How to spice up an action-platformer about a hero overcoming obstacles on his way to rescuing the princess? Draw from Mexican folklore to create a vibrant world to explore as a Luchador out to rescue El Presidente’s daughter from the fearsome villain Calaca! Drinkbox Studio’s newest game, Guacamelee, is out now for the PlayStation 3 and Vita and if you make the jump, I’ll tell you why you should check it out!
Yes, you will work your way through multiple levels of platforming challenges interspersed with enemies to defeat, but as Juan, a farmer-turned-Luchador, you’ll do it with such style that you almost don’t even think about how all the familiar tropes are present. They’re given a fresh spin that makes Guacamelee a whole lot of fun to play.
Drinkbox has strung together the various platforming/combat levels with some small towns so it feels more like one open world, and there are some minor sidequests you can pursue in the towns that will net you rewards to help level up Juan. But the meat of the game is exploring the intricate levels full of challenging platforming and combat.
Things start off simply enough, but as you earn more abilities, you can open up new areas to grab more treasures. Like smashing yellow blocks with headbutts, or accessing small tunnels by turning into a chicken. Yes, you can turn into a chicken. And you can still fight, too!
There’s a wonderfully wacky sense of humor running through Guacamelee all the way from the snarky goat god who grants you new powers to the parody billboards in the towns. The music is fun, but can get repetitive if you stay in one place for too long. The graphical style is just lovely, though. All angles and bright colors, everyone and everything looks fantastic, and animates beautifully.
Combat ramps up nicely, as you earn new abilities like uppercuts and ground slams. Eventually you encounter enemies shielded by a colorful glow that indicates the special move you need to deploy to break the shield and beat the crap out of them regularly. After hitting an enemy enough, your Luchador can grapple with the triangle button and either toss them into other enemies, a wall, or perform a special move.
You encounter dimensional rifts floating in the air that let you traverse from the world of the living to the world of the dead, and eventually you gain the ability to switch at will. Then you will encounter enemies that exist only in one world or the other and you’ll have to swap around in order to land any blows. Also, some platforms only exist in one dimension, so you’ll have to maneuver your way through some pretty brutal dimension-switching platforming sequences.
There’s also drop-in/drop-out two-player co-op, and while this is super helpful for fighting, it’s much less so with the platforming. At that point, you’re gonna want your friend to drop out while you work your way to the next fight. Then they can drop in again to help. There’s a combat arena that’s more fun with a partner as you face off against waves of enemies. Throwing enemies at each other so you can juggle them in the air before tossing them back is a blast.
Guacamelee is available as a cross-buy for both PS3 and Vita, meaning that you buy the one game for $14.99 and you can play it on either the console or the handheld, with your game saving to the cloud so you can put one down and pick up the other to continue playing right where you left off. Checkpoints are frequent, and heal as well as save (also they act as stores where you can purchase new abilities or health/stamina upgrades). But be warned, the dimension-swapping platforming can be pretty unforgiving!