Say hello to the Game of the Year

And we got a PlayStation 5 release date, price, and terrible pre-order debacle

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In Spelunky 2, our hero considers rolling the dice for a parachute.

Shana Tova!

I reviewed Spelunky 2, the sequel to my favorite video game. I spent a few hundred words grappling with one question: How do you follow-up perfection?

 Yu made the perfect video game in 2008. He’s had to live with it ever since.

First came Spelunky, a pixelated PC adventure released for free on a video game forum for friends and peers. It plants you in the boots of a diminutive Indiana Jones-type explorer who rappels through a series of cavernous stages cluttered with traps, baddies, and treacherous falls, using little more than bombs, ropes, and whatever the occasional shopkeeper will sell him. A splash of math and creativity generated the game’s stages procedurally, which is a fancy way to say that no two runs through Spelunky will be exactly the same. Some big-name designers and some little-name critics dubbed it a mini-masterpiece.

Yu expanded on perfection in 2012 with the help of a small squad, creating Spelunky HD, a prettier revision and expansion of the original game; it was released on Xbox 360, and eventually elsewhere. Yu and the team added multiplayer, along with a daily online leaderboard. Released alongside the rise of video game livestreaming, the HD edition found a fiercely dedicated fandom of video makers, who mined it for secrets. Then came toys, T-shirts, and countless fawning reviews, including my own.

Yu published Spelunky the book in 2016, explaining how he made the “perfect game” in an autobiography-slash-design-document. It read like closure.

It’s not like Yu has been unproductive in the 12 years since Spelunky debuted. He co-designed a card game, and has been gradually co-developing something akin to a video game mixtape. He became a husband, a father, and something of an elder statesman in the indie video game world, his work inspiring countless other games, books, and podcasts. But for better and worse, he’d created Spelunky, and most of us had one question for him even if we were too afraid to ask it out loud: “What’s next?”

The answer, as you know by now, is Spelunky 2. The new game from Derek Yu’s Mossmouth studio and Blitworks launches Sept. 15 on PlayStation 4 and arrives on Windows PC later this month. I’ll let you know up top that I adore this game. If you’re a fan of the original, I expect you’ll fall in love, too.

But how the hell do you make a sequel to a perfect game? My best answer, 20 hours deep, is that you don’t.

Read the full review at Polygon.

The NVIDIA RTX 3080 is legit

For folks who don’t follow PC gaming: the RTX 3080 is the latest and arguably best “consumer-grade” graphics card — the contraption that makes the pretty visuals appear on your computer.

NVIDIA will also offer the cheaper 3070 and the WAY MORE EXPENSIVE AND COMICALLY POWERFUL 3090, but the company has shrewdly pitched the 3080 as porridge that’s just right. Whether or not it’s right for you depends on if you’re willing to spend a grand or two (or three) on a new gaming PC — or $700 just for the 3080 and no other parts.

  • The RTX 3080 will be will a staggering leap in performance if you’re upgrading from something like a GTX 1080, especially at 1440p or if you’re moving to 4K. That could tempt a whole host of people to upgrade, especially those who avoided the RTX 2000 series.” (Tom Warren, The Verge)

  • Certainly, I really enjoy using this card - I like using RTX 2080 Ti for 4K gaming and the RTX 3080 doesn’t feel like an iterative upgrade. I can do more with it, I can feel the difference. Side-by-side with RTX 2080, it’s almost a night and day improvement in many regards. But with that said, I still think the 20-series cards have much to offer: they don’t become obsolete overnight, they’re still strong performers and they have the complete next-gen feature set.  (Richard Leadbetter, Digital Foundry/Eurogamer)

Three games to play

Mario and Bowser square off in Super Mario Galaxy on Nintendo Switch

Super Mario 3D All-Stars

Spelunky 2

  • What dazzles me is how vividly Spelunky 2 is still a game of the moment. Take this: there is so much greatness emerging from the simple decision that you’re going down and not up in Spelunky. It means that gravity can take some of the effort out, and can also add its own brilliantly Newtonian timing to the comedy that erupts when things go wrong. It means that levels can rain chaos from above and that rock ledges can crumble and take you on terrifying shortcuts. You can’t argue with gravity. It’s such a good basis for things.” (Christian Donlan, Eurogamer)

13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim

  • “Here’s an incomplete list of things you will encounter in 13 Sentinels: a talking cat. Time travel. Time travel, but also not really. Androids. Clones. Android clones. Memory-wiping drugs. A robot that looks like Wall-E. An underground UFO. Oh, and of course it’s the story of 13 highschoolers getting into giant mechs to fight monsters.” (Malindy Hetfeld, Eurogamer)

Three stories to read

Three videos to watch

This review of Doom is longer than Avengers: Endgame… and maybe better?

How Bruce Lee has influenced (and appeared in) dozens of video games

A new documentary about the Earthbound Americans weren’t supposed to play

Mother to Earth is available to rend and buy on Vimeo.

The best of the rest

Super Mario’s 35th birthday.



But what do you think?

Send links, tips, comments, questions, games, and challah recipes to @plante.

That’s a wrap. See y’all next time. Wear a mask!