By Max Roberts
What happens when you mix avocados, onions, tomatoes, limes, garlic cloves, and peppers? You get a delicious bowl of guacamole. Now what would happen if you took memes, intense platforming, rich environments, deep combat, hilarious dialog, and gorgeous levels into one game? You would get Guacamelee. And that is exactly what DrinkBox Studios has mixed up for PlayStation users in this fun, satisfying indie game. For just $14.99, with cross-buy and cross-save, Guacamelee is a true gem for PlayStation owners.
The tale of Guacamelee is a simple one. Players assume the role of Mexican agave farmer Juan and help him save El Presidente’s daughter from the clutches of the undead Carlos Calaca. Shortly into the game, Juan is killed by Carlos Calaca and sent to the world of the dead. There, Juan is given a powerful Luchador mask that allows him to go back and forth between the world of the living and that of the dead. That ability, to go between the living and dead worlds, is key to Guacamelee’s metroidvania style gameplay.
DrinkBox Studios has given gamers a throwback to those metroidvania platforming days of old. Juan explores the world through well timed jumps and that perfect tilt of the analog stick to land on a narrow space. But what makes Guacamelee unique is the use of the “Dimension-Swap” to navigate through the world of the living and the dead. Certain platforms and enemies can only be interacted with in the world of the dead and vice versa. This adds a whole new level of difficulty to traditional platforming, making the game very challenging, yet rewarding, to the player.
Sections of platforming could take players 20 minutes to get one single jump just right. But that feeling of accomplishment is fantastic and keeps the player engaged. Luchadors aren’t meant for jumping around though. They’re meant for fighting their enemies and beating them to a pulp, and trust me, there is plenty of that in Guacamelee as well.
The second crux to Guacemlee’s addictive gameplay is the combat system. It’s deep and just as rewarding as the platforming can be. As you explore to world you find new move and power-ups that grant Juan new animal themed attacks. Each special attack has a specific color, depending on the attack type. The colors tell you which blocks you can destroy on the map or what move you need to use to break an enemy’s shield. From “Rooster Uppercut” to the “Frog Slam,” Juan’s attacks add a new layer to the combat system every time. The introduction of new moves feels natural. As your library of attacks expands, so too, does your skill as a Luchador master.
Visually, Guacamelee is gorgeous. It has a bright, vivid color scheme that fits each environment perfectly. The backgrounds are filled with detail, and the maps themselves are full of nooks and crannies. Sometimes you may just stop to look and appreciate the detail DrinkBox has put into their game.
Or stop and take time to laugh. Guacamelee’s charm rests in the humor of the writing, the huge amount of memes, and popular game references sprinkled throughout the game. You’ll see Angry Cat, Courage Wolf, and Business Frog all in the same area. Then right after you’ll catch a “Super Mario Bros.” reference in dialog and then see the Blue Bomber made out of bricks in the background. Guacamelee overflows with charm and humor that will even cause players to laugh out loud.
While Guacamelee has so much to offer, it can be taken in very quickly. The game can be beaten in just five hours. But there is more to come back for. You can find all the chests, which range from heart pieces, stamina, and money. To find all the chests, the game’s map is a tremendous help. The map marks the location of each chest when you see it, so you can remember to go back once you have the right move to destroy a block. To beat the game and find all the chests took me just shy of 8 hours. Completing the game unlocks hard mode, which is required if you want Guacamelee’s Platinum trophy. Another cool feature that should keep you playing is the PS3 co-op mode. At anytime on the PS3 version, a second player can jump in, either with a controller or their Vita, and team up to take on foes. One would think that the game would become easier with a partner, but that is not the case. The difficulty scales up when a second player jumps in. This can add some replay value to Guacamelee, but ultimately you are left wanting more.
DrinkBox Studios set out to make a unique, enjoyable game and have succeeded. Guacamelee is a game everyone should have a chance to play, in order to experience it’s charm and rewarding gameplay. Hopefully there will be more to come, because once you take a bite of Guacamelee, you’ll keep coming back for more.