Guacamelee is a Metroid-vania sidescrolling platformer with interesting puzzles, a variety of abilities to master and surprisingly enough, a combo system but unfortunately the game becomes repetitive with its combat.
This new PlayStation Network title from Drinkbox Studios features a hero named Juan, a Mexican man who is the handyman of his village. One day, Juan’s life is turned upside down as his beloved, the daughter of El Presidente, is kidnapped. Like many other games of its ilk, you have to save the damsel in distress and after a few critical events in the story, Juan turns into a luchador ready to save the day from the evil Charro and his lackies. From there, the narrative of the game is simple to follow but features some hilarious lines and characters which complement the world of Guacamelee well.
In Guacamelee, you will constantly switch between fighting and platforming with a wealth of different moves at your disposal. Throughout the game, Juan constantly receives new abilities and Drinkbox Studios have been able to keep the game feeling fresh by changing the overall formula every 30 or so minutes. Some of these abilities may even surprise you with the variety they offer. Juan can headbutt, ground pound, uppercut and punch through walls and you have to use these moves while platforming as well to progress through the game. Plus, with these new abilities, you can break certain parts of the environment to get to specific areas, meaning you can backtrack to find more within Guacamelee. Despite these excellent attempts of keeping Guacamelee fresh, the game falters with its repetitive fighting sequences. The combat relies on Juan to use specific actions against certain enemies such as an uppercut against someone with a red barrier and a headbutt on someone who has a yellow barrier. With the same tactics having to be used over and over again, Guacamelee quickly became monotonous and predictable. The boss battles, on the other hand, are some of the best moments in the game as it forces the player to be strategic with their special moves. Indeed, there is a fantastic combo system within Guacamelee and its so in depth that there is even an area which teaches you these button sequences but unfortunately, the combos only soften the tedious nature of its repetitively structured foes.
While the combat suffers from recurring mechanics being put in place, the platforming segments really make this game shine with the innovative ability to change the environment around the character. Guacamelee features two worlds, The World of The Living and The World of The Dead,with the player having to switch between them constantly to move on. As you change the environment, a block once missing, will appear while one that used to exist disappears. The fun of this mechanic is figuring out how to maneuver around these constantly changing platforms and this is where Guacamelee truly becomes a gem of a game. Keep in mind though that with this switching mechanic, Guacamelee creates a more frustrating element while fighting. At times, you cannot hit enemies from the other world you are in. When there is a horde of foes, Drinkbox has incorporated this feature creating frustration while you are getting attacked by someone you cannot fight back against. This leads to a break of a combo you established against an enemy, which causes anger within the player. Once again the fighting segments reek even more of a monotonous nature from what could have been a great feature.
Despite its issues with the combat, the new abilities Juan acquires are thrown into the mix constantly. Drinkbox Studios keep bending your mind and the platforming segments, in result, never get old. One thing to note is that these puzzles are difficult at first but they don’t reach the point of them being enraging to the average gamer either. While the combat felt repetitive, Guacamelee’s puzzling platforming elements are incredibly fun and are worth the struggle.
Guacamelee captures the spirit of Mexico within its graphical style and this title looks stunning on both the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita systems. Juan’s adventures are shown in a hand drawn look and the colors pop out in vivid detail. The game’s signs, towns and character designs really show off how an independent developer can create a world which is alluring to look at without a AAA budget. Another side of the excellent presentation is the audio design. The Mexican inspired music is upbeat but the soundtrack hits the right tune when it comes to the story and the atmosphere of a scene/level. The sound effects also sound great with Guacamelee’s Zelda-esque menu notifcation sounds, character voices and the thwacking of Juan’s fists.
Guacamelee will take an average person around 5-6 hours to beat and for those who love their platinum trophies, this game needs at least a second replay if not more.
In conclusion, Guacamelee features a stunning graphical style, excellent puzzle-platforming elements and a wealth of abilities to use. Although, it has a repetitive combat system, Guacamelee is definitely worth a purchase if you’re a fan of the platforming genre or independent PlayStation Network games in general.
Drinkbox Studios supplied PlayStation Euphoria with a review code for Guacamelee.