Review: Spelunky (Boss Fight Books)

Spelunky by Derek Yu

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have enjoyed many of the books in the Boss Fight Books series. They’re each unique in their own way, but this is the only one (that I know of) written by the creator of the game. It was fascinating to read Yu’s thought process as he chipped away at various ideas and finally ended up at Spelunky.

Yu mentions in the final chapter that his game came about at the right time for an indie resurgence, but it’s especially interesting reading this book at the same time as Super Power, Spoony Bards, and Silverware: The Super Nintendo Entertainment System, a history of the SNES. That is a period where, on consoles, it was more or less impossible to be a bedroom developer because of the way Nintendo controlled the market. So this book also functions as somewhat of a history of the early days of the indie video game market.

Primarily, though, this book reads somewhat like Jordan Mechner’s journals for Karateka and Prince of Persia. It’s an autobiographical take of Yu and the decisions that made Spelunky what it is. Although I think any videogame enthusiast can enjoy this book, I enjoyed it a bit more as a developer myself (mostly not of video games, although I have taken video development courses) because I understood a lot of the constraints that Yu mentioned.

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