Friday, January 21, 2022

Roguelike Showdown: Hades vs Spelunky 2

 If you ask me what my favorite game currently is, chances are I am going to look at you nervously, sweat pouring down my forehead as I stress out trying to decide between two main options: Spelunky 2 and Hades. While the games are VERY different, they do share the same roguelike subgenre (procedurally generated levels, permanent death, etc). Join me as I compare the two games in the following categories and declare one of them the winner in this battle to the “permadeath” (Eh? Eh? Bad joke? Okay, I’ll get on with it…)


Goddess of Night, Nyx

Journal Entry

Hades wins this category hands down. Sure, Spelunky 2 has lots of wonderful details and story tidbits, but besides the journal entries you unlock on your travels and the introductory experience when you first boot up the game, it isn't really a story-driven experience. In Hades every time I attempt to break out of the underworld I get more witty dialog and commentary filled with Greek mythology and intrigue. And it’s not just when I interact with NPCs. When I discover a new boon from the gods of Olympus I get messages filled with personality that build off of what has happened so far. The game throws you into the thick of it from the get-go. Who is Zagreus? Why does he want to escape the underworld so desperately? Why are the Olympians sending him messages and boons to aid him in his journey? PAFO (Play and find out 😉)



City of Gold

Another Hades victory. While the artwork of Spelunky 2 greatly surpasses its predecessor, comparing it against Hades is like comparing a comic strip to an oil painting masterpiece. I still remember the first time I FINALLY made it out of the fiery inferno of Asphodel and walked into the fields of Elysium… It was breathtaking. The stunning background imagery is part of what makes Hades such a treat, but all of the artwork is top notch - something I have come to expect from Hades developer Supergiant Games.


Fighting Kingu in Abzu

Receiving a boon from Zeus

I give the two games a tie in this category. It's almost hard to judge them against each other in terms of gameplay because the experiences are very different. Spelunky 2 is a side-scrolling platformer that requires a great deal of minute movements and quick thinking. Hades on the other hand is a third-person dungeon crawler full of button-mashing battles. Both games get progressively more difficult the further you descend/ascend (Spelunky and Hades respectively), and both are compelling enough to keep me coming back again and again. In Spelunky I'm driven by the desire to see what is around the next corner, and find the secrets that lay deep within the caverns. In Hades I love seeing the new combinations of boons and abilities I randomly get to build every escape attempt. If I had to pick one of these games to take with me on my Switch while getting marooned on a desert island... I just wouldn't be able to choose!


Discovering the Ankh after defeating Olmec

Battling the Lernaean Bone Hydra in Asphodel

Both games are incredibly difficult, but Spelunky 2 wins this round. In Hades, each escape attempt is an opportunity to gain more darkness - basically points you can use to upgrade your base stats like how much health you have each run, or how many times you can revive from 0 HP before getting slain back into the river Styx. You can also upgrade your arsenal of legendary weaponry to give yourself more of an advantage. Spelunky 2 however gives you nothing but the knowledge gained in each play-through. Sure, you can unlock shortcuts to the various stages of the game, but there are hefty disadvantages to using these shortcuts as you miss out on a lot of the equipment that can be gained by starting from the very beginning. There are no upgrades you get to spend run to run... If you die (which happens for me WAY more often than it does in Hades), you lose EVERYTHING and have to start completely over. The caverns don't care... they will chew you up and spit you out just about every time... But it is so worth it!

(Consolation prize goes to Hades since after you make it past the final boss a few times you unlock the ability to make your runs MORE difficult...)


Hades wins the victor's crown if we're judging based on these categories. It is truly a masterpiece, and my favorite game to come from Supergiant yet (though if you haven't played Transistor yet you should really give it a try). I have escaped the underworld three times so far, and apparently I have to do it seven more times to see the "final" ending.

HOWEVER, Spelunky 2 is probably my favorite game right now. I have a goal to some day make it to the Cosmic Ocean (a secret stage that takes A RIDICULOUS amount of hard work to get to... and did I mention that is has like 99 levels? Yeah, life goal for sure). No matter how many times I fall on spikes, get smashed by a rolling horned lizard, or get zapped to death by those annoying laser traps at the very top of Tiamat's Throne while trying to reach the Sunken City... It keeps me hooked.

Both games deserve your attention and require not just skill but an insane amount of luck. Enjoy!

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