I love Spelunky: on PC, Mac, and Xbox, I constantly seem to be playing it, and I have no idea if I’m ever going to stop. Now that the game’s touched down on consoles, it’s interesting to see a new audience getting to grips with it, too: picking up strategies, learning some hard lessons, and encountering some of the nastier surprises. One thing’s really fascinated me: not many people like the ghost.

Or rather, not many people understand the ghost yet. They think he’s a bitter instrument of death (which he is), but they also assume he spawns pretty much randomly (which he doesn’t). They think he’s just another mean prank, whereas he’s actually one of the main reasons the game works so well.

Spelunky offers you nothing but options, basically. Each level is filled with loot and secrets. On top of that, the game’s so scrupulously fair when insisting that it’s your fault when you die, that it should theoretically be possible to explore most areas at a glacial pace, cautiously edging from one precipice to the next, and missing the hectic sense of flight that makes the whole thing great.

Enter the ghost: generally, I think, after around two and a half minutes on any level, but also if you make a grab for that crystal skull. The ghost is there to move you on: to send you racing to the exit, so you don’t spoil the game for yourself by splurging. He’s horrible, then, but he’s also elegant. He’s a villain, but he’s something of a solution, too. Show him some respect, okay?

Oh yeah, then there’s that thing about ghost gold…