My Spelunky 2 Item Tiers
(WARNING: Spelunky 2 spoilers ahead!)
Thanks to my generous friend Joe I've been playing Spelunky 2 for about a year now. I won't pretend to be the definitive expert on Spelunky 2; hundreds of speedrunners could run circles around me all day. But I love the game, have a deep passion for it, and am a bit obsessive. I have every achievement but I haven't (yet) beaten the famed Cosmic Ocean ... My current record is 7-56, which I think is pretty good, although 7-99 still feels far away ... (update 12/14/2021: 7-99 achieved! boy was that hard)
Anyway after spending way too much time with this game, below are my Spelunky 2 item tiers. (The items are listed within the tiers in no particular order.)
Note: I've omitted many items from this list because they're either resources or special quest items, including: Rope Pile, Bomb Bag, Bomb Box, Royal Jelly, Cooked Turkey, Four-leaf Clover, Udjat Eye, Hedjet, Crown, Eggplant Crown, Tablet of Destiny, Broken Sword, Hou Yi's Bow, Arrow of Light, Idol, The Tusk Idol, Curse Pot, Ushabti, and Eggplant.
These are the best items in the game. You always want them, and if you don't have them, you're worse off. Prioritize getting these items on every run.
Perhaps the most iconic Spelunky upgrade. Paste transforms your bombs from slippery bowling balls into surgical instruments of destruction, sticking to whatever they touch. Drop them, pick them up, and throw them for maximum accuracy. From destroying obstacles from afar to making short work of bosses, paste is essential and I miss it dearly when I don't have it. Find it in crates, buy it in shops, or harvest it from Giant Spiders.
A tricky item in Spelunky, the Climbing Gloves mechanics were perfected in Spelunky 2. The gloves now only cling when players are actively pushing into solid materials, which feels just right. They take some getting used to, but once you get comfortable with them there's no turning back. They will enable you to get hard-to-reach crates and eventually save your life. If that wasn't enough, they also enable you to climb up Thorny Vines without taking damage.
The Pitcher's Mitt includes multiple upgrades. Firstly and most importantly, players can now throw anything in perfect horizontal lines. Torches, bombs, pets, you name it -- it's going straight as an arrow, turning you into a precise terminator or demolitionist. Not only that, but you can now also catch (some) projectiles if your hands aren't full. This can quite literally save your life, especially in the astroid-rich Cosmic Ocean.
Once in a blue moon you might lament the loss of the natural arch of a normal throw, but its benefits more than make up for that.
(update 12/14/2021: promoted to Tier 1) Spike Shoes are a fantastic upgrade that increases the damage you deal by jumping on monsters to 3. There are also situations where your default jump isn't sufficient to actually deal damage, and in these cases the Spike Shoes get you back into the fight. They also protect you from walking on Thorny Vines.
I used to place this item just a hair below Tier 1, but the the Spike Shoes are just absolutely critical in the late game. Without them, you can't jump to damage Lamassu, Giant Fly, or Hundun. As a result, I practically feel naked without these shoes.
There are rare occasions where you might want to jump on something without killing it (for example, if grinding a Kali Altar), but that's literally the only downside I can think of.
Sacrifice two pets at Kali Altars and she will gift you with the Kapala, which enables you to consume blood particles to gain life. Suddenly you'll be gaining life passively just by playing through the game, killing creatures, and getting splattered with blood. You can also now grind your life up: before turning in a pet, whip it to make it bleed! See any critters around, such as tiny grasshoppers or crabs? Stomp them to drink up their blood! The Kapala is a great item on any run, but almost mandatory for a complete Cosmic Ocean run, where healing is impossible and poison is common: a brutal combination.
This item brings you back to life, which is perhaps the single best thing you could do for any given run. You can't keep going if you're dead! Find it hidden above Olmec in the background layer.
One could argue that the Jetpack is the single most overpowered item in the game. The gift of flight! The Jetpack allows players to blast around the map, essentially jumping in mid-air. But be careful, because the jetpack's fuel runs out fairly quickly, and only resets when players put their feet on the ground. Grabbing walls or ropes will not refill your tank.
Spelunky 2's Jetpack came with another nerf: it is now explosive, and if it becomes ignited, it'll explode. This is especially dangerous in Volcana, Neo Babylon, and ... well the entire Cosmic Ocean really.
As if holding the jump button to float weren't already an amazing upgrade, Vlad's Cape includes a double jump, which opens up a world of possibility in your Spelunky runs. It's almost as good as the Jetpack, and with no fear of exploding, sometimes it's even (gasp) preferable! It's that good.
