Guacamelee! Review

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Guacamelee! is the latest in a growing series of excellent PSN exclusives that have been filling up the Store for a couple years. It’s rooted in the tried and true methods of the Metroidvania school of action platforming – truly a gamer’s game. In this fashion, it eschews overwrought narrative and cutscenes for something leaner, meaner and ultimately stronger. Developed by Drinkbox Studios, a house best known for its many blob-related games, Guacamelee!’s every bit as enjoyable as the peerless style promises. So, like a Bret Hart-executed Sharpshooter, let’s get things tapping.

Hits

Piñata Popping Presentation

If there is one thing you already know about Guacamelee! it’s that the game is really, really, achingly, stupidly good looking. It is not only one of the best looking 2D games I’ve seen but – more importantly – one of the most inspired. Everything gels flawlessly regarding presentation. There is no doubt that an entire team’s love and care went into every aspect of the game’s best luchador boot-clad foot.

The characters are colorful and elastic, bouncing and moving with gusto. The music is as vibrant as the locales you leap through and the story is equally cartoonish. Whether it’s the silly mini-scenes when you upgrade powers from your sagacious goat mentor (consistently funny dialogue here) or the nigh-uncountable gaming and pop-culture references, Guacamelee! is a title oozing with charm.

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Tale as Old as Time

The gameplay here is bordering on God of War But” regarding combat. You have a lighter combo-centric button and a slower, powerful one. You dodge with the right joystick and gain some pretty familiar powers. All in all, it’s good if not safe. However, combined with the even more dated Metroidvania motifs, the title manages to pull you in. I genuinely wanted to explore the map, combing back over it once I got a new power to use. Noteworthy enough, the map is also excellent, the ever-important key in making this not only fun but doable.

For better or worse, it is what it is. The gameplay is always engaging – the presentation aiding the punchiness of the suplexes – and the motive to return is certainly there. What can I say? There is a reason these games keep selling and selling well.

There is also the option for drop-in / drop-out co-op that I couldn’t get my wife to try with me, but it’s an optional plus. Chuck this on top of the PS Vita Cross-Play and you’ve got a neat, little pile of tricks.

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A Well-Earned Siesta 

Another thing Guacamelee! has going for it is length. I know, nowadays everyone wants everything free and – God forbid – if you have to pay for something, it better be unlimited, dev-supported gaming samsara. This game clocks in a just a few hours; six-ish if you’re not mainlining it to the end. And I loved every second of it.

I loved the conciseness of the whole package. No filler, very well-executed and non-intrusive. It’s not a game to over-fluff itself, smattering you with self-important diatribes of world-ending consequence. It is a gamer’s game, plain and simple, and that’s very refreshing in both brevity and self-containment.

Misses

Necesito Mas, Por Favor!

While I enjoyed the entirety of Guacamelee!, there is something to be said for the truncated scope of the title. While it certainly checks all the boxes with fat red marks, some might want more. To that end, I really can’t defend it. There’s very shallow progression, everything can easily be maxed out by the end of the game and nothing is particularly groundbreaking. There is a wonderful mechanic to swap between the world of the living and dead (this leads to some downright exciting platforming), but it’s not a revolution. Also, chicken magic.

Lastly, there just isn’t any replay value once you’ve cleared all the optional stuff.  There is certainly incentive to 100% the game but, once you’re done, that’s really it.

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Recap

Guacamelee! is a game to be reckoned with, sticking tight to a classic formula. While this is the source of the game’s biggest setback, it is also the reason the game is infinitely accessible and enjoyable. There are few games that have put such smiles on my face, whether it’s the snappy writing or the sly references. It is comfort food with a dash of exotic flair; a welcome splash of spice to a dish we’ve come to love. With ample humor, craft and fun, it is a game nearly everyone should love.

Written by: Nick Cane

Game writer, fervent lover of mac and cheese. Favorite games are ES4: Oblivion, Kirby's Adventure, Link's Awakening, Final Fantasy 8 and Mario Galaxy.

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  • http://twitter.com/LukeAFrazier Luke Frazier

    How frustrating did you find the platforming in the later sections of the game? I’ve heard it mentioned more than once on various podcasts.

    • http://twitter.com/OldLeafNick Nick Cane

      I thought they were exciting and pushed me. But there is ZERO PENALTY for messing them up. You just blip back to the last platform you were one, without even losing life.

      It might be a bit much for inexperienced platform players, I guess, but it’s a non issue.

      • http://twitter.com/LukeAFrazier Luke Frazier

        Sounds very Meatboy-ish, with the instant revival. I like!

  • Jay Curtis

    So PSN’s incredible exclusive content continues. This is just a monster year for Sony.

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