Spelunky 2, the long-awaited sequel from Mossmouth and BlitWorks, does a lot of things right. Instead of building mountains of new things atop the existing formula, it seeks to replicate the original experience by varying up elements. Instead of adding a bunch of new moves and messing with the controls, it maintains what worked so well the first time. It’s intentionally comfortable. And that’s great.
Well… it is when you don’t play online.
Launching today on PlayStation 4 and headed to PC via Steam on September 29, Spelunky 2‘s initial PS4 release is, simply put, not ready. It seems like the team knows it, too. For much of the game’s review period, all online functions (including multiplayer and daily challenges) were totally disabled. As we’re writing this, headed into launch day, the game’s received its fifth pre-launch patch. They know. They’re frantically working. By the time the Steam release drops, it will probably settle down into working shape. But if you’re excitedly picking the game up now, we thought it’d be irresponsible not to tell you what to expect.
And what to expect? It’s practically unplayable. You can check out the short gameplay clip below for a sample of what we experienced:
The clip captured just one side of our chat audio, but you can see Jenni’s view of things: sometimes I’m standing still. Sometimes I’m zapped across the screen. I fall. I… un-fall? None of these things were actually happening, and I was having the same sorts of problems on the other end.
Throughout our staff testing with solid connections that could handle other games just fine before and after our gameplay sessions, other characters would constantly shake and teleport across the screen. They’d regularly show their positions in different spots than we actually were. The game would constantly attempt to catch up. At any time, you can’t be sure where things are and how you’re moving. Spelunky players know that, well, those are the two bedrock elements upon which the gameplay is built.
Of course, “the online’s rough at launch” has become something of a given in recent years. What makes Spelunky 2‘s situation different is the severity of the issues, and that their presence before launch day suggests it’s not about overloaded servers that aren’t ready for the traffic. The game’s reliance on precision — and global conditions making more people dependent on online multiplayer for social interaction — just makes these troubles more troublesome.
If you’re not interested in using the online multiplayer functions of Spelunky 2, all of this may be less important to you. The daily runs and leaderboards function well enough. The solo experiences remain largely intact. You can live and die by your own skill in the main adventure, playing as one of a number of endearing characters and encountering new foes that serve as fresh puzzle pieces to solve levels through calculated risk and make it through alive.
In an effort to make Spelunky 2 feel like the first Spelunky, creator Derek Yu and the co-development team at BlitWorks have built a world that’s more treacherous. Of course, making a game with the difficulty of the first game wouldn’t feel like when players first discovered Spelunky. Instead, the sequel both subverts that game’s ideas and swaps in different ones, to make you just as hesitant and unsure when encountering new things as you once were. It’s not entirely unapproachable to newcomers, though. Without that knowledge to subvert, it’s more of a traditional learning process. It can be punishing. It can be exacting. And it really makes you earn progress through practice and growth. For both vets and newbies, it nails this signature feel.
But for now, just don’t play online.