the controller is that it's hard to press up without hitting left or right. So up+jump to climb rope or ladders fast, ends up being me jumping off to my doom sometimes.

This will assume you've played the game at least a little bit and played through the tutorial. I also assume you have the most updated version as of this post 99.9, as many things have changed from previous versions. If you want to have things spoiled and that magic of discovered taken away or you don't care, then by all means, read on!


Now just to set the record straight, you better prepare to die. This guide won't save your life, even an excellent player will die a lot. This is just to help you get over the small stuff that kills you so you can get to the big stuff... and uh, to learn from your mistakes and to study the game better... so you can die later... listen, this game is hard.

Know Yourself

Feet : You have them, and they are good. You can jump up 1.5 squares or so. This will allow you to jump over and traverse across levels with a height difference of 1 with no problem. You can do a walking jump about the same distance, jumping over 1 square and landing on the 2nd square directly behind it. With a running jump, you can clear a distance of 6 squares, landing on the 7th square. It's possible but may not be that easy. You can be standing on a lone brick, with a lone brick above you, and run to one side and jump, grab the ledge, and get onto the space above you. It's hard but it's doable. It's something you should learn how to do.

Hands: They let you do things like hold bombs, throw rocks, and carry damsels in distress. You can throw objects in the direction you want by facing left or right, but also diagonally at an upward or downward angle. Throwing upward will be almost at a 45 degree angle, (not as steep), and get about 4 spaces high before it starts arcing down. And you can only hold one thing at a time so if you have a shotgun, an idol, a damsel, and a mattock, then you're going to have to leave stuff behind or start juggling to the exit. Careful, because arrows and rocks can still hurt if you throw them and they hit you fast enough. Many-a-times I found myself victim to my own rock, throwing it at the wall to discard it, only for it to come back and kill me.

Bombs: They blow. And do it well. They go of in a few seconds, and will flash (then rapidly flash) to show you they're about to explode. They have a range of 1.5 in all directions, effectively killing anything about 2 spaces away. It's important to note that 1.5 is not the same as 2, so if you set it on a square it's more than half a square away from the wall, it will only break off one piece of that wall (horizontally). I guess if we were using distance, it has enough to hit all the adjacent (even diagonal) squares, and a tiny bit extra to hit vertical/horizontal squares. If it's on the floor, it will hit the two spaces below it no problem. If you set it next to a wall, it can break two spaces off that wall horizontally. Thrown bombs will bounce and can damage enemies like any other thrown items. Bombs do 10 damage per frame, and it has 10 frames. So bombs will do 100 damage. It will kill anything that can be killed by damage (your max hearts is 99 by the way).

Rope: Not just a tool, but can be a (not so effective) weapon. If you hit the rope button (instead of selecting it with the cycle equipment key), you will automatically throw it straight up and it will get enough height to have the rope's end right where you threw it from. Before it 'deploys', it will damage enemies like any other thrown item as it flies up. If you select it and decide to hold it, wherever it stops when you throw it (usually at a wall), is where the rope will deploy. Practice with it because it's more difficult than it sounds. You can also drop a wall by moving to the edge and pressing down + rope.

Whip: Your whip is a very useful tool, but also very dangerous. It hits the space directly in front of you but before that, it will hit the space directly behind you first for half a second. That back whip is very important as it also hits slightly above you too, the hit box on it is much bigger than the forward whip. It's excellent for taking out spiders and bats. Because of that short delay, if there is an enemy exactly 1 space above you (like a spider), the way to hit him is to whip first, then jump. Whip then jump, practice it. It feels weird but you will use it a lot. And backwards whipping is faster and has better coverage. Practice both.

Know Your Enemy

I don't mean just monsters, I mean the environment because it's out to get you as much as the monsters are, probably more. Depending on which area you are in, there are different hazards you need to beware of. Study the movement patterns of your enemies. Some have triggers, some don't. Spiders drop if you are directly below them and within 1 screen or so, bats trigger if you are within a certain number of spaces and below them. Cavemen pace back and forth but will bum-rush you if they see you (horizontal line of sight, a couple spaces away, about a screen?)

Spikes instantly kill you, but you can walk by them (between the spikes) without any damage, and slowly drop down into them (from a height of 1 or 2) by crawling to the edge and dropping down. It's extremely useful on world 2. Movable blocks push and can't pull, make excellent platforms and can help save you from wasting a bomb or rope in many situations. Arrow traps hit for 2 (ow) damage each time and trigger when you are directly in it's line of fire, within a certain number of spaces (7 or 8 I think). They are affected by gravity and the arrow will bounce. This is important because if you drop below it from a distance, it can arc down and still hit you. Or if it's got a wall close by, it will hit it and bonce back and forth. Remember, enemies can set off traps too so don't be afraid to lure bats or trick spiders into setting off your arrow traps.

