I expected a mindless, side-scrolling brawler out of Guacamelee, but was surprised with how rich its experience is. I enjoyed throwing opponents all over the place with wrestling moves, but the deep combat system, complex platforming and humorous world was what really captivated me.

Guacamelee is a beautiful HD love child of Samurai Jack’s and The Emperor’s New Groove’s art style. It’s just entertaining to look at, especially since it is vibrant, flashy and the screen is drenched with color. These aspects go beyond just the aesthetics, and can be seen in Guacamelee’s plot and use of humor. The over-the-top plot has you coming back from the dead as a luchador to save the love of your life. It was goofy made me smile.

While the narrative is a bit lacking, dialogue and character design is fantastic. My favorite character was the goat-man trainer, who switches between bemoaning you for breaking his statues and asking for your mom’s number. Additionally, every vendor calls you “man-bro” when you select them to shop, and there is a move called the “derp-derp dash.” The whole game is filled with this blend of comedy, but also sprinkled with some clever jokes. Also riddled throughout the world were tons of referential humor to other indie games, classics like Super Mario Bros. and internet memes.

Guacamelee controls like a dream, despite the wealth of possible combos. The main way it accomplishes this is by  pacing  how it teaches you to play. Instead of a lengthy tutorial, Guacamelee offers just one brief demonstration for basic combos, and then relies on teaching as it’s played. The trainer teaches you a new special move periodically throughout Guacamelee, which aid in both battle and exploration. This is where the metroidvania mechanics come in. There are colored blocks hindering your exploration, and each special move correlates to a block. Learn the move, break the block and you’re good to go.

Even with the ability to explore, Guacamelee is very linear for a metroidvania style game. There are deviations to the path, but these are often a short puzzle and reward instead of some kind of side quest. As someone who usually sticks to the main path in an open game, I found this to be a huge bonus as straying from my destination didn’t eat up much time. The level layout was pretty confusing for someone as directionally challenged as me, but the map gives a good idea of where you’ve been, and where you need to go.

The special moves are used for more than fighting and further exploration, though. Behind all the fighting and silliness, Guacamelee is a hardcore puzzle-platformer with extra emphasis on the “hard”. Stringing together a combination of jumps, special moves,air dodges and dimension shifts (which alter the world) are frustratingly difficult, that is, until I succeeded – then the payoff is amazing.

The best and worst facets of the game come out during co-op play. It changes the flow of combat a bit, since it allows for longer combos and juggling of opponents. I felt like an unstoppable force that was just wrecking the foes in Guacamelee. The real benefit of co-op play, however, is when you’re being stopped. Instead of a checkpoint restart, like in a solo run, your partner fights on and can tag you back in after a set amount of time. This was incredibly useful during boss battles, and tough regular encounters. It also helps build tension in Guacamelee. Moments during a boss battle when one player is out and the other just has a sliver of health turned into high energy, anxiety filled shouting matches of either encouragement or disappointment.

Playing Guacamelee in co-op mode is easier than solo, and I don’t think its challenge scales well to make solo mode user-friendly. I can see how a masochistic solo play of the game is appealing, but it might be a bit much for people with just one controller – especially on higher difficulties. Solo isn’t impossible; it just takes some pattern memorization. In the end, I found the chaotic nature of co-op play more enjoyable since it allowed me to just play, instead of thinking of how I should be playing.

Even with Guacamelee’s barriers, it was never inaccessible. When I fell off a ledge it would just shoot me back without punishment. The difficult platforming sections are manageable because the price of failure is so small. Likewise, challenging battles never became annoying since checkpoints allowed me to essentially retry without penalty.

Co-op also allows for players to opt out by turning into a floating orb that needs to be tagged back in. It’s a great feature that helps with platforming and not holding back the other player, but I found myself hitting the button accidentally fairly frequently. It was distracting and disrupted gameplay, especially when it wasn’t convenient for my partner to tag me back in.

Guacamelee would be fun if it were just a side-scrolling action game, but not memorable. DrinkBox Studios went the extra mile and polished Guacamelee into a fuller experience than most games of this length and price offer. Like many metroidvania games, there is a ton of stuff you can do. Unlike many metroidvania games however, Guacamelee is enjoyable enough to actually make me do it.

Guacamelee: Review
Pros:
  • Chaotic Co-op
  • Simple MetroidVania elements
  • Hilarious writing
Cons:
  • Solo difficulty isn't balanced
  • Some inconvenient controls
8Overall Score

About The Author

Senior Editor

I love burritos and hot wings. Reading is cool. TV is better than movies. Pibb Xtra is a really good soda. I write about games, and you can follow me on twitter @IsaacFed

Related Posts

  • Eli

    This game has the single greatest title of all time.