So, yeah, perhaps an odd means of introducing DrinkBox Studios’ self-published follow-up to indie powerhouse mega-hit, Guacamelee!, given how perfectly suited both it, and its predecessor, were to single-player. However, I can’t stress enough how thoroughly satisfying it to grapple an enemy and throw them across the screen into the waiting fist of your partner’s (semi) well-timed uppercut.
Are you a Bad Enough Hombre to Rescue El Presedente?
Seven years after bringing the Charro-turned-god, Calaca to his knees, Juan Aguacate’s a little older and little wider. Still has that strut-run going for him, too. Juan’s shaken out of retirement as there’s a crisis afoot. Some Tetris blocks are tearing holes through the Mexiverse. Juan’s guided to The Darkest Timeline, one where he’s not around and before long, the plan to save the Mexiverse is in full-swing, with poor ol’ Juan having to be killed in order to don his superpower-granting mask again.
Not familiar with the original plot? Don’t worry, it’s all straight-forward, you really don’t need to have played the prior entry to get enough out of this sequel.
“Don’t Skip Through the Text so Quickly, I’m Reading it in the Accent”
In a celebration of Mexican folklore, Guacamelee! 2 is more about light comedy than the story. And the humour lands almost every time. I say almost because there’s a batch of memes that are completely hit or miss, however the writing itself is quirky, self-aware and littered with wordplay, saturated in stereotype, but in a positive and, hopefully, non-offensive way (honestly, I can’t speak for the people of Mexico – everyone here in the UK is a southern, tea-drinking, chimney sweep from what I gather).
Characters are charming, and the art-style evokes immersion (not the, EA, sort) in to the goofy take on a tale through life and the afterlife. The soundtrack’s soft and steady take on traditional Mexican-style with catchy-hooks music throws in chiptune/gamey bits with some interesting, sometimes fairly dark twists, complimenting the environments and situations.
There’s also an entire chicken sub-culture, Illuminati-style, that acts as a side campaign for those willing to dig deep enough. It’s a conspiracy theorist’s dream. You, too can be a chicken. It’s as fun and as silly as it sounds.
Dare Me to Say It… Go On
Metroidvania. There, I said it. Apparently, if a games writer dims the lights, says it thirteen times while looking in the mirror, former IGN plagiarist Filip Miucin arrives repeating the phrase “not at all intentional” until your brain membrane turns red.
Let’s face the music here; the term is widely used by journalists, gamers and developers, alike, but it fits the mould here, even if the sub-genre name has evolved (deviated) somewhat from being a straight Castlevania/Metroid mashup. Guacamelee! 2 is an exploration-heavy, 2D action-adventure game with light RPG elements.
The combat, however, has more in common with brawlers and blends a grappling mechanic, in which you can throw in any direction, with some tasty ground and air combos. There’s more depth and nuance to stringing combos together than could be reasonably expected from a game in the genre. Coupled with the massive range of new moves and abilities to unlock and there’s more than enough to keep you busy through the whole campaign.
Movement is swift and fluid; it really feels great to grapple and swing, air dodge through some spikey vines, then uppercut to just land on the edge of the next secret path.
The puzzle-platforming elements and general makeup of the colourful environments are near identical to those of its predecessor. If you want more of the same; you’ve got it. Gaining additional abilities opens up new paths and secret areas making hours of extra tasks if you don’t intend to simply whizz through.
You Juan-a try a Little Harder?
Here in lies the flaw, though. A lot of exploration begins to feel very samey, especially if you’ve played the original. I sense these issues may not be as prominent for first-time players but if everything was scaled back a little, the gameplay loop would perhaps benefit. Additionally, many challenges involve a boxed room with a stream of enemies; how much this bothers you will depend on how much you’re invested in the combat. And as much as I enjoyed the combat, there’s no denying the moveset is a carbon copy of the first game’s.
In terms of the new, we are introduced to four-player co-op. Unfortunately, I haven’t four (working) controllers and only three of the four of us here are willing participants so you’ll have to test that one for yourselves. I can only presume chaos ensues. As for two-player? It’s perfect. Each screen change will drag your platformerly-challenged partner along with you, so there’s no harm in the second player acting as a drop-in helping hand. Once you partner rises to the challenge it can be fun to try to outmanoeuvre each other or to simply share the load when it comes to tackling a room full of skeletal fiends.
Overall Score: 8/10
I have no reservations about recommending Guacamelee! 2, especially at its price point, there’s a lot for your money here and, granted, extended playthroughs show cracks in the structure at times, but avacadon’t let this stop you from dipping in.
Format: PS4 (reviewed), Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PC
Price: £15.99 (PSN)
Publisher: DrinkBox Studios
Developer: DrinkBox Studios
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 21/08/18 (PS4), 10/12/2019 (NSW) 18/12/2019 (XBO, PC)
Review copy provided by publisher