Revitalizing a decades old series is never an easy task, but Spelunker Party! manages to be a decent return while adding good multiplayer functionality. Don’t let the title throw you off. It’s easy to assume this is some kind of minigame collection or something along the lines of another Mario Party. That isn’t the case. What awaits you instead is a pretty challenging and lengthy platformer that will keep players on their toes and always on the run, at least until the patterns in level design start to become a little more predictable.
While the game is based on the 1983 NES title Spelunker, this specific version is actually an updated and definitely improved re-release of Spelunker World, a title released back in 2015 for the PlayStation 4 and PC. Before it changed its name, the game was free-to-play and featured microtransactions. Those elements are gone, thankfully, and what remains is a priced title that retains 100 stages and the same gameplay. Additions like redesigned menus are included, but support for six players was dropped to four.
It can be tough to balance out the single player and multiplayer modes so that the entire game can be played in either mode. Spelunker Party! does a reasonable job at getting this done. Playing single player is fine but it is annoying that some levels will require at least one other player in order to find every collectable. Likewise, playing with others is great too, but there’s no draw to do so other than to finish the level quicker and to collect those aforementioned extras. However, it is nice that if a player gets stuck in a level the option is there to go online and work together with a second person.
That said, playing in either the offline or online multiplayer sessions is the way to go. Playing with another person will put the game into split-screen, even online. Knowing where everyone is and what they’ve collected is crucial to letting the game flow at good pace. Plus, being able to see a friend fail or take a nasty fall can’t be missed! The great thing is that you can toggle split-screen off by simply pressing into the right control stick. Being able to do this on the fly is super convenient.
Platforming aside, Spelunker Party! doesn’t vary much when it comes to level design. After playing through the first set of levels, players should know what to expect from there on out. It’s true, later levels introduce new enemies and obstacles, but once the player figures them out it quickly loses its novelty. There isn’t much in the way of puzzles, something that could have really helped make the single player more interesting and the multiplayer more cooperative. Some levels mix things up with a boss fight, but most areas will simply have you searching for keys to get to the next section. There is a lack of depth that is apparent, especially in the first half of the game.
Spelunker Party! likes to stay a bit too close to its roots. Jumping off a vine just a tad too high will result in death. Any kind of drop will take you out instantly and even trying to jump over a dip on the path could result in your demise. You’ll find yourself kicking the bucket quite often, but a lot of that is unfortunately due to unreasonable platforming rules. For a game that is based entirely on moving from platform to platform, the player should have a clear idea of what will and won’t get them killed.
If the goal is to fully complete the game, Spelunker Party! offers plenty to do. Outside simply completing over 100 stages, Litho-stones are collected to unlock over 200 items. These items offer extra abilities like reduction of damage from certain enemies or increased power to the air meter. Not only that, but each item can be levelled up, increasing the power of each level. There’s a lot, but once a level is fully completed there isn’t any real reason to go back and replay.
Quests help mix it up by giving you additional objectives like bombing a certain number of snakes or collecting a chunk of gold in one of the worlds; it’s odd that they don’t appear like achievements when completed. Instead, players are forced to go to the quests menu to see if it was completed, then the next quest needs to be manually selected in order for it to be worked on.
The Switch could always use another multiplayer game and Spelunker Party! is a good addition to the ever expanding library. It’s challenging, both in reasonable and unfair ways, and it’s length gives players a lot of levels to play through. It might not be something pulled out for newcomers and guests at a party, but it could be a good match for those looking to play together in something that lasts a little longer.