Also, don't forget the scripted scenes. The snake pit, the idol boulder, the sound of rushing water, all of these have things that are always true. The snake trap has a mattock buried at the bottom. The boulder trap only triggers if you pick up the idol from where it is (if you bomb the spaces it's on, it doesn't trigger when you pick it up).

Every are has new enemies. Some (like the 'bosses') may show up in each area, but may not. The giant spider will always have two webs below it. Throw a bomb in and see it die, as nothing can survive a bomb's explosion. It's guaranteed to drop sticky bombs.

Oh yeah, skeletons are your enemies. They are more often than not, just a pile of bones. But sometimes they'll get up and walk around. To be safe, just whip all the skulls you see unless you really need it. The same is said for pots. They usually have nothing but treasure, but sometimes there's a spider or snake inside. Don't whip them while you're standing on them, the whip will break the pot, and a few moments later, kill the enemy inside on the same strike. During that window, you can get hurt. So you want to be as far from the pot as possible before you break it.

Treasures and Events

How I felt when I first started playing: MONEY! SO MUCH MONEY! *hoards* BUAHAHAHAHA

How I felt a few hudred lives in: You're greedy, I know you are. Money gets you kisses from the booth, lets you buy that shotgun, maybe that jetpack you've been eying. But money doesn't stop bullets, does't stop spikes, doesn't stop those monkeys from jumping on you and sticking a bomb on you. Money isn't something you should kill yourself trying to get. If it's on the way, sure. If it's gonna cost you time or bombs? Probably not. I know, those gems are shiny, those bricks of gold are bricky and goldy. But mark my words, you will regret going it. Grab just enough to hold you over as you may need some at the stores, but it's not worth taking damage over 99% of the time.

How I felt a thousand lives in: Money? Why do you need money? Rob the shopkeepers! They drop shotguns, you can kill anyone and anything you meet! Boom! Boom!

These are natural ways to feel, in any order (except that last one because it's -hard- to rob those guys and get away with it), but eventually, I got to a steady middle ground. I get gold when convenient, sure. I only buy kisses because you can't steal those. You can however, buy a kiss (cost changes depending on what level you're on; more expensive late game), then steal the girl and then get another kiss by saving her from her pimp-shopkeeper.

Shopkeepers by the way, are not unstoppable. They are hard to kill, they will throw and shoot and jump around but they can be killed. They are armed with a shotgun, a few gold chunks, and whatever their store carries. As soon as his corpse stops bouncing and you see there's no stun star above his head, you're in the clear. Until then, it doesn't hurt to get a few more machete slices or shotgun blasts in.

Crates are your best friend. Inside, you will find items that you can find in the shop. Bombs (in stacks of 3 or 12), ropes (in stacks of 3), climbing gloves, pitcher's mitt, spring boots, spike boots, jetpacks, capes, machetes, pistols, shotguns, parachutes, teleporters, mattock, and... I can't think of anything else but as you can see, lots of good things. Crates are not the same as treasure chests. I would go out of my way for a crate (wasting a bomb or rope) because there's a good chance I'll get more bombs or rope in return, or one of the listed items, and it's well worth the trade.

Idols are worth 5,000*world, so in world 1, it's worth 5000, in world 2, it's worth 10,000, and so on. If you see a crystal skull in world 2, it's worth a substantial amount. Also, idol traps are different per world. In world 1, it's a rolling boulder. In world 2, the path collapses and you fall into a pit of water with piranhas. In world 3, the platform falls and you drop onto spikes. In world 4, you have a choice between a lovely lady, or a terrible trap. The idol is worth a hefty 20,000 at this point, but you will fall to your doom doom doom!


* WALK! Don't run! Running will get you killed. Walking is safe, take your time because you move FAST when you run.

* RUN! Don't walk! You've got a time limit, and some enemies move faster than you! It's not good to only-run or only-walk, be sure to do both when necessary. Long jumps and traversing long hallways are good, running near spikes can be bad. Careful for a sudden arrow-trap at the end of the corridor though, lost many-a hearts to that trick before.

* There are things buried underground that are not always displayed like the gold nuggets. Gems and sometimes equipment can be found. This is a difficult thing to do find on purpose without the spectacles or the Udjat Eye (You find it in the locked chest in world 1).

* Look before you leap! High falls where you can't see the bottom will probably hurt, and maybe kill you. Hang on an edge or lay against the ground and hold down, let the screen move down to give you a better view. Still nothing? Then you might have to just risk it.

* Sometimes I start levels having cycled through my inventory and will have a bomb selected when I start levels, I don't know why. Just be careful to take notice in case you start next to a show and try to pick up something to buy, only to notice you drop a bomb you were holding instead, and get a face full of buckshot.

* You can buy kisses (as many as you can afford) from the kissing booth (prices get higher based on how far you are), and then steal the girl to get another smooch.

* You can crawl onto the edge of a tile and hang off of it, dropping whatever you are holding. This is easier and less risky than jumping off and turning around and trying to catch the ledge, but you can't hold anything when you do it. Also, when you crawl off the edge to hang onto the ledge, it doesn't count as falling. So it doesn't trigger spikes.

