Players play as an adventurer who, starting with a whip, some rope, and a few bombs, explores a series of dangerous procedurally-generated caves. Players explore the caves while amassing a fortune in treasure, acquiring better equipment, defeating relentless monsters, avoiding unforgiving traps, and saving damsels in distress along the way. However, the game features permadeath, in which death results in restarting the adventure from the very beginning.
As a 2D platformer, the core abilities of the player include: attack, stomp, run, jump, ledge grab, and climb. The player may fall a significant distance before taking damage, which can be avoided by careful ledge grabs or equipment use. Ledges two blocks high can be grabbed normally, and equipment can greatly improve the player's traversal. Knockback physics are a significant aspect of taking damage, throwing items, and using bombs to affect the environment or attack. Air control in mid-jump includes the ability to start running, allowing for very precise and practiced maneuvers.
Items and monetary rewards such as gold and jewels are scattered through every level, out in the open or inside containers. These containers range from breakable jars, to locked chests, to the very ground itself. Rewards are converted to specific amounts of money which serves as the player's final accumulated score. Equipment can also be discovered in the world, or purchased from shops.
One or more "damsels" can be rescued throughout the levels. They exist stationary until picked up, at which point they will begin walking if put down or thrown. They will not jump out of pits and will not pass through webs. Damsels have hit points just like the player, and can act as a limited damage sponge while being carried or thrown to trigger traps.
In the HD version; the sprites used for damsels can be swapped between a woman, a man, a dog (which can optionality be swapped out for a sloth) or one of the three randomly. All damsels rescued reward the player (at the level complete screen) with a kiss that restores one heart each.
In addition to rescuing damsels, players can choose to use them as sacrifice them at altars to gain favor with Kali. This will net the player useful items that can used as they descend further and further.
The player can purchase various goods from stores that can exist on the map. There are gun shops, bomb shops, general stores, gambling rooms, and even a sort of brothel complete with a spinning red light. It is possible simply to purchase a gun and then shoot the shopkeeper, resulting in free items and some dropped money. This carries grave consequences, as the player will become "wanted" and will no longer be welcome in stores. Entering any store after shoplifting will result in the shopkeeper becoming immediately hostile and trigger a shopkeeper standing near the exit to every level until the player dies or escapes the caves. This makes the game much more difficult, as one has to either scavenge for health and supplies or risk their life to rob another store. Any damage caused to a store will similarly make the shopkeeper angry. This includes boulders from picking up an idol, and any stray bombs. If a shopkeeper ever drops his shotgun by taking damage, he is entirely capable of picking up other weapons from his inventory! An angry NPC with a rapid fire energy weapon is a fast track to death.
- Gun shops contain firearms or explosives.
- Bomb shops can contain more bombs, or the sticky bomb upgrade.
- General stores can offer a wide variety of things. It could be more ropes or bombs or a multitude of other items.
- Item shops can contain rarer items such as jetpacks, teleporters, and mattocks.
- Clothing shops contain wearable items such as the cape or climbing gloves.
- Whip - The whip is the most basic weapon, and also one of the most versatile. The whip has a damage of 3, and can reach one square, but can also hit an enemy that's behind the player if it's close enough.
- Machete - While the machete does less damage than the whip, it has a much faster attack speed, and wider arc range. A useful weapon, but doesn't replace the whip, meaning it takes up a handslot.
- Bow (Classic only) - The bow is the most basic of projectile weapons. An arrow can be knocked into the bow, and charged for additional damage. The Bow uses limited ammunition, but can be refilled if the player picks up the missed arrows.
- Pistol (Classic only) - The pistol is a basic weapon with unlimited ammunition that does more damage than the bow, but is still low damage.
- Shotgun - A powerful weapon that fires a spread of pellets at the enemy. It can take down nearly any normal enemy in one hit at close range. All shopkeepers carry these, and the weapon can be looted from a shopkeeper's body after he is killed.
- Webgun - The webgun shoots a spiderweb into the world, which takes up one square, and considerably slows down any enemies caught in it. Often used to kill shopkeepers with the "unlimited bounce trick". Webs will also stop arrows fired by traps.
- Freeze Ray - A gun that shoots a ray of frost, instantly freezing enemies for a short while. The gun itself does no damage, but most frozen enemies can be killed with one hit from another weapon or by jumping on them.
- Plasma Cannon - A very powerful gun, that can be found in the mothership level. It shoots plasma rays, that explode on impact, much like a bomb would.
- Magic Scepter - This weapon shoots homing rings of death towards the closest enemy, which will one-hit kill any enemy. The item is only obtainable in the Ancient Ruins.
