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PSX 2017 – Guacamelee! 2 Hands-on Preview – Enhanced Luchador Action (PS4)

The Guacamelee! series has seen success with its release back in 2013 on the PlayStation 3 and Vita, followed up by an enhanced version for the PS4. Developer Drinkbox Studios has been busily working on a sequel since that time (when they weren’t busy working on the wonderful Severed in the meantime, that is), and we were recently able to go hands-on at Sony’s PlayStation Experience 2017 convention. Read our impressions to see what’s changed.

Juan Unretires

Guacamelee! 2 takes place seven years after the events of the first game. Protagonist Juan Aguacate has been living a quiet life with his family, but of course such things don’t last forever. A new menace threatens to not only destroy Mexico, but also time and space itself. Though Juan may have become a bit doughy in the intervening years, he quickly sheds his unassuming demeanor and dons the luchador outfit. From that point on, it’s as if nothing really changed and Juan and pals are back to fighting evil.

The first Guacamelee! had some wonderful, colorful, Mexican-inspired visuals. These have been enhanced in the sequel. While the original was done entirely in 2D, Guacamelee! 2 features 3D elements without changing the game’s perspective. Normal mapping has been applied, which results in great lighting on these assets. What’s more, Drinkbox’s proprietary game engine now includes 4K and HDR support when the game is loaded onto a PS4 Pro. Targeting 60 frames per second also ensures that all the luchador and killer chicken action will stay buttery smooth. The game may not be ready until sometime next year, but what was shown at PSX 2017 was already quite visually impressive.

guacamelee 2 preview

More Involved Platforming

The controls in Guacamelee! 2 have been upgraded. The core mechanics of jumping and fighting remain relatively simple, and it’s easy to get a combo going with just a few button presses. But Juan now has access to attacks which double as traversal methods. Holding down the Circle button, for instance, begins the Eagle Boost move. This move can not only be used against foes, but it can also give players an extra mid-air boost for their jumps. Mastery of this skill was required for a certain platforming sequence in the demo, and will no doubt be utilized throughout the game.

Traveling between the worlds of the living and dead was a focal point of the first game, but it was also an all-or-nothing affair. Levels may have had different versions, but they could only be experienced wholly in the living or dead renditions. In this sequel, portions of levels can have their dead world versions revealed, which presents its own challenges. For example, in one sequence we played through, a corridor was filled with lava in the world of the dead. But a moving wave of interdimensional energy exposed the living world version of the level, where the corridor was empty. So completing this section of the level involved moving in time with the line of energy, platforming along the way. There was a decent level of challenge to this, and it was a cool preview of what to expect in the game’s later stages.

Jump Right Back In

Although I hadn’t played a Guacamelee! game in a few years, picking up Guacamelee! 2 felt intuitive and instantly familiar. I played co-op alongside a member of the development team, and the action was ramped up, but not overwhelming. Some of the platforming was also challenging, requiring a few attempts by both myself and the developer before successfully clearing the section. Once either of us made it to an exit point, the game moved both of us forward. This is a good thing, since sometimes one person may be able to clear a section with ease, while another person might get hung up on some of the in-air multitasking now required with the addition of more moves.

Guacamelee! 2 appears to be shaking things up for the better. The original’s combat and traversal systems were adequate, but the new version allows for much more innovative level design. Since the original was so well received, it seems Drinkbox Studios isn’t really messing with its existing formula, but rather modifying and enhancing it. If this sequel can capture much of what made the original resonate with critics and gamers, but maybe last a little longer, then continued success for the Guacamelee! series is all but guaranteed.