* Use your environment to your advantage. Get enemies to hit those arrow traps, use the boulder to clear a path, throw the caveman at the man eating plant.

* Don't get thrown by a super-caveman or a yeti against a wall that's 3 or 4 spaces away from him or you might get caught in an infinite combo of death. And after death, your body is demolished. Like this.

* There's a frozen region where things don't work. By that I mean, bullets don't move, enemies don't move, boulders don't roll, stuff is just on pause. It's off the screen which can make it difficult to figure out, but it's easy once you get use to it. Beyond what you can see, there is half a screen's worth of space that is still active (checking half the height, not width, in all directions). That area and the area you can see are 'active'. Beyond that, everything is frozen. So if the boulder travels too far, it won't move. If you take one step towards it, it's out of the frozen region, moves 1 square, and stops again. This is why sometimes a boulder that should be far away or slowed down comes back really fast, because it was on pause. My favorite thing to do is with a gun, get far from the shop but on the same level, and fire off a few rounds. Walk towards the shop, and the bullets will move as you get there (due to the frozen region) and hit the shopkeeper.

* There's a secret chain of quests to do in this game that will ultimately take you to a level where everything besides the enemies are made of gold. This legendary City of Gold is hard to find, as you have to make great sacrifices along the way, while going out of your way to find the path. You have to find the eye, find the secret shop, aqcuire the ankh, find the alien's head, die, acquire the secret item, find the scepter, and find the wall switch. That's a lot of work, and not explained. If you really want to know, there's a wiki for it here.

World Specific Tips

World 1, Caves

Don't waste bombs on things you can do without, like money.Crates and damsels are usually things you always go for, sometimes even the key and locked chest are must haves. But don't go into areas that will force you to waste ropes or bombs to get out of if you don't need to. I'ts not worth the risk. Buy kisses if the kissing parlor shows up, buy a kiss, it's cheap now. Also, crates are usually easier to find and access here so don't be afraid to go out on a limb for them, they're usually worth it. The snake pit is usually worth it in gold, and having a mattock. Be sure not to waste the mattock as it has a 10% chance to break per hit or something like that.

World 2, Jungles

Watch out, lots of things kill you in one hit here. Spike-totems, spikes, red frogs (bomb), monkeys (can steal your bombs and throw them), man eating plants. This place is dangerous but remember, you can use some of it to your advantage. Man eating plants don't discriminate on who they eat, you, damsels, cavemen, it's all fair game! (Except for the shopkeeper while he's busy at work for some reason). Spikes to lure the frogs and monkeys, bomb the side of the lake to drown the fish in oxygen. Be sure to look before you leap. Monkeys are assholes. When you get a chance to climb into the spikes in world 2 and walk across and get those monkeys to jump in after you and die, it feels good. There's an undead encounter here, look for a tombstone with the name ASH on it, you could find a shotgun buried underneath. If an idol spawns with the zombie scenario running, you can find a crystal skull instead. It's worth a lot, but will summon the the ghost of "I'mma rape you cuz you too slow". Also, vampires drop capes. The other encounter has the level flooded, and a giant ass fish which drops several crates.

World 3 - Ice

I hope you saved rope because you will need it here if you mess up. I also hope you practiced your long distance jumping and vertical jumping here. Also, watch out for the UFOs, they shoot down and explode when they crash. Sometimes they'll hit the escape pod. The Yetis will throw you, and that might as well kill you in one hit because of all the small platforms. If you have a cape and climbing gloves, you can simulate having a jetpack. And if you have a jetpack, don't hold onto it for too long, it can run out of juice before you land again. Be sure to save some for crater prevention. The event here is either yetis or aliens. The yeti is a level closer to world 1 than world 3, but the giant yeti yells and turns normal blocks into loose moavle blocks. The alien has a spaceship and shoots homing rings of pain at you. Behind him in the wall, there is a jetpack, one of the best items in the game. You can't get darkness in world 3, because that would be just fucking cruel.

World 4 -Temple

This place is hard. If you get darkness here, you're pretty fucked, because they're fucking cruel. At least the arrow traps light your way as does the lava. Did I mention the lava? The lava pits are filled with lava. The mummy has tons of life but drop the best weapon of the game, the same thing the alien shoots you with. Oh yeah, the mummy is not limit one per game, there could be one per level. The super-cavemen jump around and throw you like shopkeepers. The spike brick will move towards you and kill you. And don't get greedy if you see a damsel and an idol above the pit. Take the damsel and get out, if you get the idol you will most likely die. In lava. Fall into the lava, and die in it. I believe the trigger is if you take the idol.

Well, I hope this helped a little, it was hard thinking of what to say and harder to think of what not to say. I'm sure a lot of this can be edited and formatted better so if you have any tips, suggestions, questions, comments, monkeys, feel free to throw that monkey into that pit of spikes. And post below.
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About Anifanaticone of us since 9:01 AM on 03.10.2008