- Boomerang - A large bent stick that will return horizontally after being thrown across the screen. Found often in the Jungle levels. When thrown by cavemen it can juggle and damage the player multiple times.
- Crysknife - A powerful knife that replaces the whip. The crysknife will one-hit kill most enemies in the game and is found in a pool of acid in the worm level.
- Shield - The Shield is a powerful melee weapon, capable of killing enemies whilst also blocking incoming damage.
Certain types of equipment are always active once obtained. These appear in their icon form underneath the life, bomb, and rope counters. Others work like carried items and can be picked up or left behind at will.
- Pitcher's Mitt - The pitcher's mitt enhances the Spelunkers throw distance with any throwable item. Thrown items will be launched in a straight line and continue to travel until they hit an obstacle.
- Spring Boots - The spring boots boost the Spelunkers jump height from 2 squares to 4, making it double the height, and oftentimes, double the danger, in which the player will jump too high, and land in spikes!
- Spike Boots - The spike boots cause players do 3 damage on landing instead of 1. Also, the spike boots increase traction (particularly on ice).
- Ropes - In a single-player game, players begin with four ropes. Ropes allow players to climb up to hard to reach treasures, or allowing a safe descent from ledges.
- Jetpack - The Jetpack allows players to fly around levels. It is the most expensive item, but can be reliably found behind the psychic alien found in the Ice caves. The jetpack has a limited amount of fuel per jump; however, when players return to the ground, the fuel is restored.
- Flares - Flares are used to light up dark areas when there is no other light source, and can also be used as a makeshift projectile.
- Spectacles - Spectacles give the player the ability to see gems and items hidden in rocks, as well as giving the character the ability to have a wider range of view in dark levels.
- Udjat Eye - The Udjat Eye, in addition to showing hidden gems and items (like the Spectacles), blinks and chirps when the Spelunker is near the entrance to the Black Market.
- Teleporter - Allows teleportation in the direction the player is looking at or pressing towards, but if players teleport inside the ground or outside the level, they will die instantly. Also, most enemies are telefragged if players teleport into them.
- Hedjet - The hedjet can be used with the scepter to open the secret door to the city of gold. In the classic version of Spelunky, the hedjet allows the player to see in the dark and prevents the ghost from spawning.
- Kapala - A skull cup, provided by Kali, after making sufficient sacrifices to her. It stores blood, which can be obtained when enemies or NPCs have been injured. It affords one heart every time it's filled.
- Book of the Dead - Reveals the location of the secret door to Hell by grimacing quickly when the Spelunker is directly above it. It is found in the City of Gold and guarded by Anubis II.
- Climbing Gloves - Allows wall climbing on any surface.
- Compass - Provides a large arrow on the screen pointing to the exit door.
- Mattock (Pickaxe) - Allows digging through a roughly 50 blocks, recovering any gems or gold within. When broken, the head of the mattock is left behind.
- Parachute - Will deploy automatically during any fall that would cause damage.
- Camera - The flash distracts nearby enemies and can stun ghosts for several seconds. It can also be used to kill undead enemies.
- Eggplant - The eggplant can be found by sacrificing a mystery box at an altar. The eggplant can be used on King Yama to turn him into a giant, immobile eggplant himself. The eggplant only has one HP.
- Spikes - Instant death, when dropped on from above. Gently landing on them (while using a Cape or Parachute, for example) is safe.
- Arrow Trap - 2 hearts damage. Will trigger with anything that crosses its line of sight.
- Tiki Trap - Tiki statues that extend spikes from their sides when the Spelunker or enemies approach.
- Mines - Explode when the player or other enemies walk over them.
- Powder Box - An explosive box filled with black powder.
- Boulder - Demolishes all in its horizontal path. Used to protect treasure. Will crush any spelunker that gets in its way. Triggered when taking the Golden Idol in the Mines.
- Lava - Molten rock that will melt just about anything.
- Ceiling Trap - A spiked ceiling that will begin drop when the player attempts to take the Golden Idol in the Temple.
- Crush Trap - Heavy stone that locks to the player in both vertical and horizontal direction in an attempt crush them into a wall.
- Turret - Standard spaceship defense system used to deter intruders.
- Spike Ball - A spiky ball chained to a block that perpetually rotates either clockwise or counter-clockwise. This trap is only found in Hell. If the block the spike ball is tethered to is destroyed with a bomb, the spike ball will be sent flying, destroying terrain much like a small boulder.
- Snake - The bane of every adventurer. It enjoys hiding in pots.
