A platform gamers favorite dip?
Guacamelee!, from DrinkBox Studios, is currently available on PlayStation Network for both PS3 and Vita, with cross-buy meaning that you only need to buy the game once to play it on both systems. So, put on your Luchadore mask and prepare for some 2D brawler/platformer action.
You start your life in Guacamelee! as Juan Aguacate, a Mexican farmer residing in the small town of Pueblucho, a town which just happens to have been overrun by an evil presence. Juan’s life has been devastated by the fact that the woman he adores, El Presidente’s daughter, has been kidnapped by a bony skeleton that goes by the name of Carlos Calaca, ruler of the dead world. I don’t think I will be spoiling anything by saying that you are unceremoniously killed by Carlos, and then resurrected. Whilst pondering the disappearance of Pueblucho’s residents, you are met by a strange character called Tostada, Guardian of the Mask. Tostada persuades you to put on this mysterious mask, and the mask’s powers bring you back to the world of the living, turning you into a mighty warrior.
The controls in Guacamelee! are fairly straight forward. X enables you to jump, while square is used to attack and circle allows you to use special moves. The triangle button can be used to throw enemies or grab and pull yourself up walls. Left stick is assigned to movement, and the right stick allows the player to roll in the direction pressed, handy for dodging or used in combination with other moves. For example, once an enemy becomes weakened in combat, pressing the triangle button will allow the player to throw the enemy and the right stick can be used to choose the direction they are thrown, such as into a wall for additional damage, or into other enemies. Certain moves will require stamina and running out of stamina will result in Juan turning red and these moves becoming unavailable.
Juan learns new combat moves as he progresses through the game and there’s a chance to purchase various upgrades through the stores that can be found throughout the game. The combat moves are introduced slowly by different, strange characters, ensuring that the player has plenty of time to learn a move before adding to the repertoire.
The player is not only rewarded with additional moves as they work their way through the game. There are several golden chests located within the levels, giving the player a chance to grab some cash for those much needed upgrades.
The platforming element of Guacamelee! will see you leaping from platform to platform, avoiding spikes or rolling through thorny barriers, with things getting progressively more difficult. The ability to jump between the living and dead dimensions opens the possibility to change the environment and access different areas. Doing so can require quick reactions and a certain amount of forward planning.
The combat can be quite difficult at times, with endless hordes of enemies to overcome, and button bashers will struggle without learning the combos first. Keeping with this theme, the platforming becomes complex very quickly, especially when switching between dimensions. Guacamelee! is not unfair, but it is set at a challenging difficulty.
There are several different areas that will have to be worked through, from deep forests to arid deserts, but you will have to survive long enough to find these places. Luckily, Juan will have the chance to find heart chunks scattered through the levels, gain three heart chunks to give you additional health, and boy are you going to need it. Despite the endless battles and hazardous platforming, the storyline and your efforts to save El Presidente’s daughter will be enough to keep most players moving forward.
Guacamelee! manages to pack in some retro platforming visuals, which are both crisp and polished, with a Mexican vibe. The bright and colourful characters and upbeat Mexican soundtrack create a positive atmosphere and will leave the player uplifted.
Like some other popular platformers of recent years, Guacamelee! is a challenging game that will test your platforming skill, patience and determination, and players should be prepared for an untimely death on more than one occasion. That being said, it offers an interesting mechanic is the switching between dimensions, and is fairly original in both its setting and execution. There is a solid amount of entertainment to be had here, with a nice dose of humour that will make the charming characters difficult to resist.