A while back, I can’t remember if I decided on the podcast or on a stream, I made a commitment to finally beat Yama in Spelunky. Not only beat him for the first time, but I wanted to do it on stream. With the announcement of Spelunky 2 and my overall enjoyment of games like Dead Cells, Enter the Gungeon and The Binding of Isaac reaching several zeniths at various points in 2018. It became time to take care of some unfinished business.
Since I first played it upon its release on Playstation 3, I’ve been both drop dead in love with Spelunky and outright angry with it in equal measure. I’ve gone through periods without touching it for months and severe stretches where it’s all I wanted to play. I’d gotten to the point where I bested Olmec and felt really good about myself, but having known about getting to Hell and the ‘secret’ boss Yama, he felt so far away yet so within reach. Like that older sibling that beats you in games by their mere age or size difference. I’ve always known I was good enough to get there and finish it, but the roguelike Rube Goldberg machine would continue to find new, hilarious ways to break both my heart and my spirit forcing me to walk away once again. But this time, I was back with a goal in mind, “I’m going to beat Spelunky ON STREAM for any to see.” No, I’m not looking to get into the shenanigans that the wonderful players atop the Mossranking leaderboards with Max % and Low % runs. Those skills are truly beyond me, but I’ll continue to watch those folks do weird things to the very fabric of Spelunky that I find fascinating to behold. This is not me with this game. I’m here for silly fun, stupid-but-oddly-complicated-deaths and the odd pissed off shopkeeper or sick ghost photography.
On more than one occasion, I found myself post-stream wondering what the hell I was doing. Be it having a series of runs ending in the mines or pre-black market jungle, the gathering of good momentum with a fun build only to be undone by a dark level, accidentally landing at just the right spot for a yeti to play infinite ping pong with my corpse, the random telefragging of an unseen Croc man triggered into his garbage off screen or that one time you forget that using Anubis’ scepter can backfire in all the ways. The all-too-familiar cycle was coming around again and I was breaking as I had several times before.
Then something happened that I wasn’t expecting. I beat Olmec in less than 8 minutes. This was the rejuvenation I didn’t know I needed. I’d spent hours at work, when able, practicing my hell runs on PS Vita. I made good headway doing that, but the streams suffered in the morning either from fatigue or carried over frustration. What led to the “Speedlunky” trophy was the thought that this quick approach would hone skills while still saving the actual attempts at hell for both the daily challenge and any additional runs on stream. I was never really sure if this idea worked or not, but after crapping the bed on a daily challenge and a couple subsequent runs, I let Jason Marshall of Nerds Gone Platinum (who was chatting on the stream) that I was going to try speeding through. What happened next was damn-near perfect. RNGesus put both the key and the chest right next to each other. “Fuck it, Jason! I’m going to hell,” was my next statement. What followed is a distilled-to-perfection reason of why I love roguelikes and Spelunky in general. RNGesus smiled upon me in ways of which I was finally both ready and able to take advantage. In the same level, I successfully robbed the shop and ended up with a jetpack, gun, box of bombs and paste. I was foreseeably made. Apart from a close shave in the black market, I was in control of my destiny this time. It was power unlike any I’ve felt in a game outside of those silly cheats from early GTA games. Aggressive shopkeepers? No problem. Croc men? Brushed aside. I even lined up both Anubis I and II next to each other without much sweat. Olmec was basically a non-issue as well as he invited himself into that lava to escort me to hell like a protagonist in an old melodrama laying his coat in a puddle for a lady. Hell brought its challenges as I was still new to traversing it, but I was in the zone. Not Vlad, any Succubus or tiki trap was stopping me no matter their effort. Then came Yama bringing with him a realization: I’d never been here before. This was all new for me. That’s where it set in. I was no longer in control. I had the apple on my head and Yama had the gun. RNGesus had led me as far as he could, but Yama’s on the throne and deserves more respect than I was able to give as he thundered a skull upon my head taking my final life point. It was over. Yama 1, me 0. That journey, with Jason watching and Jose Jimenez coming on later offering “Wu-Tang!” as the appropriate encouragement was the cycle beginning to wane. Within days, I’d achieve Speedlunky which would act as a sort of Samson holding me up so I wouldn’t break.
Trials and tribulations would continue as I slowly stopped playing at work, but using my time to watch Twitch streams of the game instead. I was reminded of a tip Nick Suttner wrote years ago on the playstation blog and since I didn’t have couch buddies, Twitch became my way of seeing others play, especially Yandie, who found time to grace one of my streams. He’s a great player and actually coached me through conversations as he went through hell run after hell run. This made me love being a part of Twitch because none of the folks I interacted with were the “git gud” crowd. Folks were pleasant and helpful and it was therapeutic talking with them. For that alone, I’ll continue following their stuff.
Then, just one day shy of the 10th anniversary of the release of original Spelunky, the following happened…
Our own Moose joined me in party for the entirety of the stream and, while playing an invaluable role in keeping me calm whether he knew it or not, bore witness to my first Yama win. It was nice to be with a great friend in the final stretch of this because it’s something I really miss. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve met a ton of wonderful folks on Twitch, through podcasts and Facebook groups and I’m even lucky enough to have a partner that expresses interest in gaming with me. But that steady group of folks who could come hang out and play games is gone for me. Thank goodness for the internet these things can still happen.
But yeah, I accomplished my goal and it felt nothing short of glorious! Wrapping back to the title, is Kielunkin’ ending? The short answer is no. I’m glad to have beaten Yama, sure. But I need to stream something else for a while. I’ve had a 5-year relationship with Spelunky that, through its ups and downs, has been one I won’t soon forget. If and when I get a PC, I’ll do this all over again for sure. In the time since finishing it, I’ve thought about my next game to stream. It’ll be Hitman 2. I’ll do all levels, elusive targets as they come and just be crazy with it. I hope anyone that reads will tune in weekday mornings 10am eastern time with streams going about an hour and change. Even my partner has expressed interest in playing it. Maybe she’ll join me (chances are low, but here’s to hoping). I’ll be doing the Holiday Hoarders on January 2nd. Corey and I have briefly talked about doing some Hitman stuff very similar to that site we always mention as our inspiration. I want to make it happen because I’m in love with that game super hard. And yeah, Spelunky and its sequel will both be streamed to varying degrees as time allows, but I’m glad I finished it on stream with my fellow Helldiver and Hammer Bro.
Banana and out!