The Clone Gun can only be found in the Tide Pool in the Stars Challenge. It shoots a short-lived projectile that creates a fresh copy of whatever it touches. That's pretty cool on its own, but it's top tier because of the Corpse Bag obtained from completing the Sun Challenge. That bag grants you 25 ropes and 25 bombs … and if cloned with this gun, hooks you up with the maximum of 99 ropes and 99 bombs. This is essential in a good Cosmic Ocean run, and the only way (that I know of) to reliably get so many valuable resources.
These items are solid, and you definitely want them, but you might find something better. Either way, you can survive the toughest challenges without these.
The Spectacles contain many upgrades. First off, they enable you to see hidden valuables in the walls. Second, they make dark levels brighter. Lastly, they protect you from being blinded by ink. Add all that up and you should definitely grab these.
Another item that wasn't quite right in Spelunky, the Spring Shoes were again perfected in Spelunky 2. Where previously it was easy to forget that you have these shoes with their heightened jump (and perhaps launch yourself into danger), Spelunky 2's Spring Shoes add a much-needed glow to your jump, constantly reminding you that you should adjust accordingly. These shoes also prevent Thorny Vines from dealing damage to you from below. Tricky for beginners, but always good for advanced players.
The Compass points to the direction of the exit, which is invaluable at times. Especially in dangerous levels like Neo Babylon, knowing if you should go to the left or right can be the difference between life or death. This would be a top tier item, but the Compass doesn't work in the Cosmic Ocean.
A difficult item to acquire, the Alien Compass shows the exit just like the regular Compass, but it also points to the Cosmic Ocean exits. This is invaluable in the Cosmic Ocean, where sometimes you'll die simply because you can't find the exit.
In my opinion, getting the Alien Compass prevents you from choosing more advantageous routes through the game, which is the only reason it isn't top tier.
A fantastic item you always want if superior items such as Vlad's Cape or the Jetpack are unavailable. Lets you hold the jump button to gently float down. Keep in mind that floating makes you immune to death from falling on spikes!
This is probably the best weapon in the game based on its sheer firepower and availability. It's almost always worth picking up, but gets dropped from top tier since it is practically suicidal to shoot the shotgun in the Cosmic Ocean. It's just too dangerous to risk sending deadly projectiles off into the loop.
Sometimes, you'll also probably kill yourself accidentally with the Shotgun by shooting carelessly. Reflected bullets or an exploded Curse Pot can end a run quickly. With great power ...
Pretty much always useful, the Mattock destroys tiles and nasty hazards. It especially shines in difficult zones such as Neo Babylon, where it can be used to cleanly (and safely) destroy dangerous hazards such as the Spark Trap. Much neater than bombs. The only reason it's not top tier is because it gives you just a few dozen uses before breaking. Sad.
Note: I think a great tweak to the game would be to make the Mattock break instantly if it's used to try to destroy the outside edge of a level. This would make the Moon Challenge easier to end and less tedious!
These items certainly have their uses, but can be dangerous or otherwise worthy of skipping (especially if they can't be found along your preferred path through the game).
I'm a little conflicted on the parachute. It's definitely handy if you make it past Olmec without any means to hover down to the platforms far below … but in my experience it's an item that can be easy to forget you have and can trip you up. In the Cosmic Ocean specifically it can quite literally save your life from falling too far, but it's also hung me up when I thought I'd already used it. It's a fine item but I don't like depending upon it as a safety net. I usually skip it.
Why not grab this key? It lets you open some doors. Can be handy when you're going for Van Horsing. Otherwise it's useless past a point; you don't need it.
This is a pretty cool item that lets you hover indefinitely and can certainly be a life-saver. However, with no upward velocity and the fact that it's highly explosive, it's not even as good as the Cape.
The Powerpack gives you a fire whip and makes your bombs huge. The fire whip is really cool because it works exactly like the whip, except that it deals "better" damage and burns things it hurts. This means you can cook turkeys and clear pathways in the Jungle. It's a great item in the early game, but hopefully you'll be able to replace it with a Cape or better. Use cautiously because it is explosive.
This is a powerful short-range gun that can freeze almost any creature in the game. The resulting ice block can be whipped or landed upon and the creature dies in a fit of icy particles. A very handy item but be careful with its kickback, which can end a run if used at the wrong time.
With an arrow, the Crossbow is a pretty good weapon that fires a perfectly straight projectile. Certain arrows can even be used as platforms if they stick to walls! But be careful, because the arrow flies backwards after hitting its target, and can deal nasty damage to you.
The Boomerang is a great weapon at almost any point in the game, even in the Cosmic Ocean. But! Since it returns to you, it can be especially deadly against creatures that explode such as alien UFOs. When one of those suckers is about to explode, the last thing you want is for something to knock it towards you.
