A Hot Double Dip
In a saturated market of non-linear Metroidvania games, Drinkbox Studios’ Guacamelee! stood out for its emphasis on Luchador wrestling brawls and platforming challenges, all with a colorful Mexican flair. Years later, the developers revisit the formula with Guacamelee! 2, a solid—albeit iterative—sequel. Oh, and you can play as a chicken.
Here’s my Video Review for your viewing pleasure!
The game picks up years after the events of the first Guacamelee!. The Mexican wrestler Juan, once a hero and champion, now lives a normal life with his new family. The story wastes no time getting him back in the ring. When black clouds suddenly appear in the sky, Juan’s mentor, in the form of a goat, informs him that he must travel through a portal to the darkest timeline in order to save the Mexiverse. So our hero shifts to an alternate reality and ends up…in a parody of the game Limbo.
Guacamelee! 2 does not take itself seriously at all, and that’s one of its greatest charms. It parodies other games, revels in references, and features consistently funny dialogue. Unfortunately, there is no voice acting, but the humor carries through the writing and characters’ expressions. On a related note, the world is brimming with color and a vivid Mexican aesthetic. Accompanied by a soundtrack that fuses Latin, mariachi, and synth, the Mexiverse truly feels alive.
Juan, despite being a heavyweight wrestler, is nimble, which complements the fast flow of platforming. His Luchador-inspired moveset not only fits the theme, but helps him reign victorious in fights. The game is appropriately divided into two types of play: platforming and brawls. While the latter encapsulates the heart of wrestling, it’s the former that shines. The map is set up like a Metroidvania, a large maze where you have to learn moves and use them to unlock gates. You’re not just running through empty hallways, though. Every screen is a new platforming challenge that tests your ability to utilize your moves to get around.
The controls are easy to use, and the actions are pulled off with simple button combos, almost like a platformer version of Super Smash Bros. Your moveset includes wrestling attacks that offer vertical or horizontal movement, the ability to swap dimensions between the living and dead worlds, and the new Eagle Shot, which allows you to fling Juan in any direction using cleverly placed hooks. The inventive level design demands combining multiple abilities in perfect sequential progression to survive. It can get overwhelming to have such a huge arsenal and coordinate your fingers to push the correct buttons, but it’s such a rush to execute. Although some areas took me a while to get through, I rarely felt upset thanks to the instant respawns, usually within the same room.
Each individual platforming area is so satisfying on its own that I felt like Guacamelee! 2 didn’t even need the Metroidvania design to succeed. Regardless, hidden chests and shortcuts are welcome diversions. I especially appreciated the optional challenge rooms, which are significantly harder and require precise mastery of your skills. And of course, how could I not love that you can transform into a chicken? As a bonus, the chicken is beefed up this time around, with new power-ups and its own mini dungeons. It’s ridiculous and fits Guacamelee! 2’s tone perfectly.
It should come as no surprise, but you gain skills from Choozo Statues, a loving homage to Metroid. From there, you can purchase upgrades and extra skills in the menu. There’s a fair progression system that asks you to complete certain tasks like performing 100-hit combos, in addition to having enough gold, to acquire abilities. They all come to play in the Luchas, or fight sections. Frequently, you will find yourself locked in a room as enemies continuously spawn. At this point, the game becomes a brawler. The same versatile moves that assist in platforming are used to beat the salsa out of enemies. Fights aren’t too difficult, and they serve as cathartic breaks in between stressful platforming. However, the game eventually throws in enemies that have special color-coded shields that can only be broken by a specific move. For example, red-shielded enemies must be hit by the red aura Rooster Uppercut. It adds depth to fighting at first, but quickly becomes unruly once you have a bunch of moves and have to remember which one produces which color aura.
If you’ve played the original Guacamelee!, all of this will probably sound familiar. The formula hasn’t really changed. On one hand, Drinkbox Studios did such a solid job with the first one that there was no need to change much. However, it does feel iterative, after the original that felt like a stellar innovation. The structure and even most of the skills are the same. Despite this, my eyes were glued to the screen during my ten hour playthrough, which is a good deal longer than the first one. That number easily increases if you seek out every secret, complete the map, obtain every collectible, and earn the humorously named achievements. It goes without saying that the Nintendo Switch version’s portable mode is a big plus, and it was always easy to dive back in with frequent save points.
There is a four-player local co-op mode to dabble in with friends. It can be fun in a good group of skilled players since one player’s success propels everyone forward. But it also has its annoyances, such as the dimension swapping being utterly confusing with more people. Worst case scenario, extra players can retreat into a bubble during harder segments à la New Super Mario Bros.
Guacamelee! 2 is a fun, lighthearted game that incorporates intense platforming and fast-paced Luchador fights. The sequel doesn’t bring many new ideas to the table, and veterans of the original may want to hold off for a while unless they’re craving more of the Mexiverse. Otherwise, if you’re looking for a tight Metroidvania with vibrant colors and a great sense of humor, then it’s an easy recommendation to dip your chips into Guacamelee! 2.
Note: A review copy was used for this article. This review was posted on DarkStation.