Hola, Amigos! Roll up for a spicy enchilada of a game, dripping with authentic nostalgia flavoured salsa! Guacamelee is the new title from About a Blob developer, Drinkbox, and further cements their place as the prime platforming powerhouses on the PSN and Vita.
Guacamelee follows the tale of Juan, a Mexican farmer, whose dull life is interrupted by the woman he loves being kidnapped by an evil skeleton, names Carlos Calaca. While trying to save her, Juan is killed, but soon finds a magical Luchador mask, transforming him into a Mexican wrestling warrior. Newly empowered, Juan scours the land to rescue his love, crossing deserts, forests and delving into forgotten temples.
Guacamelee is a 2D sidescroller, playing very much in a Metroid style, with large, open maps that you can run about in at your leisure. Its reminiscent of lots of other 2D platformers too, like Castlevania, Rayman Origins, even the recent tricky platformer Outland. Many of its levels have cues and callbacks to the history of platformers, but it never gets bogged down within them. Guacamelee is a celebration of the best open world platformers, and a cracking title on it’s own merit.
Even though the map can be traversed however you like, the world is smartly sectioned off with sections you cannot pass without certain powers. These are all well signposted, and any impassible barriers you find will be marked on the map for you to return to later, a delightful addition.
The powers and skills you acquire to get past these obstacles come to you steadily. As you acquire a new power, you will usually find both combat uses and exploration uses for each power. Juan’s uppercut move gives him a little more height on his jumps, knocks enemies skywards and will also allow you to pass red blocks in the map. The colour coding works a treat, and it’s always obvious what skill you’ll need to get past. Every ability is used with a combination of a button and a direction, and the skills have been mapped to sensible button combos, letting you bounce around the levels without having to stop every ten seconds to remember where the ground stomp is.
As you progress, the level design really shines, giving ever more complicated platforming puzzles to unravel. You never feel like you’re being thrown in blind to die, there’s always a clear solution that you can figure out before jumping off that first platform. Shortcuts will be opened as you progress, and traversing the levels is a joy. Some of the bonus areas will push your skills to the absolute limit, but the rewards are always worth chasing.
Combat flows great, and enemies always present a new challenge. Key to the combat’s successes is the pace you get new abilities, and you’ll need to use all of them against new enemies. Chaining moves together is easy, and you’ll be juggling skeletons around in minutes. The enemies are introduced at a superb pace too, giving you enough of a challenge that they always feel like an accomplishment to beat. The ever tougher configurations will rely on you learning the nuances of the mechanics, but it never feels unfair.
It would be remiss to not give a special mention to the visuals of Guacamelee. The artwork is superb, with Mexican flavour spicing up every single area. Sombreros, luchadors and senoritas fill the towns, and enemy skeletons have a distinct Day of the Dead look to them. You’ll also find tons of references to other games and internet memes in posters and background artwork, such as Mega Hombre (work it out) and internet star Strong Bad. Every background joke is funny, charming, and never feels like it’s being laid on too thick.
You even get a two-player mode for co-operative Luchador action. A second player can jump in at any time, providing an extra set of fists to use against the skeleton hordes. Combat with a second player is great, but the exploration is not quite as well planned. The second player can be left behind a bit too easily, and the platforming puzzles are clearly designed around a single player. That’s not to say it isn’t fun, but one player dying in platforming sections starts to feel a little inevitable. You can always tag back in easy enough though, so it’s you’re not forced to restart if a player misses a jump.
Guacamelee is also amongst the growing library of Sony’s Cross-Buy titles. Buy the game once, and you can play it on PS3 and your Vita. Better still, it also supports Cross-Save, you you can upload your save to the cloud and play the same game save on either device. The short length of Guacamelee means you probably won’t use it too much, but it’s nice to see this feature being rolled out, and how easy it has become.
Guacamelee is not a long game, not by any stretch, you can clock it in anywhere from 6-10 hours, depending on how many of the bonus sections you want to try out. While it may be short, it’s incredibly paced, and whips along at a pace that keeps the game fresh, and nothing outstays its welcome. There’s a time-trial leaderboard too, and an optional hard mode unlocks at the end as well for replay value. The charm and care that drip from Guacamelee is visible, and its a credit to its developers. Strap on your mask, climb the top rope, and elbow drop your way right into this Mexican marvel!