I defeated Olmec yesterday. Yes, thank you, I'll accept those awards when I'm finished here.
I played the XBLA version almost weekly since its release, but after reading this Douglas Wilson piece and watching Patrick Klepek's Daily Challenge streams, I've been diving especially deep. In these past couple weeks, I majorly shifted the way I play the game.
I used to try to kill everything I encountered. This one's pretty much a no-brainer. I should've learned it a long time ago, but you shouldn't risk fighting anything you don't have to.
Some enemies, of course, I would avoid at all cost. I dreaded Giant Spiders, and would quickly run past them if I absolutely had to cross their paths. Now, they're just a nice, easy, early-game way to get the Paste power-up.
Other power-ups, once elusive and luck-based, became easy to get my hands on with the proper tools. I would rarely spend money on bombs or ropes, saving it for more substantial items. Of course, more bombs and ropes lead to more maneuverability, which leads to more money, more reliable access to Damsels, etc.
And Damsels! They were a luxury once. If I could somehow find one that wasn't trapped behind a rock wall, you know I'd be carrying her right to the exit! Nowadays? Fry 'em up on the altar and gimme that Kapala!
Lastly, I now regularly break the number one rule of novice Spelunky players: whatever you do, don't anger the Shopkeepers. I never would've made it past Olmec without first clearing out the Black Market, and reliable access to a shotgun (several shotguns! all the shotguns!) is indispensable.
Playing Spelunky and beating Spelunky are two impossibly different games, both enjoyable, both valuable. Slowly overcoming my fears and trying out previously unthinkable strategies was even more rewarding than the actual act of winning.
Now it's time to give Yama a shot.
Isaac Davis realizes that you are probably better at Spelunky than him. If you aren't, all of his strategies came from the above links. He is toying with the idea of buying a Vita in order to ruin his life by playing Spelunky anywhere he pleases.