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Guacamelee Review

Posted by Karen Jacobson On Tuesday 28 May 20131 COMMENT

Available on PSN (PS3 and PSV) l Published and developed by Drinkbox Studios l Classified PG l Supports 1-2 players

REVIEW IN BRIEF > Don’t be fooled by the silly title and cheesy characters. This side scrolling beat ‘em up platformer is nothing short of diabolical. I appreciated the new and interesting ways to overcome obstacles and solve puzzles, but the sheer difficulty had me close to breaking point. The creative abilities made the journey worthwhile and kept the battles interesting, but I definitely needed my co-op buddy to get me through some of the tougher bosses.

REVIEW IN FULL > Let me tell you a story about my time with the charmingly titled Guacamelee. At first, it seemed like a standard 2D platformer, perhaps with a tad more style than substance. Yes, I was a strange Mexican wrestler, fighting against the evil Carlos Calaca and his minions of the underworld (including the very literally named Flame Face). Sure, there were whacky facets such as transforming goats and advice giving chickens. However, it didn’t feel particularly different from what I had seen before. I mean, it even had a story revolved around rescuing a princess (sorry, El Presidente’s daughter).

Not only was I required to figure out a puzzle, I also had to rely on my (not so) lightning reflexes and icy poise to get me through.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t thinking “gee this crap”. It was, in fact, quite proficient in its core graphics and gameplay, but I found myself just going through the motions. It’s only when I started to receive more and more abilities from a weird old goat that things started to get interesting. Not only did this provide more variety in battles, it also opened up the world, allowing me access to previously unattainable areas.

I found the fighting system to be among the more satisfying facets of Guacamelee. The enemies were varied and, believe me, there were plenty of them. Finding new and interesting ways to take them out, especially when I was being overrun, was just awesome. I enjoyed getting an enemy low on health, grabbing him and throwing him into oncoming baddies. It was fun to vary up the battle with a wide array of moves, though at times I didn’t have a choice. Certain enemies would glow with coloured shields, which could only be broken by corresponding attacks. When there were a bunch of enemies with different shields, well, that’s when it got tricky.

Tricky I could handle. What I couldn’t handle was being mentally crippled and that’s exactly what Guacamelee did to me. I developed a real love/hate relationship with this Mexican themed indie number. Whenever I figured out and executed a complex puzzle solution, I felt tremendously satisfied. At other times, I wanted to snap the controller in half (I planned to minimise the damage by smashing the Sixaxis version, not the DuelShock 3). Not only was I required to figure out a puzzle, I also had to rely on my (not so) lightning reflexes and icy poise to get me through. The challenges were difficult enough in their base form, but that wasn’t good enough for the sadists at Drinkbox. No, they had to throw in some spikes, or a handful of enemies to pelt me with projectiles as I edged my way through a level.

When I received the power to switch between the living and dead dimensions, I thought “this is what really sets Guacamelee apart from the crowd”. It provided me with an entirely new way of addressing problems and generally made me a pretty powerful hombre. It also heralded the arrival of another obstacle in combat. Some enemies would occupy one dimension, while others lurked in another, leading to utter chaos. In order to damage a particular foe, I needed to make sure I was in the right dimension. As much as it made Guacamelee even more layered, it eventually had me simply trying to survive the game rather than enjoying what it had to offer.

As is so often the case, the co-op element of the game was a nightmare during platforming, but helpful during fighting.

Another element that defined Guacamelee for me was being transformed into a chicken. Eventually I lifted the curse and went back to my buff self, but by then I had gained the ability to become a chook at will. This gave me access to areas which were seemingly built with only chickens in mind. It was also immensely amusing and I never tired of scurrying past enemies or pecking at them if they got in my way.

One of the worst moments came after I had whittled a major (and very tough) enemy down to a skerrick of health. I had all but won when the game froze. I looked at the screen stunned for a good 10 minutes, disbelieving the lack of movement before my eyes. I had to restart from the last checkpoint. Cruelly, the game did not even take me back to the start of the battle, but to a nasty little platforming challenge before the fight. My saving grace with certain boss battles was the ability to ask our editor to jump in to give me a hand. As is so often the case, the co-op element of the game was a nightmare during platforming, but helpful during fighting.

Near the end of the journey, I found the playful Mexican soundtrack painful rather than pleasant. I pleaded with the game to have mercy on me, but I received none. I found Guacamelee to be a well constructed, clever game, with a pleasant offbeat sense of humour. Some will love the diabolically difficult puzzles and boss battles, but far too often, I simply found them to be soul crushing.

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One Comment

  1. Hewso says:

    Did the most important thing in any Mexican themed piece of entertainment, a Guitar Case mini gun, make an appearance?

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