Probably the best melee weapon in the game, Excalibur eviscerates most victims. Not only does it make short work of the otherwise formidable Kingu, it's also the best weapon you can use to get through the Sun Challenge.
Hoo boy is this a fun weapon! It shoots projectiles that explode upon impact. It's useful for destroying enemies and tearing through difficult levels, but its knockback is extraordinarily powerful. Accidentally killing yourself with this beauty is very common.
The Scepter is deadly and should be treated cautiously. It shoots a projectile that rockets towards the nearest body (dead or alive!) and doesn't care if you happen to be in its way. It's very handy at times, but be careful because it's easy to murder yourself with it.
The Metal Shield is cool, something I love to pick up when I'm on a casual run. It deflects all projectiles, smashes almost anything to smithereens, and is simply fun to play with because of its interesting physics. But be careful, because it's easy to accidentally squish quest items or NPCs that you'd rather not disturb.
The Elixir is an interesting item because it comes with multiple features exclusive to it alone. First (and probably most importantly), it cures you from poison and curse debuffs. Critically, this is the only way to be cured of a curse. That's already pretty cool, but the Elixir also heals you AND provides a purple-tinted buff that doubles all of your healing effects. That's quite a buff, especially when paired with the Kapala.
Not only that, but if you were to be poisoned or cursed, the Elixir prevents it (one time). This can absolutely save a Cosmic Ocean run!
Its benefits are hard to deny. My main complaint about the Elixir is that, to get it, you have to skip the Clone Gun (a path I prefer).
These items are either completely useless or likely to kill you. If they were removed from the game I would personally not miss them.
Speedrunners swear by the Telepack, of course, but almost any other players will want to proceed with caution. The Telepack teleports you when you use it mid-air, and has complex rules about where you'll end up. In my opinion you're just as likely to teleport yourself into a wall (resulting in instant death) as you are to end up somewhere safe. Should only be used for fun or by experts who know exactly what they're doing.
It's not completely useless, because it can (temporarily) slow down enemies, and even be used to help climb walls. But really I've never actually used this useless thing and I'm always sad when I see it spawn. It sucks.
The Camera's behavior is unique and interesting: it knocks spiders off the ceiling, triggers arrow traps, stuns merchants for a long time, and can even destroy some monsters straight up. It's especially handy in night levels. But realistically I'd rather leave it behind because the default whip is a more consistent choice for most situations.
Same deal as the Telepack, except the Teleporter is an item that you hold in your hands. Don't accidentally kill yourself!
The Machete is a perfectly good melee weapon, but not much better than the whip. I might take it with me for a while, but it's almost always left behind for something better or just abandoned since the whip is already useful enough.
It's like a discount Metal Shield that has confusing rules about when it will block something or get destroyed. It's kind of fun to play with but I recommend not depending upon it to save your life. Best to just skip it.
The True Crown
This is an absolutely bonkers item that was dreamed up by a madman! As if teleporting intentionally weren't already dangerous enough, this item automatically teleports you every 22 seconds! Yes, you read that correctly.
There is an upside to this absolutely suicidal feature -- every time you teleport, you are given a whopping 22 bombs. What? That's nuts!
Personally, I wouldn't last, uh, 22 seconds having this thing attached to my head. I think I've only ever had it once and I'm sure I died quickly because I barely remember it. So I'll continue to avoid it, but ...
Apparently there's a small but significant in-game reward if you somehow manage to defy guaranteed death and conquer the Cosmic Ocean using this insanely dangerous item. (That's just evil Derek, absolutely evil.) I haven't looked it up yet, but that's a diabolical challenge that I'm sure some speedrunners are finding impossible to resist attempting (maybe they've already done it?).
The endgame implications here are significant -- the intense difficulty of the timed auto-teleport, combined with an almost endless supply of bombs sort of create an entirely new (way harder!) mode for the hardcore players of the world. There's so much depth here, it's just amazing. You could spend your whole life mastering this game. Incredible!
Oh, and just to mock you, this crown also makes shopkeepers refer to you as "your majesty" and doubles all of their prices. Heavy is the crown etc.
Those are my tiers! In an ideal Cosmic Ocean run, I'd have: 99 life, 99 bombs, 99 ropes, Paste, Spectacles, Climbing Gloves, Pitcher's Mitt, Spring Shoes, Spike Shoes, Alien Compass, Kapala, Ankh, Jetpack or Vlad's Cape ... and a Mattock would be nice.
Certainly not everyone will agree with all these choices. If you have thoughts I'm all ears on Twitter.
- (update 12/14/2021: Finally beat the Cosmic Ocean!! Feels good. Added Elixir and The True Crown; promoted Spike Shoes.)