Metroidvania is style of gameplay specific to 2D platformers, that puts a great amount of emphasis on exploration mixed in with an action-adventure structure. It focused on changing the trend of linear level design, to creating expansive worlds whereby paths won’t open until you discover new power-ups or items, which would lead to new obstacles and enemies that require you to use these new found possessions to progress further into the narrative. It often encourage the player to explore and uncover the next path on their own accord, and lead to a huge surgence of titles following this formula, especially during the 90’s in the height of Nintendo’s popularity, eventually leading to the genre growing somewhat stale and uninspired. However, Guacamelee is among the many titles revitalising the Metroidvania dynamic, with a fresh new take, breathing life into it once more.
Guacamelee was originally released onto consoles in 2013, and has been re-released on PS4, with plenty of added features, including new areas, new abilities, and much more words to the title. The story follows the escapades of the burly agave farmer named Juan Aguacate, whom is in love with El Presidente’s daughter. When an evil Charro skeleton named Carlos Calaca attacks Juan’s village, he kidnaps El Presidente’s Daughter, leading Juan to confront him. He is murdered in his attempt to stop Calaca, and ends up in the land of the dead, wherein he meets a luchador named Tostada, who grants Juan a mysterious mask, transforming him into a gloriously powerful luchador and brings him back to the world of the living. It is then up to Juan to save his love, and defeat Calaca before he completes his plan of taking over both the world of the living and dead.
The story of Guacamelee is surprisingly entertaining and sets up a wonderful path for you to strive towards. It’s the classics tale of Damsel in distress needs a powerful hero to save her, however it has a delightful Mexican spin that permeates every aspect of the game. Every village, town and person you come across emanates a deliciously fun fiesta tone, and compliments the comedy drizzled adventure. Between the clever writing, peculiar situations you’re placed in, or the innumerable amount of references scatter absolutely everywhere, from posters in towns to the dialogue of regular townsfolk, Guacamelee is a genuinely funny game. It’s sense of humour is completely dorky and silly, allowing it to perfectly fit in with the insanity of the world you explore.
The presentation is also gifted with a glorious Mexican flavour. It takes on a wonderfully vivid, colourful and cartoon-esque art style, with every detail of the landscapes and it’s charming inhabitants beautifully crafted and injected with a luchador aesthetic. It goes beyond the simple stereotypical sombrero and tequilla idealism, and delves right into the heart of the culture, such as drawing influences from Day of the Dead (or Dias de los Muertos) in many aspects, especially in it’s enemy design, Aztec culture in many of the temples you explore, and music being infused with typical Spanish guitar driven tunes, jazzy trumpet melodies and 16-bit era chiptunes.
Gameplay is easily where Guacamelee truly shines. It’s seamless blend of action, adventure, rpg, fighting and platforming is a marvelous experience that draws plenty of inspiration from it’s Metroid-like counterparts of yesteryear, but renovates and revamps them into its own unique style. There’s a retro vibe harkening back to the classics for sure, yet it all feels contemporary and original throughout, bursting with energy, creativity and personality.
Juan begins with a basic repertoire of attacks and abilities, gradually growing in power and acquiring more special moves as you progress through the story. Fighting is at the core of gameplay and is always enjoyable. Smashing skulls with a variety of punches, uppercuts, headbutts and luchador grappling moves, the best addition to the fighting system, is immensely satisfying. The evil army of the undead are littered around all the areas you visit, but never seizes to grow old. With each passing upgrade, a slew of new combos and techniques open up, with enemies becoming more difficult or increasing in size and numbers, offering up more challenge to compensate, providing this constant sense of urgency with each encounter. Boss fights often change up the typical flow of a fight, and require you to alter you style accordingly to eliminate them. It never ceases to exhilarating.
Guacamelee is a beautifully realised game. Each detail is precisely molded and given a magnificent amount of care. Every aspect of the design is just as measurably excellent as the next, allowing each element to blend together in a marvelous fashion and tremendously benefit the enjoyment of the game, and terrifically nails hectic luchador setting in both a funny and clever way. Beyond the main story there are plenty of side quests and attractions to keep you busy, plenty of which are added in exclusively for this new version extending the overall play time to 7-8 hours. Priced at €14, it well worth purchasing immediately to experience easily one the best indie titles to be released. Whether you missed out on the original, or feel compelled to give it another play through (with an upgrade to first game only costing €4) Guacamelee Super Turbo Championship Edition is by far the best way to experience this Luchador’s tale.