Review: Guacamelee!

Developer: Drinkbox Studios | Year: 2013 | List Price: $14.99 | Buy from Amazon

Guacamelee-Logo-2There are games that are hard, and then there are games that make me question whether I’ll ever be able to finish them. Guacamelee belongs to the latter category. Thinking I should get the Platinum, I first started Guacamelee on Hard difficulty, and finally gave up after 4 hours of constantly dying. Restarting the game on Normal made the game more accessible to me, but even then I still had a hard second half. That’s the beauty of Guacamelee. Unlike many modern games, it’s not too worried whether the player finishes the game or not. Of course, most people do, and that’s a testament to the game’s quality. Guacamelee is a Metroidvania-style platformer with brawler elements. Add to that heaps of Mexican-inspired setting and witty, humourous dialogue, and you’ve got yourself one of the better game formulas in recent memory.

Guacamelee puts you in the shoes of Juan, an agave farmer who, in the first five minutes of the game, dies and is resurrected as a luchador. El Presidente’s daughter has been kidnapped and it’s your job to rescue her. The story is a little cliche, but what makes Guacamelee stand out is its humour. The excellent writing makes frequent use of puns and pop-culture references, and the world is populated and interesting to explore. Guacamelee’s stages seem to be inspired by the likes of Castlevania and Metroid, and will have you wandering a 2D world looking for money and powerups. You’ll need these powerups to access even more areas, and the cycle continues.

But combat in Guacamelee is more akin to fighting games than platformers. Alhough it starts out as hack-and-slash action, you’ll learn combos that require a little more coordination to execute. The action is snappy and the platforming precise, though I was a little annoyed at times by ‘lagginess’ caused by your own attack animations. This is just a personal gripe, however, and it’s clearly deliberate to emulate the nuances of brawlers, so don’t hold that against the game’s combat.

Guacamelee looks and sounds amazing, thanks to a crisp, cartoony art style and excellent music. There’s no voice acting, but it would have sounded out of place anyway. Similar to Grim Fandango, Guacamelee uses the Mexican Day of the Dead theme to great effect, with the inclusion of another dimension, a la Link to the Past. You’ll have to switch between the worlds of the living and the dead to solve puzzles, traverse platforming sequences, and defeat enemies. It’s all really creative and engaging, and there’s never a dull moment in all of Guacamelee’s 5-7 hours. (That’s the figure you see most online. I actually took 10 1/2, spend dying many times and trophy collecting.)

Be warned: Guacamelee gets pretty hard quick later on, and if, like me, you don’t have old-school sensibilities, you may get rather frustrated at times. Unlike something like Shovel Knight, I don’t always feel like Guacamelee’s difficulty is fair; sometimes I retried areas 5 to 10 times only to win without seeming to do anything different. I also tried the Costume DLC, which changes your changes your character in interesting ways. In fact, I’m not sure if I could have beaten one of the bosses without the Pollo suit! Altogether, Guacamelee is a great choice for anyone looking to play a great sidescroller.

Design: 9/10 Guacamelee’s world is unique and entertaining to explore. The dialogue is well written, the characters are witty and humourous, and level design is top-notch.

Visuals: 10/10 It’s really hard to find fault in Guacamelee’s visual design. The entire game is smooth and colourful, and the style is wonderfully quirky, rather like some modern cartoons. And with some creatively designed levels, Guacamelee is not a game you’ll soon tire of looking at.

Sound: 9/10 The excellent soundtrack is clearly Mexican-inspired and ranges from exciting boss themes to more relaxing town themes. Because of how long you’ll be spending in some areas, some tracks may get a little repetitive, but the presence of some standout themes (I particularly like Pueblucho’s) keep Guacamelee’s soundtrack from mediocrity.

Gameplay: 8/10 Guacamelee’s gameplay is a great blend of platforming and brawler elements. I enjoyed the Metroidvania elements, and though I found the rather hack-and-slash nature of the combat tiresome after a while, it’s not without a ton of refinement and polish.

Value: 8/10 Guacamelee isn’t a long game, but it’s not an expensive one either. $15 gets you a 5-7 hour adventure, though you’ll get far more playtime if you try to collect everything. In terms of quality, Guacamelee is one of the better choices out there if you’re looking for cheaper platforming adventure.

Total: 44/50 (A)

List Price: $14.99 | Buy from Amazon

I’ve got a ton of games on the go at the moment, and because it’s Spring Break, I can actually play them. I finally beat the main quest of Skyrim after 2 1/2 years of messing about, so I might do a review on that (or maybe not; it’s actually been a while since I’ve played that game in a proper capacity). I got Valkyria Chronicles to work on my Mac through the witchcraft that is Wineskin, and I’m partway through Spec Ops: The Line, which is running absolutely atrociously on my dinosaur of an iMac. Anyway, you’ll see more reviews before the week is up, I guarantee it!

Until then, check out our other videogame content here, and see an always-up-to-date ranking of all the games I’ve ever played.

2 thoughts on “Review: Guacamelee!

  1. Yeah, it always kind of sucks to see talent go to waste. I personally don’t like mobile games much, but I guess who am I to say they are bad if some people really like them… But Guacamelee’s design really is down pat!

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