Ah, the tried-and-true Metroidvania genre. The 2D sidescroller with abilities doled out at good pace, used to defeat bosses with timed attack patterns and unlock different colored doors. Guacamelee has all that … and the main character is a luchador. Like a high flying, Rey Mysterio-looking luchador.
But, that’s not the only thing Guacamelee has going for it. It’s a well-rounded, perfectly paced game with a unique visual style and references for days.
- TL;DR: Fast-paced combat and well-executed platforming all under the mask of a luchador
- Platform: PS4
- Hours Played: 7
- What I Played: Main campaign with some backtracking for collectibles
- Recommended?: Yes, without a doubt.
Juan, an unassuming agave farmer, is trying to help the town priest to set up for the upcoming Dia de los Muertos festival when, all of a sudden, the town is attacked by the evil Calaca. Juan’s love, the president’s daughter, is kidnapped in the attack. He is somehow brought to the underworld where Tostada (heh), guardian of a blue luchador mask, bestows it upon Juan who grows in strength and confidence. It’s his mission to save the world and his love.
Guacamelee is, as I said earlier, a throwback to the old Metroid and Castlevania games of the past. It’s a 2D platformer with plenty of purely fun combat against Calaca’s skeleton army. You’ll earn plenty of gold in combat which can be used to upgrade your health, stamina, intenso meter, and skills. Stamina is used to perform skills such as an uppercut, which can also act as another jump, and a downward bodyslam. Each skill also helps in platforming by breaking a different colored block (red for uppercut, green for bodyslam, etc.)
Combat in Guacamelee is fast paced with bodies flying along with your combo meter. A higher combo means more bonus gold, but no bonus to damage. Most enemies can be weakened after a few hits, allowing you to grab them and throw them at other enemies, suplex them overhead, or piledrive them for massive damage. Mixing in these fast moves with the powerful skills I mentioned above make combat incredibly fun.
There isn’t much in the line of defense in Guacamelee, which I feel is for the better. You can roll to evade strikes or roll through projectiles, but there’s no way to guard or reflect attacks. This keeps combat flowing at a breakneck pace, pushing you to keep your combo flowing.
If you stay on the offensive long enough, you’ll fill your intenso meter, allowing Juan to basically transform into SuperJuan. While intenso is active, you’ll have increased strength and speed along with unlockable upgrades like regenerating health and stamina. I recommend the health regeneration for hairy situations. I wish there were more times where I felt like it was necessary, though. As a whole, Guacamelee is relatively easy, especially after you pile up a bunch of health upgrades.
While gold is used for skills and other upgrades, silver can be used to buy new costumes from the vendor who is seemingly around every corner. He’s seriously everywhere. Costumes each come with their own pluses and minuses like increased health at the cost of decreased stamina regeneration. I played with the default costume except for a few minutes of toying around.
You can enter both the light and dark worlds in Guacamelee. Certain platforms and walls will only materialize in one of the two realms, forcing you to think and map out the path to that chest or ledge. There are a fair amount of collectibles to find like heart pieces and mysterious “orbs”, plenty of which will make you double back to open doors you couldn’t open/reach before and are well hidden. In the Super Turbo Championship Edition, the El Infierno challenge mode is available for those truly wishing to push Juan to his limits. Olmec heads will help you fast travel around the world, but one nagging issue I have is how spaced out they are. I kind of want to go back and 100% the game, but it would probably take as long as beating the game itself. And yes, I do mean Olmec as in Legends of the Hidden Temple Olmec.
One of the coolest things about Guacamelee is the Borderlands level of references to other games. A few examples: Choozo statues are where you get new skills (Chozo from the Metroid world), a poster of four luchadors named Casa Crashers (Castle Crashers), and Los Super Hermanos, a duo of red and green masked brothers (Super Mario). I saw all of these in the first few minutes of playing, but there are dozens and dozens of references scattered around which are always fun to find.
While you’re exploring the world and fighting off undead hordes, you’ll be treated to a very pretty animation style. It’s animated and 2D but still alive and very well executed. The music is mostly upbeat techno/dance music with some Mexican themes thrown in, which help keep up the pace.
There isn’t much negative to say about Guacamelee. It’s long enough to feel complete and give you a sense of progress but not dragged out, checking in at just about seven hours. Combat never stops being fast nor fun as enemies progress in both difficulty and number, unlike Shadow Warrior where they just increase in number. The story may be a bit cliched with the unassuming farmer finding an item of power to help save the girl, but I’ll give that a pass. Guacamelee is a flat-out blast to play. At this point, you can probably get it for under $10 on your platform of choice. I hope you do so.