Spelunker HD Deluxe | Review | Nintendo Switch

  • Developer: Strictly Limited Games
  • Publisher: ININ Games
  • Release Date: 06/08/2021
  • Price: £22.99 / $34.99
  • Review code provided by ININ Games

Introducing: Spelunker HD Deluxe Review

I have a confession. I’m not a fan of Arcade Difficulty games. I’m just not the type of gamer who has to have that level of challenge when it comes to my free time. I understand that not all games are made for all gamers and we should all be ok when a title comes along that simply is not within our wheelhouse. I’m old enough to remember when arcade games were the new Hotness and Big Business had to find a way to separate us sweaty-palmed junkies from our hard-earned quarters. Brutal arcade games became the norm and quite frankly, I spent a lot of my money on things like Asteroids and Pac-Man which did get harder on a scale, but you could get a decent amount of time in before it did. The game Spelunker came into the world’s arcades in 1985 and it was one such game; Brutal difficulty needing perfect button presses to avoid the various obstacles and mobs being hurled at you from all directions. Ok, the snakes aren’t hurled, but you get the idea. It only takes one hit for you to be dissolved or flattened and you start back at whatever checkpoint you were lucky enough to find. So hundreds of years later, how is Spelunker these days? I think I have an unpopular opinion on my hands.

Digging In

The story of Spelunker is pretty much nonexistent. You’re a person who is navigating a cave (a Spelunker, if you will) filled with snakes, ghosts, steam vents, fire, and more all with one directive: ending you. There is a treasure at the bottom of the cave and that is your goal. You get the treasure and become a millionaire, living happily ever after. Or, in reality, you go to the next stage, but that’s pretty much it. That’s the story. Let’s be honest, no one is playing this game for the story and there are arcade games out there with far less of a setup. There are no distractions like costumes, romances, or even unlockables – Just straightforward Spelunking fun.

Letting Off Steam

With the caves filled to the brim with various collectibles and power-ups, one would have to hope for some sort of introductions/screen letting us know what is what, but there is none. Some are easy enough to figure out, like the bomb is a bomb (save for the extra-long fuse?) and coins/money are more of a score than a currency. But waypoints and air canisters in particular took a few tries before it made sense, which to some can be part of the fun, I guess. However, as presented, it feels like the game is really made for people who already know Spelunker well enough not to ask. For the rest of us, thankfully there are Wikis and Let’s Play videos to help. There is a screen with the controls listed on it, but the items and what they mean are nowhere to be seen. Coming on to this title as a newcomer, I had hoped to challenge myself and “git gud”, as the youths say, but at the end of a 20 min session, I’d find myself feeling more crestfallen than challenged. I never found myself asking “what could I do to get better?”, my thoughts were always about how the title could be better.

There are improvements over the arcade version. The HD part of the title refers to the fact that you can choose between the original arcade graphics or the newer HD graphics. The HD graphics weren’t bad, but I think they made it a little harder (Is that even possible?). With the arcade graphics, things like pitfalls were clearly designated in clear, missing chunks. With the HD graphics, it leaves room for much more nuance as to where your foot is when you hit that crucial jump. It’s not really an upgrade in my opinion if it only makes things harder. I gave both a go and even when playing multiplayer, everyone I played with seemed to prefer the classic look. There didn’t seem to be a difference in the music between the two versions and at least the soundtrack part was fairly innocuous. However, there is a small tune that plays when a player dies. I can still hear it in my nightmares. I’ve now heard that sound more times than I have heard my own heartbeat. I will be hearing it in my head for years to come.

Going Batty

The game does offer multiplayer mode in all four game types, and the option to play online or off. Your standard game is Adventure and that takes you (and your pals) through a set, static levels, trying for that treasure at the end. In Competition mode, you are in direct opposition to the other players and when one of you crosses the finish line, the rest of the players get 30 seconds to finish or fail. Championship is a leaderboard-style setup that offers solo, offline, and online games. And lastly, there is Endless Cave NEO mode, where you and your friends face an ever-downward scrolling cave system, and not only do you have to avoid and collect, but you also now have a timer threatening to crush you on top of it. I played solo most of the time but did get a couple of games of local Multiplayer in. One of the players I was with enjoyed the game while we were playing but did say he couldn’t see himself buying the game afterward.

The game did run like a champ and even with three players, and the Switch never lagged or stuttered. The one bothersome thing about the graphics is actually on the other side of the fence, in the Classic version. When a bomb goes off, the screen flashes in such a way that I really feel they should have put a disclaimer on it. I could feel the flashes in the back of my head every time and I’m not even bothered by flashing lights. I can understand wanting a faithful port of the game, but small concessions could have been made. I can’t imagine anyone would rant about them turning that flashing down a tad.

Finding The Treasure

I took on this title as a challenge to myself and at the end of the day, I failed. I don’t want to point fingers at the game, there are people out there who are rabid for classic arcade-style games with this sort of difficulty and I tip my hat to them. If liking games that are difficult labels you a Hardcore Gamer, then I happily stand with the Filthy Casuals. This game has its audience but they have likely already found the game. Even on the nostalgia front, this title was just not there for me. It feels like there could have been a fun party game-style cave crawler buried in there somewhere, but since games are no longer being made solely to suck the quarters out of my pocket (loot boxes aside), I feel like these types of games should evolve. There are arcade classics that you can turn your brain off and play for hours on end, but, at least for me, Spelunker is just not one of those games.


  • For fans of the original, this is fairly faithful to that game.
  • The updated graphics do look good, especially on the Switch.


  • The difficulty is a turn-off
  • The sound needed as much updating as the graphics did

For hardcore, arcade difficulty game addicts only!

Scoring Policy