"Health" refers to a character's state of vital wellbeing, symbolizing their capacity to withstand injuries without dying.
Health is represented objectively, in numeric units known as 'hit points' or 'hearts'.
Most characters in Spelunky have a finite number of hit points (HP) which are lost when they take damage. When a character runs out of HP, they die.
Damage can result from a wide range of sources - either from being attacked by a monster, getting caught in a trap or by falling from a great height.
Some sources of damage deal multiple hit points worth of damage in a single stroke, and some scenarios can even lead to instant death regardless of how much health a character has - Being crushed by a boulder, impaled by spikes, eaten by a Mantrap or by falling into the Abyss are all examples of ways a character can die immediately, even with large health reserves.
Health is a valuable resource in Spelunky. The player character, the Spelunker, begins the game with a relatively low total of hit points, and increasing the total number of hit points is a slow and difficult task.
He is not much tougher than many of the monsters he will face on his adventure, and is always outnumbered, meaning that every single hit point is precious.
The Spelunker starts each game with 4 HP, but it is possible for him to gain more health - either to recover from injuries or to improve upon his initial fortitude - by completing one of the following tasks:
- Bringing a Damsel to the level exit (Rewards 1 HP).
- Buying a kiss at a kissing booth (Rewards 1 HP).
- Absorbing eight drops of blood with the Kapala (Rewards 1 HP).
- Gaining 48 favor points at an Altar, and for every 16 points above that (Rewards 4-8 HP).
Technically, the maximum number of hit points you can hold is limited at 99. In practice however, this limit is probably impossible to reach outside of custom levels without cheating.