Hello, Javy Gwaltney here, Associate Editor for Game Informer. I currently putting together a series of deep dives into my ten favorite games of all time. You can read all about the origins, as well as the beginning of the series, here.

This week we’re going to be talking about my #5 pick: Spelunky. Feel free to leave comments below and thanks for reading. Be sure to come back next week on Wednesday at noon CST for #4.

There was this person I used to live with. Back in the old life. We had pets. A nice house we were renting. We cared about each other but didn't get along well, exactly. Hadn't for some time. Things were falling apart, as they tend to do when you're young and you love someone but neither of you have figured your s#it out yet. Most of it's hell, a roaring, cataclysmic storm filled with hate and confusion, barbed words meant to pinpoint weaknesses in each other and skewer them.

There are moments though. When you're with that person, and the storm has briefly passed, and whatever crap you've got to deal with has been put on pause, and you're both just enjoying each other's company. That doesn't change the fact that the job offer you will take that will eventually end things permanently is on its way or that you basically can't stand each other most of the time and neither of you know why. But those times, when you think you've captured the old comfort and hope you found with this other person, are safe havens. These sanctuaries usually center around escapism. All the couples I've known have this somehow. TV shows they watch together, exercise routines, video games--things they can do where they can be alone and together at the same time.

Spelunky was our refuge. From the work we came home from. From the divide between us. It let us have that semblance of peace when the world we both knew and had shared for some time was on the verge of changing. We'd go get burritos and come home and we'd play Spelunky for maybe an hour every day.

If you've never played Spelunky, it's a rogue-like. Maybe the best one. You play this Indiana Jones explorer (or a number of unlockable characters) as he makes his way through a series of 2D labyrinths in search of treasure, rescuing damsels along the way and fighting snakes, bats, and even the supernatural. There are four worlds in Spelunky. If you manage to survive all of them, which is easier said than done, you come up against Olmec, a boss you have to trick into falling into a pit of lava. In spite of its cartoony visuals, Spelunky is a grueling game, one where death exists around every corner. The margin for error is so so so slim. Screw up once, especially in the later worlds, and it's likely your game is over and you have to go back all the way to the beginning. Ok, I mean, technically there are checkpoints you can unlock but a true Spelunky run is from beginning to end, no checkpoints, earning as much treasure as you can and then taking out Olmec. 

That was our rule anyway: do it right or don't do it at all. We'd pass the controller and take turns to see how far the other could make it. It was a whole year like this, like developing strategies on how to get past the deadly behemoths in the ice caves or seeing how much we could steal from the shopkeepers in the Black Market and get away with it (the answer: not much). Spelunky provided both of us an escape from our frustrations as well as a goal to work toward, allowing us to navigate an ever-changing labyrinth, one that we couldn't memorize or draw a map for. We had to learn the moment-by-moment intricacies and cruel whims of this adventure, encouraging the other as we both mastered it. Spelunky didn't prevent the inevitable (what can?) but it was there, like a friend on a porch ready to sip through several cans of cheap beer and listen to you whine, nodding their head as you go along.

I still play the game sometime. Not much. Not because it hurts to play it but because it doesn't hold the same meaning to me as it once did. There's something missing in the experience because I'm just too far away from it, and the person I was, now. Still, for every occasion there's a game, somehow, and for a very tumultuous period in my life, Spelunky was there.

For more on Spelunky, you can check out our original review here.