The Metroidvania style of games has been around for almost 30 years. We’ve seen some games that have taken the core values of the genre and built amazing experiences and some that failed to hit the mark of their lofty pedigree. There’s one thing we haven’t seen in the Metroidvania style of games yet.
That is we haven’t seen them until the release of Guacamelee. Drinkbox Studios’ latest game that features cross buy, cross play, cross save functionality on the PS3 and Vita, and luchadors.
Guacamelee is a tale of Juan, a normal everyday guy who’s madly in love with El Presidente’s daughter and is looking for ways to woo her and make her his. His village only cares about luchadors though and since he’s not one he doesn’t get invited to any of the activities because they’re luchador only events. One day on the way to see her their village is attacked by a mysterious mob of evil minions led by the undead Carlos Calaca. Juan fights Carlos and is struck down only to be brought back by donning the legendary luchador mask, a mask that turns Juan into the most powerful luchador on the planet.
In order to save El Presidente’s daughter, Juan will have to travel the land, gaining new powers and learning new attacks in order to defeat the obstacles that Carlos puts between Juan and El Presidente’s daughter.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the game looks magnificent. The art style is perfect with Juan being a hulking hero while Carlos is lithe and creepy with clothes tightly wrapped around his skeleton body. The areas all have character and substance. Nothing in this game is generic, every bit of the game from the characters themselves and the backdrops, to the barrels in the game that have their own personality. The artwork in Guacamelee is by far what will draw people in first, it’s impossible to see this game and not be interested.
Guacamelee is a 2D platformer that uses X to jump and square for your basic attack, also at the end of a combo you’ll see the triangle button flash over your opponents head. When you press the triangle you’ll be able to throw your enemy in whatever direction you press the D pad or thumbstick. Guacamelee does a good job of giving you new powers and moves gradually over time allowing you to get the hang of them. There are even certain areas that you can go to practice the different combinations.
The artwork in Guacamelee is by far what will draw people in first, it’s impossible to see this game and not be interested.
There’s a good assortment of bad guys to beat up, each with a different ability and attack. When it comes to boss characters Guacamelee switches the screen to a virtual fight poster before the start, showing you on one side and your nemesis on the other. It’s a nice touch.
There’s also a dodge mechanic that makes you invulnerable while it’s being performed and this is possibly the most important move you learn as you play the game. You dodge by rolling with the left bumper or the right thumbstick, whichever is easier for the player. When you’re surrounded by enemies and need to make room, the dodge roll is invaluable in keeping you from being a dead luchador.
You won’t need to master all the moves but in order to advance you’ll have to gain a slightly above average proficiency with them. When you learn a new move you’ll encounter new enemies that can only be defeated with that move. Thankfully performing the new moves are never that outlandish and build on what you’ve been learning as you play.
The platforming in Guacamelee is smooth and effortless. You jump with X and you get down from higher floors either by taking the stairs or pressing X and pushing down at the same time. It’s a system that allows Juan to keep moving fluidly around all the different maps he finds himself in. If you find a platform out of reach, be patient. In most cases, its because you don’t have the specific power or ability needed to get there yet. Make a mental note of it and come back. There were many times in the game that as soon as I got a new power my first thought was “Now I can finally get past that obstacle.”
Remember the dodge and roll mechanic I was talking about? The dodge roll mechanic also plays a role in the platforming. In some areas, you’ll see a string of vines blocking a path and you’ll need to roll through them in order to proceed. They even get trickier with some places that require jumping rolls to be performed in order to clear a specific hurdle.
Lastly there’s a different dimension you can enter. When you enter that other world the map is generally the same but certain parts of it may be changed. A cliff may have no spots at all to get past, but in this other dimension you see the cliff with various platforms to jump on. This “light world/dark world” ability works well and always keeps you looking for changes in both worlds.
Besides gaining abilities, you’ll also have the option to buy power ups at various stores you pass in the world. The power ups range from things like enhanced health and stamina to new attacks for Juan. Buying abilities from the store allows the player to level up Juan to make the game easier. For anyone who’s having some trouble with the difficulty of the game all they have to do is kill a few waves of enemies and then add to Juan’s attacks to make their gameplay a bit smoother.
Guacamelee is a cross buy game and Drinkbox made it simple for PS3 and Vita owners to transfer their games back and forth between the devices. At the title screen all you have to do is select options, go down to cross save, and select to either upload or download from the cloud. Now there is only one save going back and forth so make sure when you start the game you don’t accidentally overwrite your newest save by hitting upload instead of download.
There’s only one thing I disliked in the game. When you level up one of your stats completely there’s a series of flashing colors in the background that makes me wonder how seriously I’ve been taking the seizure warnings at the start of every game all these years.
Guacamelee will last the average player about 6 or 7 hours if they don’t try to do everything. Players who want to complete the game 100% can look forward to 8 or 9 hours of gameplay.
There’s also an option to have a second player join the game locally.
The story in Guacamelee is paced well. Since it’s not voice acted the text doesn’t go on forever but it also gives you enough information to keep you interested. Drinkbox did a great job with Guacamelee’s story and how it’s laid out for the player. It’s an upbeat story that almost everyone will find funny in certain places.
Sounds in the game are done very well. Juan’s story is told entirely in text so you’re dealing with ambient noises and whatever is happening in the game. All the sounds in the game fit and none of them seem too big or too small for what’s currently happening on the screen. Actions on the screen are done well and little sounds here and there during exploration never detract from your gameplay.
The music in Guacamelee shines with a mix of songs and melodies that paint a perfect picture of the world Juan lives in. There’s a mix of chiptune, old west, corrido and even salsaesque songs in the game and each one is a winner. The soundtrack is fun and never grating as you play the game. The true test of music is that it gets stuck in your head and makes you happy to hear it. Guacamelee’s music does exactly that.
Why it may be helpful for people with anxiety
- One of the best looking games on the system
- Extremely easy to pick up and play
- Gentle learning curve
- Ability to level up Juan to make game easier
- Tunes in the game are fantastic
- Story is enjoyable and lighthearted with many jokes along the way
Why it may be unhelpful for people with anxiety
- Some of the more elaborate moves can be difficult to pull off while experiencing anxiety symptoms.
- The flashing during leveling up can be almost disorienting for some people
Why you should be playing this
Guacamelee is a must have title if you have either a PS3 or a Vita. If you own both of them then it’s a no brainer. The ability to have a great looking, great playing game at home or on the go is easily worth the 15 dollars for admission.
There are some games that just “fit” and Guacamelee is one of them. There’s never a spot in the game that doesn’t work. Everything in Guacamelee was thoughtfully planned out and assembled in a way that your 6-9 hour journey will feel like it flew by because you were enjoying the trip.
In it’s relatively short time as a company Drinkbox Studios has released the newest must have title of the Metroidvania genre.
Without question Guacamelee is worth everyone’s time.
This review was based on the PS3 version that was provided by the publisher.
April 9th, 2013
Xbox 360, PS3
Looks gorgeous, interesting gameplay, fantastic music, easy to pick up and play but holds a good amount of depth
Strobe light effect when you level up