On Wednesday night, I sat down at my Xbox to play a bit of…something before bed. I wasn’t really sure what, maybe pinball or something else that I could be done with pretty quickly. Then I saw Spelunky in my games list, and realized I hadn’t played it in about a week. That may not seem like a long time, but I really, really love this game. It’s one of my favourite games of all time, probably my favourite platformer, and definitely my favourite 2D platformer. When I went to grab my save from the cloud, I saw something horrible. My save had been corrupted. I tried rebooting my Xbox, no luck. I unplugged my Xbox for a hard reboot, still no luck. I don’t know why I thought that would work, the issue was clearly with the save and not my console, but I was desperate. It was clear that I was going to start over from the beginning.
Now, “start over from the beginning” doesn’t mean much in this context. Spelunky is an arcade-style platformer; you play until you win or die, and then you start over. My save game was nothing but statistics, and some shortcuts that are pretty easy to get if you know what you’re doing. Even my high score was safe, as that’s on Xbox Live’s end. Yet when I saw that all of my statistics were gone, a part of me wanted to put it down forever. My Spelunky legacy had up and vanished. My ~1,700 runs (no wins, I kind of suck), my kill counts, how many damsels I had saved, gone. I’ve always liked having that kind of information, even if I don’t look at it. Heck, I have an income statement for Stardew Valley, I really like keeping info. And when I lost all of that for Spelunky, I almost felt like I had lost part of a game itself. I probably could have re-uploaded the locally stored save from my 360, but even then I would have probably been 800 or more runs behind. Whether I started from scratch or partway through, my precious statistics would have been screwed up. I wasn’t really sure what to do.
It wasn’t long before I decided that yeah, I should start over. Again, it wasn’t like I had really lost anything. My local stats were gone. Big whoop. My shortcuts to later levels that are only useful to practice those levels, and probably detrimental to playing the game overall were gone. Big whoop. I could sit down at my TV, and get basically the same experience that I got a week ago. I grabbed my controller, booted up the game, and started playing. It was a bit strange, having to play through the tutorial again in order to access the main game. I was getting journal entries left, right, and centre. Each time I saw a new enemy, I questioned whether or not I should kill it. Spelunky is a tough game, and one that’s not about killing enemies. The only reason to kill enemies is to get to the end of the level, or to get to an item or piece of treasure that you want. It’s generally a better idea to avoid enemies if at all possible, going out of your way to kill an enemy for the sake of killing an enemy does nothing but put you at risk. Still, there was once or twice when I considered going after an enemy to get the corresponding note in my journal, even though I had no reason to. Heck, there was even once when I considered jumping in front of an arrow trap (which does two damage, half of your starting health) just to get the arrow trap journal entry. I put that out of my mind really quickly, and instead tripped it in a way where I wouldn’t be hurt. I would certainly be hurt or killed by an arrow at some point, that was no question.
I kept playing like normal for a while, partly because I love the game and wanted to play, and partly to get some screenshots for this article. I was surprised to find that starting over from scratch was actually kind of fun. Like I said earlier, I was getting journal entries all over the place. As far as the game was concerned, I was killing enemies for the first time, grabbing items for the first time, and reaching later levels for the first time. Knowing what I was doing, I was able to move through the levels faster, and rack up journal entries faster than a newbie probably could. Sometimes I was getting firsts so quickly that there was a “new journal entry” pop-up for almost the entire level. It was a bit exhilarating, if I’m being honest. But by far the coolest thing was my first run, and my first death. Sure, before now I haven’t had a new journal entry in a long time, but I had seen the notification loads of times before. But playing the game for the first time, I entered the main area and saw the big door into the mines locked, forcing me to play the tutorial first. I knew the door would be locked, but I didn’t remember what the door looked like, that everything would be dark, or that the empty journal would be on the ground where the door to replay the tutorial usually is. The ambience was pretty amazing. But by far the coolest thing of restarting was when I died. Yes, you read that right, my first death was really cool. Usually when you die, your character laments about what killed you, or how you had almost made it to the next area. But on your very first death, your character makes a comment about Yang, your teacher from the tutorial (and character unlock for beating the game). “Yang was right…the layout of the caves is changing all the time!” I hadn’t seen those words in nearly four years, which is when I started playing Spelunky. It was really cool to read them again, I had completely forgotten they existed. It was really lame to lose all of my statistics, but it was also a lot of fun to find the silver linings of my loss.
Losing a savegame isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things, and I’ve even lost more important saves in the past. When I was a kid I accidentally overwrote my Pokémon Gold save, which was really lame. Still, it’s a bit disappointing to lose what are effectively meaningless numbers in a game like this. Even with all of the cool stuff I got to re-experience for the first time, I’m still a bit bummed about this. Pretty minuscule levels of bummed of course, I would probably be more bummed if I stubbed my toe. Getting hurt even slightly probably effects my life more than some deleted video game stats, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be bummed about this. Playing the game for the “first” time was a lot of fun, and I’m actually a bit happy that I got to do it, but overall having this happen sucks, and I really wish it hadn’t. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to play Spelunky hundreds and hundreds of times so that I can get back to where I was.