- Cobra - A deadly serpent with a distinctive hood and venomous spit.
- Bat - It prefers eating bugs, but will attack human beings if it's hungry enough.
- Spider - A large spider that will jump in the direction of the player.
- Spinning Spider - It hangs from the ceilings on a silky thread.
- Giant Spider - A gargantuan spider. She traps her prey in sticky webs.
- Skeleton - A living skeleton the plays dead until the player approaches.
- Scorpion - A predatory arachnid with a poisonous stinger on its tail.
- Caveman - One of man's primitive ancestors.
- Scarab - A flying insect made of pure gold that's worshipped in some cultures. Used to light the way in dark areas.
- Tiki Man - A man that often wields a giant boomerang.
- Frog - A large cave frog.
- Fire Frog - A rare species of frog that's filled with explosive swamp gas.
- Giant Frog - This extra-large amphibian carries its children inside of its mouth.
- Mantrap - A carnivorous plant with a taste for flesh; it will devour any small enemy it encounters.
- Piranha - An enemy that appears in the jungle levels.
- Old Bitey - A giant Piranha that inhabits the (sometimes) flooded lower portion of the Jungle.
- Killer Bee - A bee with a harpoon sized stinger. It's very protective of its hive.
- Queen Bee - Bee royalty. She might have some delicious royal jelly stuck in her abdomen.
- Snail - A slimy mollusk that blows acidic bubbles when it's agitated.
- Monkey - Its pranks are the leading causes of injury to unwary jungle explorers.
- Golden Monkey - A friendly but elusive primate that enjoys striking off on an adventure. Obtained by sacrificing a golden idol on the altar of Kali. It excretes gold.
- Jiang Shi - This restless zombie attacks humans to absorb their life essence.
- Vampire - An undead bloodsucker with superhuman strength. He can change into a bat.
- Ghost - This frightening apparition haunts the caves. Appears when a player spends too much time in a given level.
- Bacterium - A dangerous single-celled organism that feeds on decaying matter.
- Worm Baby - It looks small now, but adults can grow to a length of several miles.
- Yeti - A playful creature that unfortunately doesn't know its own strength.
- Mammoth - A large mammoth that shoots ice beams.
- Alien - Invaders from space.
- UFO - A flying saucer powered by mysterious technology. Explodes on impact with player and ejects the alien inside. Also, capable of using anything technology to destroy blocks of rock and ice.
- Alien Lord - A powerful psychic creature that commands a large spacecraft.
- Alien Queen - The queen of the aliens. Found only in the mothership. She fires a death ray at the player when approached.
- Hawk Man - A dangerous leader of the Olmec cult. He's always looking for people to sacrifice.
- Croc Man - This elite temple guard has magical powers that make him very tough to kill.
- Magma Man - An elemental of fire that fashioned a body out of lava.
- Scorpion Fly - It's as dangerous on the ground as it is in the air.
- Mummy - Cursed tomb lords with a very old grudge to bear. Shoots cursed scarabs at those who disturb it.
- Anubis - A jackal-headed god who rules over the world of the dead. Watch out for his psychic powers that can kill any adventurer in an instant.
- Anubis II - A second jackal-headed god who presumably also rules over the world of the dead. Anubis II guards the book of the dead in the city of gold and repeatedly summons red skeletons until he is dealt with. Anubis II is also unique in that he will follow the player to subsequent levels if not killed.
- Succubus - An insidious demon that poses as an innocent damsel, waiting for adventurers to get too close before striking.
- Blue Devil - An enemy that is capable of destroying terrain with its spiky head.
- Horse Head - One of two minibosses in Yama's chamber. He has the head of a horse and drops a bomb box when killed.
- Ox Face - The second of two minibosses in Yama's chamber. He has the face of an ox and drops a bomb box when killed.
- Olmec - The main boss in Spelunky. Defeating Olmec opens the door that allows the player to win the game.
- Yama - The special hell boss of Spelunky. Defeating Yama opens the door that allows the player to achieve a hell victory.
The adventure levels are procedurally generated, resulting in a unique experience every playthrough. Each world also has random events or "feelings" that may trigger when a level is generated.
World 1 - The Mines
The caves are the first tileset in Spelunky. Scattered with minimal gold, spiders, scorpions, bats, snakes, and the occasional caveman, this is the easiest location. Random events include:
- "I can't see anything!" - Darkness consumes the level, a torch appears at the player's feet and there are sconces to be lit throughout the level. Golden scarabs also generate light and can be collected for a large amount of gold.
