Atari & Commodore
- Joystick: Use the joystick to make your Spelunker run left or right, and climb up or down ropes and ladders.
- Fire button: Press the fire button to make your Spelunker jump in the air. You can jump straight up, or you can perform a running jump. You can also direct the Spelunker to jump off of a ladder or rope that he is currently climbing on to the left or to the right.
- : Press the space bar to fire your ghost-dispatching gun.
- : Press the F key to release a flare into the air.
- : Press the D key to ignite and deposit a bomb on the ground.
NES & MSX
- : Use the direction pad to make your Spelunker run left or right, and climb up or down ropes and ladders.
- : Press the A button to make your Spelunker jump in the air. You can jump straight up, or you can perform a running jump. You can also direct the Spelunker to jump off of a ladder or rope that he is currently climbing on to the left or to the right, but the timing is extremely sensitive.
- : Press the B button to fire your ghost-dispatching gun. If you hold while firing, you will release a flare in the air. If you hold , you will ignite and deposit a bomb on the ground.
- : Pause the game.
- : Not used.
This is the heroic Spelunker. The Spelunker may be brave, but he's far from invulnerable. Quite a number of things can kill him. If he falls more than a certain height (the height of his body in the Atari and Commodore versions, and the height from the floor to his knee in the NES and MSX versions), he will die. (However, he can fall indefinitely in the arcade version.) If he touches any enemy, ghost or bat, he loses a life. (There are many more enemies found in the arcade version as well, all of which must be avoided.) And if he is too close to a bomb or dynamite that he detonated, he will also perish. The Spelunker can climb up or down any of the ropes and ladders that he finds, and he can even shimmy across them to the left or to the right if he wishes. He can jump from them to reach other ledges. However, the timing of the NES and MSX versions is much stricter. Your best chances for survival are obtained when you immediately tap a direction and jump together, and let go of the controller. If the player doesn't jump, at least he won't continue to slide off of the rope or ladder and fall to his death. Finally, the Spelunker only has a limited air supply that constantly drains throughout play. The only way to prevent death by suffocation is to find a collect the additional air supplies scattered throughout the cavern. Your air supply is indicated by a meter found at the bottom of the screen in the Atari and Commodore versions, and at the top of the screen in the NES and MSX versions.
The ghosts appear on the screen infrequently, and their arrival is always heralded by a spooky change in music. Once they appear, they will slowly track the player down, inching closer and closer. Rock wall is no obstacle to these apparitions. They can be sent back to the nether world with a special ghost dispelling gun that the player carries, but the ghost must be within range of the gun (about a third of the screen width away) before using the gun is effective. Be careful when using the gun. Even while the ghost is dissolving, it can still take your life if it touches you before it completely disappears.
Bats stake out a certain territory in the cave, and can always be found in those location every play-through. Bats hover over their designated locations and experience continuous digestive problems. They release endless amounts of guano to the ground, all of which is lethal to the player. While you can attempt to guide the player safely through a break in the droppings, it is far better to utilize your flare gun and chase the bat away temporarily. The bat will return as soon as the flare dissipates, so make sure you have made it safely to the opposite side of the bat's position while the flare is in the air.
- There are more enemies found in the arcade version. Some can be destroyed for bonus points, while others like the worm and the rock monsters can only be temporarily stunned.