The great thing about digital distribution is that it gives the chance to smaller developers to get their games out there for a low price. That’s exactly how DrinkBox Studios have made a name for themselves on the PlayStation platforms with the Tale From Space series and now the mexican wrestling, skeleton smashing, world switching platformer that is Guacamelee!
Guacamelee! is all about a farmer-turned-luchador named Juan Aguacate, as he fights his way through the land of the living and the dead to rescue El Presidente’s daughter who has been captured by the evil skeleton supervillain Carlos Calaca. However Juan’s first encounter with Carlos doesn’t go down too well, Carlos kills Juan, but Juan is then revived as a super hero wrestler who can travel between the world of the living and dead and has to stop the evil skeleton from sacrificing El Presidente’s daughter to gain ultimate power.
Combining two great things is risky business. Guacamelee! seeks to unite the wonderful worlds of the Metroidvania formula with Mexican aesthetics. There’s no questioning, the game looks beautiful whether you’re playing or PlayStation 3 or on PS Vita and it’s a truly a visual masterpiece. Also the mexican-themed soundtrack also adds to experience and really lifts the game up at times.
Throughout the game Juan learns special moves from a transforming goat-man, which allows him to access special areas as well as learn new combos. Each special move has a colour associated with it, which occasionally corresponds with shields around enemies which forces you to use that move to break their shield, as well as blocks around the world which require you to use that a move to progress onwards. However one move specifically stood out for me, which allows you to transform into a chicken and run around pecking enemies (as well as innocent people and other chickens). POLLO POWER!!!
Guacamelee!’s open world is a lot of fun to explore and you’ll find yourself voluntarily going back to find hidden treasure chests that are scattered throughout the world. The treasure chests are not all accessible from the beginning of the game and you will have to wait until you obtain specific special moves to access certain areas. There are different types of treasure chests, some contain money which you can use to spend on upgrading health and stamina and also learn new moves. Other chests contain hearts and gold which you can also collect to increase Juan’s health and stamina.
As you may have guessed from its name, Guacamelee! doesn’t take itself very seriously and throughout the game you will find many famous meme references such as the “me gusta” face and “Insanity Wolf“. You’ll also find many mexican-styled references to games such as Super Mario Bros, Journey, Space Invaders, Super Meat Boy, Mega Man and many more!
Despite Guacamelee’s beautiful open world, the one aspect of the game that really stands out is the combat. You start the game with your basic punch, kick and throw moves however they are gradually complimented with each new skill move you learn. Guacamelee! does teach you specific combos in game with some help from the Combo Chicken, who helps you truly master the art of mexican wrestling.
When you’re not smashing up skeletons in ponchos, Guacamelee! is a platformer at heart and puts a nice twist on a traditional formula. During the game Juan posses the ability to switch between the world of the living and the world of dead which a push of the button. There are two main times you will need to be switching between the world of the living and the world of the dead, firstly is for platforming puzzles, each world has its own set of platforms which you will need to switch between on the fly to reach the next area. Secondly is for combat where certain enemies are only in one plane or the other and you have to switch between to attack them.
For £9.99 (or £7.99 if you have PlayStation Plus) you will get both PS3 and Vita versions of the game, and you can send saves between the two. The PS3 version also includes local jump in and out co-op play but the game is better played alone.
Despite how fun Guacamelee! can be, the fun doesn’t last much longer than 6 hours. It can be easily beaten in a day and I didn’t really feel like the Hard difficulty was enough to bring me back to play it a second time.
Guacamelee! isn’t only a beautiful game but it’s great fun and the deep combat system and the two-world switching mechanic results in some incredibly difficult, yet rewarding challenges. Despite the short campaign, it is one the best games i’ve played on the Vita and it is truly a must buy no matter what console you’ll be playing it on.
Guacamelee! was reviewed on the PS Vita however co-op was tested on the PS3.