Derek Yu has powers, he has the ability to kill a yak from 200 yards away with mind bullets, and he has the power to move you. He does perpetual service to a collective fetish amoungst the "hardcore" gamer population. It's an almost infatuated sense of comfort and awe at any 2D platforming space involving some kind of RPG or exploration dynamic. These are the millions who had a crush on that girl in third grade and thought, "I bet she feels like Super Metroid." Or Castlevania:Symphony of the Night if you were a bit older. Spelunky! is wet, it's a gamer's game, it exudes interesting decisions in a non-linear series complete with dank pixel art and emergent humor that teaches us something about ourselves. You know what I'm talking about, like that first time you threw the girl in order to pick up the bag of jewels, didn't mean to do that did you? And then she landed on the spikes? Or how about that time you got shot in the face by a totem statue that looked like Dick Cheney? You my friend, got spelunk'd.
The game has you delving in some ancient cave, trying to get loot. The loot can be spent on things in shops encountered along the way, and "saving" a bimbo gives you a health point. The thing about that chick, besides being almost mysogynistically infantile, is that by dropping her off in the level exit you're just setting up for her to get in trouble on the next level. Then there's that fucking ghost who just shows up to kill you if you dawdle around too long. The game uses stochastic level generation very effectively to both create interesting exploration puzzles, but also to create a sense of surprise as the world you're in continues to show gruff personality and scurilous scurry. The interface is simple, yet maintains the kind of clumsy expertise of conventional Rogue-likes in its combinatory shuffle, like playing Twister with your fingers. The seemingly random deaths, often entirely your fault, pan out like a cruel practical joke, especially when it's due to you fumbling the interface, or experimenting with a new entity. The implementation of effective perma-death doesn't help, and yet you feel okay with diving in again, new.
This game made me think of the potential of making procedurally generated content like Rogue-likes, but with tighter interfaces, more stylized graphics, and diverse mechanics. Give it personality, flavor, some social dynamics, and while you're at it, remake Dwarf Fortress into something playable.
Spelunky won the Excellence in Design award at the2012 IGF Awards, and was a nominee for the Seamus McNally Grand Prize.