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If Spelunky is a healthy body, then the player is its virus. Without human interference, the cutesy caverns and jungles operate without incident. A shop clerk waits to make a sale, a school of fish swim their daily laps, a bat quietly sleeps. Only when the player enters the fray does it become clear that every creature, person and object is a safeguard designed to impede their progress to the treasure at its core. At first, the tools for survival — a whip, some rope, a bag full of bombs — feel lethally unpredictable. An explosion knocks a rock into your head. You dodge a booby-trap arrow, only for it to catch you on the ricochet. But slowly, you learn to turn the body against itself. You send a peaceful shopkeeper on a violent rampage or convert a spike pit into a burial ground for a pack of thieving monkeys. Designer Derek Yu assumes an intellectual and emotional patience from his players. The magic of his design is that everything good can just as well kill you, and everything bad can become the one thing that keeps you alive.

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