Guacamelee! Review (PS3/PS Vita)
You may not know this about me, but before joining PSLS, I was a professional wrestler. Fighting under the name Huevos Rancheros, I was the best around. Sadly, my career ended thanks to an unfortunate donkey accident on one dreary August evening.
So, you can then imagine my hesitation when the review of Guacamelee! was placed onto my shoulders. Coming from DrinkBox Studios, the team behind my personal 2012 PS Vita GOTY, Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack, I decided to weather the storm of bad memories, and it was totally worth it.
The adventure follows Juan, someone who people constantly remind you isn’t even a real luchador. Upon walking out of your basement and heading towards the church, you find out that the President’s daughter is in trouble. After a quick fight between Juan and a powerful enemy, you are sent to the world of the dead, find a mask, and return to the world of the living as a luchador. Then the fun begins.
Billed as a Metroidvania type of game, Guacamelee! fully embraces the formula and does it very well. Power-ups that help you break different colored blocks and open up new areas unlock at a quick pace, keeping you addicted and playing the game for long periods of time. The levels where you use those powers do have some interesting puzzle-type elements to conquer, though at times, I did find that they weren’t very inspired and lacked some uniqueness.
What does help to alleviate some of the bland environments is the ability to swap dimensions at will. You’ll be introduced to this mechanic early on at pre-determined sections, but shortly after that, you can do it at any point with the touch of a button. This opens up several opportunities to change the world around you, revealing new secrets that you wouldn’t have found previously. Couple this with two awesome powers you have access to towards the tail end of the game and you’ll be having lots of fun just progressing through Guacamelee!.
Now, as part of the Metroidvania genre, there’s of course going to be combat. With Guacamelee!, it’s serviceable, if lacking that certain something. There’s no crazy over-the-top moves or awesome special attacks that fill the screen at your disposal, and the majority of the time, combat just consists of you hitting square on an enemy until the triangle appears above their head, at which point you throw them into a wall. Using uppercuts, slams, and other moves you unlock through natural progression help to advance the combat to a better point near the end of the game, and enemies to become more difficult to kill, but for about half of the game, combat doesn’t feel as fleshed out as it should.
I would be remiss not to mention that DrinkBox’s great sense of humor is present within Guacamelee!. Whether it’s the pun-tastic signs that litter the game world, homages to classic games (there’s an over-abundance of Nintendo references, so hopefully you aren’t a PlayStation only gamer), or a quirky cast of characters, including Flame Face, whose face is made of flames, you’ll find yourself laughing through a good chunk of Guacamelee!.
Of course, since I didn’t give Guacamelee! a perfect score, there are problems. I talked about the awesome powers you get near the end of the game earlier, and that is the start of a big issue. I beat the game on normal in just over 4 hours, with everything not really coming together until about the 2 hour mark. That’s where you become fully invested into the combat, whereas it had been somewhat bland up to that point, the levels become more interesting, you can double-jump, and dimension swapping becomes accessible.
I still had fun in those first couple hours, and a 4 hour campaign isn’t a terrible thing in and of itself (Journey was 3 hours), but just as I got into a groove with Guacamelee! and was having an absolute blast, it ended and left me thinking that there should have been one more world, hopefully something we see in DLC form (hint, hint DrinkBox!).
To help extend your time with Guacamelee! past those four hours, there’s a replay on Hard mode, the chance to try to top the leaderboards with the fastest completion time, trying to get 100% of the entire world (which brings your total to 7+ hours), and, provided you have a PS3, you can check out the co-op. The latter is very well done, even allowing you to use your PS Vita through Remote Play to act as the second controller. Really, the only downside to co-op is that if you walk to far away from the other player, you’ll “die” easily, though that can be avoidable provided you are on the same page.
Despite my gripes with Guacamelee!, it’s an experience filled with great humor and platforming, with slightly not as great combat and completion time. If you had any doubts that this wouldn’t be worth the $15, you can rest assured that it’s money well spent.