Drinkbox Studios of Mutant Blobs Attack fame are back with Metroidvania styled Guacamelee.
Based around the character of Juan Aguacate, a down on his luck Mexican who through a series of events is thrust into the role of a Luchador and charged with saving the world. Guacamelee takes players on a wonderful journey of fun, action and adventure.
One of the main strengths of Guacamelee is the way the game builds the story alongside discovery and introduces new mechanics. As players start out, Juan can jump and has but a single attack, yet as you progress more of the world opens up and more moves and techniques become available.
It is a mechanic of Metroidvania games that has stood the test of time and it is no different here. As stated Juan has limited powers early in the and the map will tease you with various areas and barriers that you will not be able to reach. Yet as you move through the story Juan unlocks new abilities, that not only allow him to access those previously unobtainable areas, but also new fighting moves that make dispatching enemies all the more fun.
There are simple things like the ability to wall jump, or some more obscure ones like turning into a chicken and getting access to areas through small tunnels. Moving from basic attacks to being able to pull off special moves is wonderfully done, throwing enemies into other enemies, pile-driving them to the ground, suplexes and punts all feel great to pull off.
It is the pacing that really works though, at no point do you ever really feel like you are grinding through an area, as you reach a part of the story where you really need that extra ability, the game will introduce it at the right moment, by breaking open totems that will pass on these new abilities via a goat-man who explains what you have unlocked and what it will do for you.
The game takes place in two realms, the ‘Land of the Dead’ and the ‘Land of the Living’ which initially can only be switched by jumping through portals that are placed in strategic places, yet soon the ability to switch at will becomes available. This adds some interesting mechanics to both combat and platforming. Some areas will require you to switch between the two realms multiple times, such are jumping between walls, where one is in the land of the dead and the other in the land of the living. It creates moments where you need some quick thinking and quick fingers to be able navigate properly. It’s far from frustrating through and in particularly difficult areas, you find yourself wanting to push on, rather than give up.
Combat too uses the two realms and battles that include enemies from both realms at the same time can get really intense, especially as you have to be in the right realm to tackle the enemy from said realm. Again it requires you to think and act fast. Once again though, as with the platforming, the combat is slick and satisfying, using a mixture of attacks, throws and defensive rolls will see you have plenty of fun battling the enemy.
The controller layout works and is vital to the enjoyment of the game. X is jump, Square is attack, Triangle performs a grapple and Circle a special attack. Dodging is on the right-stick or LT and switching realms on RT. It all comes together really well creating a wonderful fluid experience.
It’s not just the sublime mechanics that make Guacamelee stand out though, visually it is glorious. Combining a very retro 2D style with an art style that screams Latino from the very get go. On the Vita’s OLED screen everything is so crisp and sharp. There are tons of little touches of humour thoughout too, such as the posters for Drinkbox’s previous game Mutant Blobs Attacks, but with the Spanish text on the poster, as well as the odd little homage to some famous game you might recognise.
If there is one complaint about Guacamelee, it is that maybe it is a little too short. The game can be completed in around six to eight hours, maybe less for some people. Far from outstaying it’s welcome like some games can, you are left wanting more. It isn’t that the game has a poor ending, that leaves you feeling short changed, it is more that you just want to play more, to carry on exploring and opening up new areas and getting more of that sweet combat.
Luckily Guacamelee is Cross-Buy, Cross-Save and Cross-Play, so once you finish on the Vita, you could always start again on the PS3, maybe with a little co-op this time, all at no extra cost. That said, the game feels better as a single player experience on the whole and a perfect fit for the Vita, which is why Gamestyle finished the entire thing on that rather than the PS3 itself, but we will go back and play it again, because it is just that good.
Guacamelee isn’t the second coming of anything like that. It takes a tried and tested formula and just delivers. It gets the basics right and makes sure fun is at the forefront of what it does. Great platforming, wonderful adventure, silky smooth combat and the perfect balance of challenge and enjoyment. To truly joyful experience from start to finish.