Graphics - 9
Gameplay - 8.5
Value - 8
Story - 8
Sound - 8
While the game length can be an issue, Guacamelee is a very fun game and is definitely worth your time.
There is no need to be coy; Guacamelee! is one of the finest games on the PlayStation Network.
Guacamelee is a game with a clear sense of character and it shows throughout the experience with Spanish influence dripping from every sweaty pore. Art, music, story and play all come together to tell the tale of a luchador out to rescue the woman he loves from an evil undead man named Carlos Calaca. To do so he’ll fight through bands of memorable and wacky enemies that follow the risen-again feind, from his deranged former lover to a gunslinger whose head is enveloped in flame. These crazy sensibilities resonate throughout, never taking itself too seriously for the content it presents.
Indeed there are moments within the game’s dialogue and plot that are so cleverly written that they are literally laugh-out-loud funny, which is rather difficult in a medium that requires more concentration on button presses than context. And after you are done laughing along with the game’s ridiculous script, keep an eye out for various posters and objects that run loving parodies and homage to gaming classics and newer titles alike.
Gameplay-wise, Guacamelee takes heavy inspiration from games like Metroid and Castlevania, making your way through a number of environments solving puzzles, fighting baddies and gaining power ups which will allow you to break colored blocks that correspond with each ability. Gaining new abilities lets you traverse new areas or backtrack through previously explored dungeons to get all the chests filled with gold and character power-ups. Some of these goodies are deviously hidden or guarded by puzzles that will cunning and precarious platforming abilities to get overcome. It’s hard to understate how clever some of the puzzles are, making very good use of character skills and the ability to quickly move between the Land of the Dead and World of the Living. For example, switching between these zones makes platforms appear and disappear, will often uncover non-player characters, disappearing walls, and other such things. Using it in conjunction with all your wrestling finesse while leaping between disappearing platforms is the stuff games are made for.
With all that being said, you would think that navigating the environment and gaining power-ups might be the most attractive part of the game, but surely that’s just the beginning. While puzzles, platforming and exploration are certainly a treat, it’s the combat that is the true star of the ring. It’s a little shocking it turns out that way, because at first the game’s combat feels very simplistic used to get through a dungeon, but once you start understanding that you can grapple and throw enemies in any direction, things will begin to get a little deeper. After a few simplistic punches, you can grab an enemy and aim him anywhere, tossing him into others as you would a bowling ball and set them up for brutal combos.
Guacamelee could have stopped there—tossing enemies into one another only to leap into them for an extra dose of body slam or daily helping of pile driver is certainly an attractive premise. However, each upgrade you come across plays a part in combat as well. For instance, an uppercut not only breaks certain blocks, but can be used to send an enemy skyward for further punishment or to gain extra height at the end of a jump.
Deeper still, you’ll find that some enemies will have shields corresponding with the color of one of your attacks, and in order to damage that enemy, you’ll first need to do the set them up with the proper primer and then continue your assault. You’ll also have to use the ability to shift between realms of reality to fight enemies that are just shades in one world, though they can still damage you on both planes of existence. Flipping between worlds, juggling combos in the air, breaking force fields with specific attacks while dodging like a madman—all of this adds up to engaging and challenging combat in what could otherwise be a rather dull title. In fact, even backtracking enthusiasts will have hard time passing up the chance to wallop enemies again re-exploring certain areas.
Guacamelee looks as good as it plays, with a unique art direction that meshes well with every inch of the game. Bright colors and vivid backgrounds call back to the beloved Samurai Jack with an obvious Spanish flair that permeates everything from the fantastically gaudy screens that flash upon power acquisition to the buildings and characters that inhabit the world. This is further tied together with upbeat music that would be at home strolling through agave fields or border towns. It can occasionally get a little repetitive if you spend too long in one location, but it’s diverse enough throughout the game that it’s never grating.
The only real downside to Guacamelee is its length, with the whole experience netting you around five hours of play. While that certainly doesn’t sound like much for the price, doing all the side quests and reaping the in-game rewards will greatly increase not only the game’s length, but your enjoyment. If you’re a Trophy hunter, you’ll find your game time further lengthened with a Platinum for beating the game on Hard, a difficulty unlocked upon completing the story mode once through. Additionally, co-op is available on the PlayStation 3 version and provides even more time with the game, though solo will likely be the mode of choice.
Overall, Guacamelee is more than worth the admission price and gives you plenty of game if you decide to invest your time. To those that are adamant about rushing through it, you will surely find something to love in Drinkbox’s latest, but missing out on some excellent exploration goodies, so slow down for Juan’s sake!
Drinkbox Studios are already well known for the highly-praised Tales from Space: About a Blob, but Guacamelee perfectly positions them on the posts for an elbow drop. With quirky art and story, a cast of memorable characters, constant nods to fans of video games, cleverly-written dialogue, expertly-designed platforming and puzzles, and surprisingly deep and engaging combat, it’s impossible not to recommend to just about everyone. The best part? Grabbing the PlayStation 3 version of the title nabs you the ultra-portable Vita version with Cross-Buy.
Simply put, if you own a current generation Sony console you should buy this game. Now.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.