BADGP Reviews: Guacamelee
Guacamelee (Drinkbox Studios)
Released: April 9, 2013
July 17, 2013
Review: Mexi-vania Greatness
Guacamelee is a funny game full of hilarious art, writing, and characters. There is an instance of upon defeating a feline-like boss continuing to strike him will elicit cat-based puns, the most outstanding of which is being, “Don’t punch me in the stomach. You’ll make me puma pants!” Wow. So that is the kind of game we are dealing with; also a game that makes myriad reference to Internet fads and memes as well as other games in their consistently entertaining backgrounds.
What is Guacamelee?
Guacamelee is a 2D sidescrolling metroidvania style brawler that is bursting with personality. The player takes the role of Juan Aguacate (avocado); a wannabe luchador who is crazy about a girl. She, naturally, is kidnapped by an evil skeleton demon that he attempts to battle with and finds himself to be quickly dispatched of. While dead, Juan discovers a mask in the netherworld and finds himself back in the land of the living with reinvigorated motivation to save the one he loves.
How Does it Play?
Guacamelee is a fairly standard metroidvanian experience with some special hooks that make it stand out from the masses. The exploration and collecting of powers to progress through previously unreachable areas is fully intact in Guacamelee. The powers are anything but ordinary including “pollo power!” or the ability to transform into a chicken, a wall running ability, a flying ability, and the ability to switch between the real world and the nether world at will. Added to a solid fighting move set arsenal, Guacamelee possesses one of the best core fighting mechanics I have experienced in this style of game. A strong tutorial/training section offers the player to continue building longer combos and it shows off the depth of possibilities available to the player. The game is excellently paced. I never got lost and the objectives were always clear; this was crucial due to Guacamelee being harder than most games nowadays. This is experienced in challenging platforming sections most of which yield valuable upgrades to health and stamina. Guacamelee also features co-op, which adds difficulty to the platforming sections, but is invaluable in combat.
How Does it Look and Sound?
Much like Mutant Blob Attacks before it, Guacamelee is comprised of delightful 2D art. It is super referential giving nods to Metroid, Zelda, Viva Piñata, and Castle Crashers among others. The great use of color and the game remains visually interesting the entire way through to the end. The music is some of my favorite of the year, obliviously being influenced by Mexican culture, but is also fused with some electronic chip-tune beats.
How Does it Compare?
Two games come to mind when comparing Guacamelee outside of the obvious two Metroid and Castlevania. Dust: An Elysian Tale and Outland also feature their own twists to the metroidvanian formula. Outland adds the absorbing “shoot-em-up” bullets from the Treasure classic, Ikaruga. Dust focuses on deeper RPG mechanics and a strong narrative. Guacamelee possesses some of the best moment-to-moment action of any game in the genre and trumps the other two in pacing and playability, but all three have their own strengths and weaknesses. For the record, Dust is my personal favorite of the three, but 2009’s Shadow Complex bests them all.
Concluding on Guacamelee
Guacamelee carves a niche in an increasingly crowed genre. Superb mechanics and playability make it a delight, which is enhanced by everything around it: excellent music, a fun art style, and entertaining presentation. It should be no surprise that I fully recommend the game. It should also be noted that there are multiple endings and the one I received was deliciously dark and thought provoking.
8.5 out of 10