Publisher: Drinkbox Studios
Developer: Drinkbox Studios
Aaron laid down his thoughts for Guacamelee! when it originally released for PSN on PS3 and Vita back in April, and I wholeheartedly agree with his view and score. I was able to check out the game on PC, since the Gold edition released on Steam just a week or so ago, and thought I’d toss in some impressions too, especially since it’s such a damn solid game regardless of platform.
First, it’s worth noting that the port is fantastic for Guacamelee! on Steam. Nothing is lost in transition, the first two DLC releases are packed in, and if you thought the game looked fantastic on PS3, you’ll continue to be amazed at how great it looks on PC. I had zero bugs or issues from day 1, and while this isn’t the most hardware intensive experience for the platform, I’ve played a fair share of 2D titles that still have hiccups on PC or Steam, which Guacamelee! is thankfully devoid of.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out Guacamelee! on PSN, now is a great time to remedy that with the port for PC. This is an excellent action-adventure title, with top notch presentation, controls, and a wildly eclectic theme that does a great job of celebrating Mexican culture while simultaneously marrying that with humor and accessibility for everyone. The slick, 2D animated art style stands out as very unique, not easily comparable to any other title both in visuals and the fantastic soundtrack that plays throughout.
While you’ll hear the term “Metroidvania” tossed around a lot in conjunction with Guacamelee!, it’s not an entirely fitting comparison. It certainly borrows elements that were popularized with Nintendo’s Metroid series, and further capitalized on by Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. You’ll gradually gain access to powers and abilities that’ll unlock new paths, but there’s a little less emphasis on exploration here than you might expect. The only real issue I had is that the small amount of post-game exploration you can participate in once you’ve unlocked all abilities is relatively worthless reward wise. And some of the challenges encountered in platforming through difficult optional areas lead to other lackluster rewards, based around the currency system used to purchase upgrades for found abilities, health and so on.
But as a straight forward action experience goes, Guacamelee! does really well. Combat is actually fun and inventive, and requires a lot more attention than just button mashing and jumping as typically seen in the genre. Juan, your lead character, can make use of a variety of supernatural luchador abilities to down various enemies throughout. And these abilities also double as movement enhancing powers, giving players the ability to dash from one platform to the next, run up walls fist first, and so on. By the time you reach the end of the game, you’ll often find yourself making use of every skill in battle, not just because you can, but because it’ll be necessary to survive. I found the overall challenge in Guacamelee! to be pretty refreshing, I certainly failed a number of fights and boss battles throughout the game. But that challenge isn’t overly punishing, and is often alleviated by a generous checkpoint system that keeps frustration from ever creeping in.
And as mentioned above, Guacamelee! is an absolutely gorgeous game, moderately enhanced here on the PC. It has a fantastic, well defined art style married with some gorgeous animation that continues to stun me with every passing hour of gameplay. And while this is a pretty short experience overall, it’s certainly something that you’ll want to jump back into to play again and again as you continue to improve your skills with the unique combat system, and tackle some of the optional side quests scattered throughout. The rewards for 100 percent completion are a little lackluster, but if you enjoy the experience as much as I did, you’ll have a hard time noticing.
So I definitely think Guacamelee! is worth picking up if you haven’t done so yet. If you missed out on the PSN version, or hell, just want to play through the game again, it’s well worth checking out. This remains one of the more impressive independent releases this year, and certainly makes me curious to see what developer Drinkbox Studios is working on next.