Ironic and crackling entertainment with a crazy aesthetic style and frenetic fights
The canadian DrinkBox Studios released the first title of this super funny game, Guacamelee!, on April 2013 for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. Later ported to Microsoft Windows in August and to OS X and Linux in February 2014.
Small disclaimer: I decided to combine all of the title’s chapters into a single review because I believe they are all interconnected and composed in nearly identical styles.
You control a luchador in this 2D Metroidvania-style action platformer and brawler. He must explore an open, non-linear world in order to complete the main story objectives while collecting character upgrades and battling enemies.
Inspired by traditional Mexican folklore, introduces a strong melee combat component, a new dimension switching mechanic, and cooperative same-screen multiplayer throughout the story. The game also blurs the distinction between combat and platforming by making many of the moves useful and required for both.
But in all these technical and stylistic features, there’s also a narrative component. So, I’d like to talk a bit about that.
THE HERO AND LOS MUERTOS
On Dia de los Muertos, an evil charro skeleton named Carlos Calaca attacks our main character’s village. The setting is Pueblucho, a small Mexican village, and the protagonist is Juan Aguacate, a humble agave farmer.
Calaca, along with Flame Face, Jaguar Javier, and El Trio De La Muerte, kidnaps an old Juan’s friend, El Presidente’s daughter Lupita, but when the man confronts the villain, this one kills Juan and banishes him to the land of the dead.
Juan discovers a mysterious luchadora named Tostada there. She bestows on Juan a mystical mask that transforms him into a powerful luchador and returns him to the living world.
The game then follows Juan’s battle to save his beloved and prevent Calaca’s plan to sacrifice her in a ritual that would unite the living and dead worlds under his rule.
While confronting X’tabay, the first of Calaca’s lieutenants, drawn as a charmant woman, Juan takes the form of a rooster and returned to human form by another rooster with mysterious abilities.
After defeating X’tabay, she reforms, revealing the Calaca’s true story, which is directly related to the identity of the rooster who returned Juan to his human form.
Calaca was once a great rodeo man who broke his arm just before a big competition and sold his soul to the Devil so he could heal in time.
After he wins, the Devil enacts his payment and drags him to hell, but with X’tabay’s assistance, he deceives the Devil by transforming him into the same type of rooster as Juan.
The Devil’s interest in Juan is clear, then: if he defeats Calaca, he will regain his powers and be able to rule the underworld once more.
Juan gains sufficient power to confront and defeat the remainder of Calaca’s forces. He pursues Calaca to the altar where the ceremony is taking place and defeats him, but he is too late to save Lupita.
In the traditional ending, Juan returns to his village and lives his life in peace until he reunites with Lupita in the afterlife, at which point the mask vanishes.
In the true ending (if the player completes all of the hidden trials), the power of Juan’s mask revives Lupita, which breaks apart, and the two return to the village to marry.
FROG SLAM SPLASHES ONTO AIRBORNE ENEMIES
And now, we take a look at the gameplay.
As previously stated, Guacamelee! is a 2D Metroidvania, so Juan must progress through the game to gain access to various areas. When he breaks open “Choozo statues” (a direct reference to Metroid‘s “Choozo statues”), he begins to chain new abilities.
Some of those abilities provide Juan with new combat options, with the color of each move corresponding to similarly colored obstacles in the world, necessitating the learning of specific moves before accessing certain areas.
Movement upgrades such as a Double Jump and a chicken transformation (Pollo powers) to traverse small corridors are among the other abilities.
And then, the ability to travel between the worlds of the living and the worlds of the dead (Dimension Swap) in order to gain access to areas and combat enemies that are only on one plane.
With coins collected from defeated enemies, you can buy new skills at shops.
Costumes do more than just change the appearance of characters; they also have inherent abilities.
For example, the Pollo Luchador. This grants the player(s) regenerating health but a slower rate of stamina regeneration. If you die frequently, this costume will keep you alive for a longer period of time. However, you won’t be able to use special moves as frequently. And last but not least, you’ll also look like a chicken.
EL LUCHADOR RETURNS
In July 2014, Super Turbo Championship Edition was released for the Wii U, Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox 360, and later in October 2018 for the Nintendo Switch.
Is an updated version of the game, that adds new regions (Canal de las Flores and Pico de Gallo), expands some story elements, implements a new ability (Pollo-Bomba) as well as a boss within one area expansion.
Multiplayer is expanded from co-op/two players to four players, and other changes like in some visuals.
Instead, on August 21, 2018, arrives the sequel: Guacamelee! 2 (website).
I’d like to say a few words about the second chapter of a game that made history.
Therefore, in a nutshell, in fact: New Moves, More Chicken, Grander Scale.
I was kidding, let’s dig deeper:
Added to the previous ones, Juan now has super cool new moves, such as Eagle Boost and Pollo Shot. The first one allows Juan to navigate between points in the area using an eagle hooks station. The second one permits the luchador to rise or fall diagonally. Other variations of this ability include the Double Pollo Shot and the Infinite Pollo Shot.
Juan’s chicken form now has new abilities. Platforming, combat, and exploration are all based on chickens. More chicken than you can possibly handle.
There are also bigger maps, twice as many enemy types as the first game, and a roster of eccentric new bosses.
This new story is set seven years after Juan successfully saves Lupita’s life. They’re happily married, but black clouds begin to appear in the village, followed by the arrival of Juan’s mentor Uay Chivo, who informs him that the entire “Mexiverse” is in danger. He transports Juan through a portal to “The Darkest Timeline,” the source of the problem.
After Juan is led to reunite with Tostada, who restores his fighting form, they begin to travel the world to stop the new villain Salvador, who wants to collect three relics to create an access to the Sacred Guacamole, in the realm of El Oltremundo, in order to become unstoppable.
I don’t know if you have Guacamelee! in your collection of gaming experiences (I’m pretty sure you have), but if you’re a fan of the genre, it’s an absolute must-play.
There are undoubtedly other more or less recent titles with nearly identical gameplay, but it is the first of its kind and above all it stands out in terms of style and fun.
So, let’s eat some of this tasty chipotle!
If you want to know more about, visit the official website.