El Presidente’s daughter has been kidnapped and it’s up to Juan, former farmer, current super powered luchador to save her and the world. In Guacamelee! you begin as a slouching villager but it’s not long before Calaca, a skeleton who wants to merge the worlds of the living and the dead together, kills you. From here you enter this world of the dead and find a magical Mexican wrestler mask which gives you the power you need to stand tall and fight back. It seems you have to rip your shirt into shreds to do this though, shame really.
Guacamelee! takes the typical ‘save the girl’ story and presents it in its own unique and vibrant style, setting it in Mexico and of course the world of the dead. You have to swap between these two worlds to gain access to different parts of each area, one world will have children playing and chickens running about, the other will have skeletons in sombreros chatting to you and the skeletons of chickens still running about. When you gain the power to freely switch between the two worlds it becomes part of the gameplay too, making for some challenging platforming. It is a great idea that adds a new layer to the game and affects the combat. You will have to swap between the two worlds to attack certain enemies but they have no problem hurting you regardless of which world you’re in so you’ll need to be careful. There are different colour coded abilities you gain the further you progress. Each one can then be used in combat but can also assists in unlocking a previously inaccessible part of the world.
Red blocks can only be broken by an uppercut punch whereas yellow blocks need to be head butted out of your way; it’s a simple way of managing where the player has access to. These colours add to the combat too as some foes will have a coloured shield around them meaning you will have to use a specific move on them in order to break their shield. You can get through most of the fights just button mashing but Juan also has a variety of combos available that add some depth to how you fight, making defeating your skeletal enemies that bit easier. My personal favourite ability is the power to turn into a chicken. That’s right, you read it correctly, a chicken. For the purpose of the gameplay it means you can access areas your wrestling self is too large for, allowing you to make some jumps a bit easier. In reality, you can actually turn into a chicken whenever you want. Fighting the last boss? No problem, you can still turn into a chicken. While not the most practical move to use all the time, it’s this kind of goofy humour that livens up the game.
Even with the world of the dead playing such a large role, humour is present throughout the game. There are strong online meme, film and game references throughout and the dialogue of each character usually has some type of joke slipped into the text (there is no voice acting). The Mexican themed music is upbeat and the art style is refreshing and full of colour. All the angular characters are nicely animated in places including Juan’s sweeping run. The game also includes some nicely detailed animated cutscenes throughout in keeping with the overall style of the game.
While there are side quests and collectable items to find, the main story itself is short. I found it took approximately 4 -5 hours to complete and was left with feeling that, just as I had become used to all Juan’s abilities, the game was over. The game includes an additional hard mode which adds to the replay factor and many collectables to find which extend the game for another few hours.
Guacalmelee! supports Cross-Buy, meaning buying one version also means you will get the other free. You can begin playing on the PlayStation 3, save your memory to the cloud and download it again from your PS Vita to continue where you left off. This is an excellent feature to have and is simple to execute. Controls on the PS Vita version are just as easy to use as on the PlayStation 3 but characters and text can sometimes feel a little too small on the PS Vita’s screen. The only feature the missing from the PS Vita version is the local co-op mode. There is no online multiplayer but the PlayStation 3 version has a drop-in/drop-out 2 player option. You both play on the same screen and if one character tries to go on without the other, a three second countdown to death begins, encouraging both players to stick together. PlayStation 3 users also have the choice to use their PS Vita as their controller instead of the DualShock through Remote Play. Guacamelee! doesn’t have a deep story but its bright colours, music and design give it great personality. The fun and at times challenging gameplay is a short but entertaining way to spend a day. The co-op and hard mode offer some replay value after players have completed the main campaign.
This 2D side scrolling platformer was developed by Drinkbox Studios and is available now for €12.99/£9.99 on the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita.