Review – Guacamelee!

Guacamelee! • PS3/PS Vita • Available now

Some casual observers may say we’re a bit PC-centric when it comes to our reviews and features – and they’re probably correct. Two-thirds of our team play games nearly solely on the PC (with one of them desiring that all consoles be put down in a fiery assassination never to see the light of day) while the other third has just started his PC gaming quest and has been slightly neglecting his other machines.

It’s a shame really, as consoles do tend to see some very interesting games which aren’t covered here so much. One of these games is Guacamelee!, a sidescrolling platformer/beat-em-up from the creators of Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack, a game that while simple was great fun and was a highlight of the Vita’s launch line-up. Happily, Drinkbox Studios have taken all the charming elements from their previous games and managed to keep them in tact in Guacamelee! and have produced something quite special.

Guacamelee!, while also being great fun to say, follows the tale of a wannabe luchador who is tasked with saving ‘El Presidente’s’ daughter from an evil skeleton. It’s nothing special and very damsel-in-distress-y – in fact, it’s very lazy storytelling – but it’s not what the game is about really; the story is a side show to the warmth and humour of the world you inhabit as well as the well executed gameplay mechanics that hide inside.

First, let’s talk about the world – filled with Mexican themed references to a whole ton of video games and memes, the world is vibrant, colourful and feels like somewhere you’d actually want to be. There’s a nice mix of areas, from forests to sky temples, from deserts to mines – they may sound like typical gaming levels but they’re given a whole new lease of life with the art direction. This is, however, when talking about the Land of the Living; it wouldn’t be a Mexican themed game without featuring something to do with the Land of the Dead, and Guacamelee doesn’t shy away from this trope. It is the complete opposite of it’s Living counterpart – the colours are cold, and while these cold colours are vibrant, its inhabitant certainly aren’t. You know, because they’re dead.

It’s the switching between these two worlds that makes up a good portion of the well thought out puzzle solving in this game. You will also accrue various special moves like wall jumping and turning into a chicken to help you on your way, as well as some combat moves that will help you clear certain areas. There are of course challenging platforming segments and devilish fights, as would be expected from any game paying homage to Metroidvania. The combat in particular is a huge challenge – the game  like’s to trap you in rooms full of enemies so the beat-em-up frenzy can begin in earnest. The stakes are only raised further when colour coded shields or enemies that can only be hit in one world appear. It’s fast paced and unforgiving but when you get it right, you’ll be immensely proud of yourself and you’ll be rewarded by coins in a pinata, because OF COURSE you will.

Fans of the genre will feel instantly at home, though newcomers may be put of a little by the incredible difficulty curve. To the game’s credit, however, if you do fail at a segment you won’t have to re-do 15 minutes of level, which takes a lot of the frustration these kind of game’s tend to have away. This is a hugely fun game and if you own either a PS3 or a Vita you should certainly buy – of course Drinkbox’s last game was ported to PC eventually so hopefully one day Mike will get to play this too.

Note: This is a cross-buy title on the PSN, so if you buy it on the PS3, you get the Vita version free and vice versa, while save progress can be uploaded and downloaded to either machine. Swish.

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