‘Guacamelee!’ Review- Become a Trans-Dimensional Luchador!
Guacamelee! has received its fair share of hype: great fanfare, sterling reviews, and its weight in awards before it was even released. People were reasonably excited for the release of the PS Vita/PS3 exclusive with good reason. Guacamelee! is the combination of some fantastic gaming elements into one easily consumable package.
Guacamelee! tells the story of Juan Aguacate, whose death leads him to don a magical wrestling mask, thus becoming a powerful luchador. Juan then proceeds to try to save El Presidente’s daughter from the grasp of the Evil Charro Skeleton. Juan ventures out into areas around his hometown to obtain powers which will allow for him to defeat the evil skeleton. Along the way Juan meets some memorable characters and has the opportunity to complete multiple side quests.
The story is perfectly crafted for Guacamelee!. Characters are one-dimensional and comical. Side quests range in enjoyment but equal each other in hilarity. There are plenty of moments which pay homage to the classics on which the foundation of Guacamelee! is built, and the moments will be well appreciated by those who recognize them.
Part of Guacamelee!‘s genius is that it does not shy away from these building blocks, and instead embraces them wholeheartedly. Guacamelee! successfully adopts elements from the classics. Platforming is reminiscent of VVVVVV. Combat evokes combo 2D fighting classics such as Marvel vs. Capcom and Street Fighter. Drinkbox Productions advertises the platformer as “Metroid-vania” style for the likeness to Metroid and Castlevania. Meanwhile, Guacamelee! feels all its own stylistically and spiritually.
The two most distinctive gameplay elements of Guacamelee! are the combo-thirsty combat and the alternate universe platforming. The combat is not quite as full of depth as the fighting classics mentioned before, but includes plenty of the aerial combat tricks and combo moves that make those games so enjoyable. Everything is smoothly implemented and beating up bad guys with a flurry of combos is as pleasant as it can be. Juan constantly unlocks new abilities and moves throughout the game, which keeps combat fresh and exciting. The abilities not only work for combat, but are an aspect of the natural progression of the game. Walls that once seemed to be dead-ends now vault Juan to the sky. What seems to be an infinite pass of sky Juan can suddenly fly across with a superhuman leap from a wall. The vent sized openings in the ground become an easy passage-way for Juan when he gains the ability to transform into a chicken. The gaining of new abilities constantly give the player reasons to revisit areas of the game.
Guacamelee! also manages to present a variety of challenging enemies throughout the game. Players will encounter all kinds of undead monsters, big and small challenges, and numerous bosses (which are framed in the context of a wrestling match). The variety poses a challenge for the gamer, but each enemy has a pattern of attack and learning that pattern of attack is critical to success. To make matters more difficult, enemies often are presented multi-dimensionally. Juan will have to travel between the two worlds of the living and the dead to defeat these enemies, which can damage him regardless of the world in which they live.
The multi-dimensional elements of Guacamelee! very well may be the most enjoyable. Specifically, the platforming elements of Juan’s adventure between dimensions are fantastically created and challenge the gamer to think differently about how platformers are built. Eventually, Juan will receive the ability to control when he exists in the world of the living or the world of the dead. These sections of platforming offer a true challenge and some serious hand-eye coordination. Unfortunately, these moments are too sparse and sections of the platforming feel short.
This may be one element of the only complaint about Guacamelee!. It feels short. The game can be beat at 100% and a platinum award can be earned in under 10 hours. Short games are fine, but Guacamelee! felt as though it could have been longer: perhaps because it is so enjoyable.
Luckily, the length does not detract from the overall experience and the numerous features, which include co-op and cross play with the Vita and PS3. At $15 for a combo package of both the Vita and PS3 versions, Guacamelee! is well worth picking up and adding to any gaming collection. Guacamelee! is an incredibly crafted game, throwback or not with each and every element as well crafted as the last. Fantastic combat, a hilarious storyline, memorable bosses, and challenging platforming are all present and working at peak efficiency in Guacamelee!. This is a must-have for retro-gaming fans and modern gamers alike. Play it.