Everyday Spelunker, a game which debuted in 1983, has now opened up its caves for iOS users. Although the industry has profoundly changed over 30 years, an outstanding title should stand the test of time. The app stays faithful to the original Atari and Commodore 64 versions, so it should definitely please retro gamers set adrift on memory bliss. All that spelunking, however, comes with a price.
Its 8-bit driven nostalgia absolutely passes the eye test. Whether it's jumping on a rope to explore a new section of the cave, climbing down a ladder, or even using your gun to eviscerate a few ghosts, Everyday Spelunker is a sight to behold. As a middle aged gamer, I'm a bit partial to cheesy yet charming video game music from the era, and this app contains an visual and aural flair. As far as first impression goes, this title doesn't have anything to worry about.
A d-pad located on the left hand side of your device controls your spelunker's movements, with a J button on the right employed for jumping and the A icon serving as your fire button. Pressing the d-pad and the J at the same time enables you to jump over crevices or leap onto ladders. When ghosts appear, your can just fire in their general direction and as long as they're a safe distance from your explorer, they will vanish into thin air after a few blasts.
Although the controls are easy to pick up, they're not exactly perfect to the touch and unfortunately this app needs a high level of precision. Your spelunker will die over the slightest misstep. Whether he mistimes a jump, accidentally falls into a seemingly innocuous hole, or awkwardly grabs a rope and misses, this explorer has a low tolerance for pain. Tozai Games understands this dynamic, and in the app store they've even described our hero as the "gaming's weakest character." Here's a pic of my cave guy missing his jump, and within half a second he's as good as dead.
The good news is dying during spelunking isn't such a big deal, since the game offers continuous play. While that's a positive element to the app, the lack of precise controls leads to way more deaths than you can imagine, and who wants to perish due to sensitivity issues with your d-pad or virtual buttons?
Adding insult to injury, the app costs $3.99, a price that's a bit too steep if you're not a diehard 8-bit gamer. If you decide to fork over four bucks, you will still have to pay for in-app purchases for extra spelunking stages.
The third strike came when the app crashed on me twice. Most titles I've played on my iPad have crashed on occasion, but with Everyday Spelunker my explorer had to once again start from the beginning. For platform titles with a challenging control mechanic and a weak kneed protagonist, that's simply a no-no. As much as I love killing ghosts and racking up my Game Center achievements, my time in the cave wasn't too thrilling.
Everyday Spelunker ruined its promising start with its unsatisfactory control mechanic which led to more deaths than I could handle. I applaud the developers for sticking with the original console version, but if one can't seamlessly navigate in a difficult world, what's the point? The $3.99 price tag also left me a bit cold, and although I may go spelunking down the road, I'm leaving this cave for good.