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The Spelunky Variations

Since its arrival on PC, fans have been modding Derek Yu's brilliant Roguelike: here are some of their best efforts.

Spelunky's not the easiest of games in the first place, but it's still nice to see that there are people out there who wish it was a little bit harder. People like Marsgreekgod, for example, who's made a mod for the game called Everything Blows Up.

Guess what happens in Everything Blows Up? I'll give you a clue: your average life expectancy will drop to about 15 seconds. One bomb, one dead bat, one snake bonked on the head, and the screen just erupts as this wave of fire and smoke spreads outwards engulfing everything. Know that bit in Independence Day where the guy's doing a little midnight filing work in an office while aliens blow up the city around him? He looks up, and the window's just a vision of swirling flames. Everything Blows Up is a bit like that, but with fewer filing cabinets.

This is clearly bad news.

And Everything Blows Up is just the start: Spelunky's a game that's born for modding, really, and not just because its GameMaker basis encourages even amateur coders to get stuck in. Spelunky's a modder's delight because it's a perfect blend of rules and randomisation: the rules give you something to riff on, and the randomisation means your tweaks and additions are quickly muddled in with everything else.

I'm not smart enough to make a Spelunky mod, of course, but I can at least enjoy them when other people crank them out. Here's a handy list of some of the best out there, with links included, and on the same page you'll find the excellent Spelunky Launcher, which is great for keeping track of all the lovely variants available. Just stick the mods in your Spelunky folder and get clicking. In amidst mods that re-skin the game with references to Mario, Zelda, and Pokémon, you'll find mods that change the gameplay length and the colour pallet, mods that add experience points and morality systems, and a couple that really meddle with the basic mechanics. Here are a few of my favourites.

Girl Power Mod

Sadly, this isn't the Spelunky/Spice Girls crossover you've been writing all those emails to Simon Fuller about. Instead, Girl Power allows you to play as a damsel, and mess around with a couple of bespoke damsel power-ups while you're at it. Lipstick lets you regain health one kiss at a time, for example, while your whip's been replaced with a flower, and you can now rise through the deadly mines and caverns of the game attached to a helium balloon. When it comes to gender politics, the whole thing is a little bit suspect, of course - I like it purely because the designer seems to have upped the movement speed.

The Noir mod stylishly muddles with the health system.

Tastes Like Spelunky

Spelunky's plants are the worst, right? Slobbering jaws, nasty teeth, a habit of roving around the environment and sucking all the flesh off you if you come too close.

How would you like to play as one, then? You'd probably like it quite a lot, and it's not as hard to get your head around as you might expect. Send out creepers, swallow items to use them, and keep track of your remaining bites as well as the number of weird organic flower bombs you have to hand. Ever seen a plant using a mattock with its mouth? Exactly: this is essential stuff.

Pacifist Spelunky

So simple and yet so effective, Pacifist serves as a reminder that, while you generally die fairly quickly in Spelunky, you'll often take quite a lot of the locals with you. What if you couldn't kill so indiscriminately? What if you were only allowed three murders before being punished? You know, just like in real life? The answer is that Spelunky would become even more of a teasing, torturous spatial planning game. The answer, in fact, is that Spelunky would get even better. It's Geometry Wars 2 all over again.

Spelunky Mage

Spelunky Mage is weird and wonderful: the landscape's littered with deadly, bouncy mushrooms and health-giving fountains, while pick-ups allow you to change out a series of brand new magic attacks. You can summon ledges and torches, by the looks of it, and you can make deadly balls of light fall from the sky. You can probably do much more besides, too, but I was eaten by a frog fairly quickly, so screw that.

Plants are literally the worst.

Crowded Spelunky

Predictably deadly, Crowded Spelunky ramps up the amounts of stuff you'll find in each level, turning the game into a kind of poisonous ball pond in which yetis and cavemen queue up to do you in, and where the gold is piled so high there's probably a nuisance injury lawsuit or two on the way. Crowded Spelunky is a delight to look at but, cor, it's tough to make much progress with. If it gets you too worked up, though, there's always Lonely Spelunky to counteract its effects.

Line of Sight Mod

Genuinely fascinating: this is Spelunky with a kind of real-time fog of war that shifts and warps as you move across the landscape. For a game whose signature move is the ability to lie on the floor and peek down at the platforms below you, a Line of Sight mod is tantamount to emotional cruelty. Presumably it plays havoc with your fortunes when you get to the bottomless ice levels, too. I wouldn't know. I keep dying in the mines.