Spelunker Party is one of the more adorable games from Square Enix, rating up there with World of Final Fantasy, that is built for a younger gaming audience that has yet to wet their gaming feet in the gaming world. What’s remarkable about this game is how easy it is to use and how much it resembles a combination of different time periods of the video game industry. There are a lot of arcade influences, such as Jungle Hunt, that have made their way into this game and actually make the title quite fun. But it’s deeper than an arcade game, which makes it an even better gaming experience.
Without further delay, let’s dig right into it.
Last November Square Enix released the PlayStation 4 version of this title and, while I did like it, it didn’t blow me away. Having been a year, and now seeing it release on the Nintendo Switch as a party game, meaning you can have one or more explorers playing, I have to give the game a bit more credit for the effort. The same premise as last year’s title is there, as you explore through different caverns and come up on different obstacles during your journey of collecting artifacts and goodies. You can collect a bevy of items, valuable goods that equal out to equipment and such, and you also collect keys to help push you through into the next part of the level. Once you complete your journey, you’re brought back out to a map, where you can continue onto the next challenge.
That essentially is the main crux of gameplay you will encounter during Tozai, Inc.’s Spelunker Party! and it is pretty easy on the surface in terms of gameplay structure. But there is another layer to its simplicity.
By doing well, and earning upgrades, you can find pieces of puzzles inside the cave that will equal out to special equipment. Once equipped, you can customize and make your character your own. You can even go as far as having a pet with you during your journey, which is super-duper adorable. In a sense, there are some RPG aspects to this game, nothing too heavy like a Final Fantasy XV, because it is Square Enix, but those RPG aspects add another layer to the game that is unexpected, yet welcomed. Having some RPG elements helps to prepare younger gamers for bigger games and experiences. It also encourages them to keep exploring in the game, which is what the game wants you to do. Getting better, finding more goods and beating harder levels is the driving point to the entire gameplay experience. Knowing what to expect out of a game, leveling/rewarding/upgrading, will transition gamers into better developing better strategies, which will translate into learning how the gameplay works. I know that’s not the upfront intended purpose of this game, but it is something I believe comes with it and it’s absolutely invaluable for younger gamers figuring out whether they want to continue gaming or do something outside (yuck).
Preparing one’s self for an RPG experience is a positive, but there is also a negative that comes with Spelunker Party!.
Spelunker Party! can become a frustrating and difficult game quick. The ways to perish in the game come in a bevy of different colors. If your character falls from a vine/rope inside of a cave at too great a height, then they will die. If the character doesn’t jump the right amount of space between rope/vine and the ground, then they will hurt themselves and die. There are easy ways to die in the game, one even being running out of oxygen (you have an oxygen meter at the bottom of the screen that is constantly draining until you hit a checkpoint), and it can be quite difficult to deal with, especially if you’re younger. As a grumpy adult, I found myself a little frustrated with some obstacles and challenges, such as a giant rock making its way down a slanted path of different size ropes to climb on and avoid it. I must have died nine times trying to figure that out. There was also a stage where a ghost was blocking my path to get a treasure, but it was doing it so well that there was no way to get around it. I was crawling (on hands/knees) through a small passage way and at the end was a ghost. This meant I couldn’t stand up or pull out my ghost gun to get by it. For the better part of an hour I simply had to avoid this area. It didn’t hurt the level, which I beat, but it did frustrate me and activate my OCD need for level completion. Eventually I did find a way around it, but wow was it not easy.
You never want to frustrate younger gamers. They simply won’t come back to a game. That’s my biggest fear of this difficulty, but maybe, as a parent, I’m overthinking the ability of children and their tenacity to find a solution. Having gone back recently to play 1942/43 (arcade games) and found myself incredibly suck-y at them, I may have to go with kids are better at games than adults. Anyway, it’s probably me, but there is a layer of frustration there that could get in the way. If you take a chance on this game, then just prepare yourself for it.
Regardless of difficulty, there is more positive about this game than negative. It’s certainly easy to pick up and go and it now features multiple players, meaning that we can all die together (kidding). In all honesty and seriousness, though, Spelunker Party! is a good game and I’m glad it made it to the Switch. I will certainly encourage my younger gamers in the household to pick this up and go before they dive into such things as Final Fantasy (pick one) or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It’s a good starter that works well for what it’s trying to be.
On the presentation side of the tracks, it’s on par with what Tozai, Inc. did a year ago with the game. You have a lot of cartoony-looking characters that are both boy/girl. The worlds aren’t incredibly complicated visually, but they do enough to cater to a younger audience. I do want to compliment Tozai on the lighting/shading, though. The caves really do have a visual personality of their own and it works in adding just a bit of creepiness/mystery to the exploration. The caves are the focus, front and center, of the title, so that really isn’t a surprise that they’re the best looking part of the game. Anyway, it’s a very cute and pretty game.
So, is this game worth it on the Switch? If you have a child that is too young for Mario (that is a possibility) or other Switch titles, then this one is actually not a bad way to get them going in gaming. The price is right ($29.99) and since it’s multiplayer you can experience it with them. The difficulty might be a sticking point here and there, but maybe it will make them a better gamer. Regardless, it’s a good title and worth having on the Nintendo Switch.