Spelunky 2 is a massive game, even more so than the original. While most of us are just trying to survive the first couple of biomes, the best players can follow a variety of intersecting quest lines in pursuit of several unique endings. The holy grail of Spelunky 2 runs has been traversing the Cosmic Ocean, a seemingly endless area where anything can happen. Last night, someone finally managed to conquer this terrifying gauntlet.
This story includes a lot of Spelunky 2 spoilers, so maybe go away if that’s something you want to avoid.
TwiggleSoft is an experienced Spelunky player who has been trying to reach the end of the Cosmic Ocean since its discovery shortly after Spelunky 2 was released. The most popular theory early on was that the area ended on its 22nd floor due to the number’s prevalence in the game, but when Spelunky 2 arrived on PC and folks were able to datamine explicit details, it was revealed that players would actually need to traverse a whopping 99 floors to complete the area.
“I loved the idea of improving your record by a couple of levels at a time,” Twiggle told Kotaku via email. “I think it was the challenge and mystery about it. Was going through all these levels really the only way to accomplish the ‘real ending?’”
The first challenge in completing Spelunky 2’s Cosmic Ocean is actually reaching the Cosmic Ocean. This is a complicated process involving the carrying and synergizing of items through multiple levels. I’ve done my best to summarize the convoluted steps as best I can below.
- Find the Udjat Eye in the Mines by carrying a key to a special room.
- Travel to the Volcano after defeating Quillback at the end of the Mines.
- Rescue Van Horsing from his cell using another key.
- Use the Udjat Eye to activate a drill in the Volcano that opens a path to Vlad’s Castle.
- Travel to the top of Vlad’s Castle and take the Crown after Van Horsing kills Vlad.
- Find Hou Yi’s Bow during one of the Volcano area’s Moon Challenges.
- Finish the Volcano area and reach the Olmec boss fight.
- Find the hidden door to the Waddler, who holds onto items for later use, and leave Hou Yi’s Bow with him.
- Defeat Olmec and enter one of the secret doors at the bottom of the level as he sinks into the lava.
- Grab the Ankh from the secret area and head to the Tide Pools.
- Grab the Sword in the Tide Pools, which is made possible by having the Crown.
- Leave the Sword somewhere safe, find a secret area, and disturb the Golden Idol, which drenches you in lava.
- Revive thanks to the Ankh.
- Grab the Sword and return to the secret area to find a secret door to Abzu.
- Take the underwater door in Abzu to the top of the stage to reach the Kingu boss fight.
- Defeat Kingu using the Sword to acquire the Tablet of Destiny.
- Travel through the Ice Caves until you reach Neo Babylon.
- Find the Ushabti room in Neo Babylon and use the Tablet of Destiny to find the right Urn.
- Carry the Urn to the next level and hatch the special Qilin mount.
- Make it to the Tiamat boss fight with the Qilin and fly to the top of the area.
- Take the Olmec rocket to the Sunken City.
- Find the Waddler and retrieve Hou Yi’s Bow.
- Complete the Sun Challenge that appears in the Sunken City to get the Arrow of Light.
- Reach the end of the Sunken City and the Hundun boss fight.
- Defeat Hundun and use Hou Yi’s Bow to shoot the eye on its corpse with the Arrow of Light, opening a portal to the Cosmic Ocean.
Phew! Hold on, let me catch my breath.
As you can see, getting to the Cosmic Ocean is no small feat, but it pales in comparison to actually beating the area. In Twiggle’s victorious run, it took him around an hour to reach the Cosmic Ocean, and then another three to make his way through.
While doing the aforementioned Sun Challenge, a Witch Doctor inflicted Twiggle with Spelunky 2’s new Curse status, which drops the player to a permanent 1 HP until they can sacrifice at one of the game’s many Kali Altars. As he approached the last possible place for Kali to spawn, Twiggle thought his run was over until he, as he calls it, “miraculously” found an out-of-the-way altar and healed himself. Fortunately, his use of the Kapala — an item that allows players to build HP by absorbing blood — and Vlad’s Cape — which doubles the amount of blood dropped by NPCs — allowed him to slowly rebuild his health pool as the run continued.
It should also be noted that Twiggle doesn’t follow the exact path described above either. Tricks have been developed by some of the more savvy Spelunky 2 players to accrue more bombs and ropes by way of the Clone Gun as well as bypass the required death in the Tide Pools so that the Ankh revival can be saved for the Cosmic Ocean itself. This ended up being a smart move: on the 40th floor of the Cosmic Ocean, Twiggle was unceremoniously tossed into a pool of lava after accidentally colliding with an enemy. That immediate death would have been the end of his run had he not kept the Ankh in reserve.
“Other than the truly random and completely unavoidable things that can happen to you in any Spelunky 2 run (such as a UFO blowing you up that flew from offscreen), the hardest part about the run is losing focus,” Twiggle explained. “As you can imagine, playing 99 levels (plus all the levels to get to the Cosmic Ocean) is very mentally taxing. It’s very easy to space out for a split second and lose your run! The other day I lost a really good run [on the 75th floor] because I momentarily forgot how the climbing gloves work in this game. Doh!”
If you’re looking for a challenge, Cosmic Ocean is where Spelunky 2 truly shines. By combining enemies and environmental features from every previous biome, this endgame area is a scary hodge-podge of the game’s most dangerous obstacles, often separated by huge chasms that necessitate the use of equipment like the Jetpack or Cape. Players can’t just book it to the end of every floor, either. Instead, small energy orbs need to be found and destroyed, which then unleashes a huge space jellyfish that pursues the player until they reach the exit door. Twiggle kept that up for 99 floors, and after almost four and a half hours, finally became the first Spelunky 2 player to conquer the Cosmic Ocean.
“The only time I felt confident was at the very end, right before I bombed the 3rd orb on [the 98th floor],” Twiggle told me.
Twiggle made sure to point out that he almost wasn’t the first person to achieve this monumental feat. A Spelunky 2 player from South Korea named Nokduro was on a very promising run — he managed to reach the 71st floor with 90 HP and the Ankh still intact — on October 10 when his game crashed. It was a heartbreaking reminder that, sometimes, these things are just of our control.
Spelunky 2 is an incredible, engrossing game. But runs like this can make it seem overwhelming to less experienced players. In my mind, that’s where the beauty of the game lies: you can play it any way you want. Twiggle may have set his sights on the Cosmic Ocean, but that doesn’t mean you can’t focus your efforts on simply making it out of the Mines or trying to steal everything from the Black Market. The developers have also made it so that most everyone has a shot at seeing one of the game’s many endings, even if the elusive Cosmic Ocean victory seems out of reach.
As for Twiggle, he’s not going to rest on his laurels just because he completed one of the hardest challenges in Spelunky 2. His next goal is looking into manipulating the Ghost — which appears if you spend too long in one level — into turning regular gems into diamonds as a way to boost his score.
“The next challenge I’m going to go for is score runs,” Twiggle said. “I have not had much experience ghosting gems into diamonds in the sequel yet, as the Ghost is much faster and harder to control (and it splits!). I would also like to get some good teleporter finishes as well!”