Preview: Minna de Wai Wai! Spelunker digs deep on the Nintendo Switch

Do you remember Spelunker World? It was a free-to-play PlayStation 4 game released worldwide by Square Enix. The goal was fairly simple, as it tasked folks with heading into underground areas alone or with friends to find treasure. Naturally, this was accompanied by in-game purchases, namely Moon Gems, which would allow you to proceed through hazardous activities. With Minna de Wai Wai! Spelunker on the Nintendo Switch, it abandons these trappings for a more traditional and full approach.

In Minna de Wai Wai! Spelunker, we are a novice spelunker. Our father disappeared on an expedition about ten years ago, and we’re primed to follow in his footsteps. Of course, we’re starting out much slower. We set off into caves and areas that grow more expansive as we adventure onward, starting off with nothing but a pocket fan that can blow away ghosts, flare that can disperse bats and bombs that can destroy rocks on our person. Fortunately, the deeper we dive, the more chance we have to collect more equipment, make animal friends and restock our supplies.

Every location entered in Minna de Wai Wai! Spelunker is divided up into parts. The goal of the player is to safely reach it to each goal without running out of energy or lives. Goalposts are scattered around the map, which act as quick save spots and an opportunity to completely restore your strength. Much of the action involves attempting to stay within range of one of these spots while collecting the Litho-orbs that can lead to new equipment and pets, additional supplies and keys to unlock doors.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Spelunker game if each excursion didn’t revolve around doing as much as you can as safely as possible. Your little dungeon divers are frail folks. Drop too far? You’re dead. Fall in a pit? Dead. Bats drop rocks? You know where this is going. Who’s afraid of these ghosts? This guy (or gal). Much of the first few levels involves learning your limits. It’s about seeing how touchy some jumps can be. (Dropping too far from a vine to the floor will kill you, for your information.) You want to see how long you can go before running back to a goalpost to be rejuvenated.

The Litho-orb equipment is a great help. One of the first items available in the Minna de Wai Wai! Spelunker demo is a bat hat. When worn, it will initially automatically protect you from one instance of debris dropped by bats. As it levels up, the level of protection does too. This goes for all equipment you collect and wear with you on your drives.

Likewise, pets can be a big help. In the Minna de Wai Wai! Spelunker trial, players are rather swiftly joined by a dog named Snowball. Snowball begins by giving you the ability to dig once. However, keeping him equipped will eventually allow you to dig more frequently. Not to mention, it allows you to have a cute cosmetic buddy following your Spelunker through the caves.

Perhaps the biggest boon is the opportunity to explore with a group. While the PlayStation 4 version of the game allowed up to six people to join each adventure, Minna de Wai Wai! Spelunker limits the crew to four. I actually noticed a boost in performance with this difference. When playing with three people on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, there could be some framerate drops that added an extra element of danger to each dig. The performance seems to be better for the Nintendo Switch version, especially when playing with the system docks. Going with a group makes it easier to collect items and face enemies.

Of course, you can’t discount the joy that comes from having everything at once. Like Voez, Minna de Wai Wai! Spelunker gives you access to everything at once. You don’t have to wait for and make plans to participate in special events to earn items to aid you when you hit a block. I found it more welcoming when I knew I probably wouldn’t be hitting those same walls where I’d feel like I couldn’t proceed without investing real money, grinding like crazy or getting a group together.

Minna de Wai Wai! Spelunker seems like the sort of game made for a console launch. Like Voez, it’s a full version of a formerly free-to-play game. It’s easy to jump from playing alone to playing with friends, which works well with the Nintendo Switch’s pick-up-and-play mission. Most importantly, it’s designed in a way to encourage repeated exploration so you can collect extra equipment and explore every element of areas. We’ll see for sure how well it adapts to the system when the full version arrives in Japan on April 20, 2017.

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