- "I hear snakes! I hate snakes!" - An increased number and variety of snakes spawn. Always includes a deep shaft with a mulititude of snakes and jewels at the bottom. Also features a Mattock to dig with.
- "My Skin is Crawling..." - An increased number of all varieties of spiders and webbing.
World 2 - The Jungle
The jungle is a considerable step up from the Caves. Littered with frogs, exploding frogs, spike idols, piranhas, man eating plants, and "Jaws", this is the second state of play. Random events include:
- "The dead are restless!" - Gravestones populate the area, with a higher likelihood of Skeletons lying in wait. Piranhas are skeletal (but just as dangerous), and Vampires and Jiang Shi roam.
- "You hear rushing water..." - The bottom of the level is flooded, and filled with Piranhas. Old Bitey waits for any Spelunker brave enough to dive into the depths.
World 3 - The Ice Caves
The Ice Caves are considerably easier than the previous floors, with subtle differences. The Ice Caves have little traction, meaning the player can slip and slide all over, and there is no enclosed floor, meaning the player can plummet to their deaths in The Abyss. In addition to the aforementioned perils, there are also Yetis, Alien spaceships, and a boss Psychic Alien.
World 4 - The Temple
The Ancient Ruins are the final standard levels in Spelunky. Featuring Lava pits, crush traps, earlier traps, Worshipers of Olmec, amongst many other environmental hazards, this is a test of any true Spelunker's mettle.
World 5 - Hell
Hell is the true final world accessible through the secret second exit of Level 4-4 after fighting Olmec. The exit can only be accessed with the Book of the Dead, located in the City of Gold. Hell features horned Devils, Vampires, and Succubi who pose as damsels. Spike traps, lava pits and swinging spike balls are also plentiful. The final boss, King Yama, awaits in his throne room on level 5-4.
At the end of each world players will come across Tunnel Man, a miner who asks for items in exchange for building a shortcut that allows players to start at a given level. He will ask for items in a certain order, and players are only allowed to give him one set of items in each encounter. The requirements for each tunnel are as follows.
- Jungle: 1 bomb, 1 rope, $10000
- Ice Caves: 2 bombs, 2 ropes, a shotgun
- Temple: 3 bombs, 3 ropes, the Golden Key (brought from the mines)
The Haunted Castle
The haunted castle can be found on any level where a text displays "The dead are restless." It's a level filled with undead and the legendary Black Knight, who wields a unique shield.
It's possible to gain access to the worm level in levels featuring a sticky red dot. When jumping on there while also holding a damsel, a gigantic worm will appear and swallow the player. In the level, players are making their way through said worm's innards.
The Black Market
The Black Market can be found through a secret entrance in the Jungle. The Udjat eye can be used to pinpoint it's exact location. It's a place filled with numerous shops and it's possible to get the ankh there.
A level that can be found in the Ice Caves, when a text displays "It feels like the fourth of July..." It's an alien mothership, guarded by the alien queen, who can be killed for the very powerful plasma cannon.
The City of Gold
The legendary City of Gold can be found in the temple after killing Anubis. It's a city that is literally made of gold. It contains the book of the dead, which can be used to eventually reach Hell.
On February 20th, 2013 two pieces of downloadable content were released for Spelunky on Xbox 360. One piece of DLC included 24 new maps for use in the Spelunky's deathmatch mode while the other provided an additional 8 characters for use in the game. Both pieces of DLC are priced at 160 Microsoft Points. Developer Derek Yu stated on the Mossmouth forums that paid Spelunky DLC would be relegated to fun extras and that any additional content to the single player game such as new levels would be provided free of charge via an Xbox Live title update.
The later PC, PS3 and Vita releases of Spelunky included all the DLC content.
Soon after releasing the game, Derek Yu founded a small independent developer named Mossmouth with Andy Hull, which then developed an updated version of Spelunky for the Xbox 360 (via Xbox 360 Games Store). It was published by Microsoft on July 4th, 2012 for 1200 MSP (USD$15). Along with redone high-definition graphics and advanced graphical effects, the update includes local multiplayer (in both the traditional "adventure" mode and a new competitive "deathmatch" mode, which is a series of "last man standing" bouts in similar vein to the Bomberman series) for up to four simultaneous players and/or bots, a brand new soundtrack, online leaderboards, and 20 achievements (worth 400 Gamerscore).
PC System Requirements
- OS: Microsoft® Windows® XP / Vista / 7 / 8
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.8GHz or equivalent processor
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Graphics: 3D graphics card
- DirectX: Version 9.0c
- Hard Drive: 200 MB available space
- Additional Notes: Xbox 360 Controller or equivalent supported