The boys and girls from DrinkBox Studios are back on the PS3 and Vita with a brand new offering. While there are no mutant blobs in space this time round, there is a tale. A tale about a princess, kidnapped by an evil super villain and as you’ve probably guessed already, in need of rescuing by you.
You control Juan, a farmer from the outskirts of small town Pueblucho, Mexico. After being alerted to a large explosion at El Presidentes mansion, you discover that a an evil skeleton intent on sacrificing the daughter of the president in a bid to acquire eternal power. Then you are murdered. Game over right? Nope. Juan wakes up in the world of the dead and happens upon Lucho Libre, or mask of the dead. Thus allowing him to travel back and forth between the world of the living and his new home in a bid to stop it all before it’s too late.
Guacamelee! is essentially a ‘metroidvania’ side scrolling platformer, filled to the brim with combo’s and drenched in DrinkBox’s trademark style. It’s charming, has clichéd narrative that doesn’t take itself seriously and brings back found memories of the 16/24 bit era. Think Super Metroid meets the Three Amigos. A fairly big map filled with blocked off corridors and suspicious dead ends for you explore, make a mental note and come back for later. And all of this is interconnected as one large level.
While traversing this Viva Piñata of a world, you will gradually uncover more of Juan’s powers, bestowed upon you by a shape shifting goat. These range from wrestling moves such as suplex and frog splashes, to turning yourself into a chicken in order to get into all the nooks and cranny’s you come across. Each power gives you an ability which act as key’s that will have you scratching your head as to remember where you’ve seen a tiny gap of an oddly coloured block that maybe, if you use that move in that place, will unlock a new path.
These moves fit into the combat system nice and snug, giving you the feeling that you are stringing big combos together while not being overly complicated. Enemies start off in small groups with simple attacks that are effortlessly dodged, but soon start getting bigger, badder and in loftier mobs. They then come coupled with shields that require specific moves to break, handily colour coded so you know exactly how to hit them. While it is a pretty simple system, it does leave you feeling satisfied when you clear a room of 20 enemies without a scratch.
Bosses look cool, and have great designs, the best being Javier Jaguar and Flame Face. Boss fights are enjoyable and pretty challenging at first but after a couple of attempts you’ll learn the attack patterns and vanquish them without a hitch. Upon completing the game a hard mode is unlocked and this pumps up the damage the enemies do to you, but I didn’t find it too perplexing.
The platforming can be frustrating at times and getting the timing of certain moves gets to be a pain, particularly in the optional areas (Tree Tops I’m looking at you!). However if you fall you are returned to that last platform you were safe on without penalty, thus preventing me from rage quitting.
Lastly the soundtrack is excellent. Funky upbeat Mexican tunes in the towns, creepy remixes in the dead world and ambient beats in the temples. All fit perfectly with the games art direction.
All in all Guacamelee! is great little package. If I had to pick a flaw it would be that it’s just a bit too short. At around 7 hours to 100% the game and add another 3 or 4 doing it again in hard mode, the package is worth it’s £9.99/$14.99 price tag. Hopefully some DLC will appear in the near future. Nonetheless I highly recommend it.