I have a lot of fond memories of the original Guacamelee! on PS3. It was one of the few indie Metroidvania games done right when there was a shortage of them, unlike today. The sequel to Guacamelee! has finally arrived after all these years now, so what exactly have the developers accomplished by working on the game for so long?
If you feel tired of the rogue-lite or randomly generated level design that has been a key part of games like Dead Cells, Guacamelee! 2 will be a pleasant surprise for you. It features some of the best-handcrafted levels in a Metroidvania game and no, this is not an exaggeration. The levels in Guacamelee! 2 are full of secrets that will need a keen eye to find them. There is a lot of attention paid to the background details as you will often see nods to the earlier work of Drinkbox Studios, or references to other media ranging from games to movies. The environments are vibrant and full of color while the characters are beautifully drawn and animated. Guacamelee! 2 is a full-blown visual treat that is best appreciated on the big screen.
Guacamelee! 2 has a great opening that neatly sets up the story. It picks up from the end of the first game when Juan has to save the love of his life Lupita and immediately drops you in a familiar boss fight with Calaca that is fairly easy. Once you defeat him, the game continues on to show how Juan lived a happy life with his wife, ending up with 2 kids and essentially becoming a dad. However, his happiness won’t last long as soon he ends up in another situation into a multiverse or ‘mexiverse’ as the game calls it, and the threat of a new type of evil.
A lot of aspects of Guacamelee! 2 are still taken from the first game. It retains the basic gameplay mechanics and simply expands on it. You will notice many similarities with some of the skills that you gradually begin to unlock, and I also noticed some repetition in the level design, but it is still a fun game that has carries its unique charm. I don’t think there is anything unlike Guacamelee in the current gaming market even though there has been plenty of new indie games released since it made its debut almost 5 years ago. This gives the developers an advantage with the sequel which feels fresh even though it doesn’t deter much from the original design.
Combat in Guacamelee! 2 is fun if you can chain together combos. It is exciting because of the variety of moves coupled with grabs that you can perform on the enemies. It also avoids the typical button mashing nature of most games by adding a dose of strategy to the damage modifiers for enemies. In the start, enemies will be fairly basic and need a simple combo to take down but later they offer color-coded shield protection that can only be broken with a specific attack. The game adds another twist with the dimension switch mechanics so that only the current dimension enemies are visible while you have to avoid the ones in the shadow that can still attack your character.
The one negative side to the combat is that things can get hectic fairly quickly. The game has a tendency to spam many of enemies and once you are starting a combo with multiple enemies at once, it is easy to lose track of your character. This is true for the co-op mode which makes Guacamelee! 2 twice the fun, but since the game requires some skilled jumps and precision, you will have to team up with someone who is able to keep up with your own pace otherwise it can lead to unfair deaths. Speaking of which, co-op is not available until you finish the tutorial, which is the entire introduction to the game taking you 20 minutes at most.
My most liked aspect of Guacamelee! 2 is its world and level design. Some of the levels are pure genius and will make your jaws drop because of the way they use the dimension-shifting mechanics. You gradually learn new abilities that will open new paths on the world map, urging you to go back and explore more to find a hidden secret. The world map is easy to keep track thanks to its user-friendly interface so if you feel intimidated by confusing level design, this game is thankfully not one of them. There are multiple places that you will visit during the course of the main story and the game does use a fast travel mechanic to let you travel between them.
The writing in Guacamelee! 2 can be a bit over the nose. This is a game rooted in Mexican culture so there are some references that are hard to understand, but it still carries a lot of humor on the back of its script that is fantastic for a Metroidvania game. Villains are given their unique personality and each place that you will visit seems to carry a purpose in the game’s story, so it is all neatly integrated together. I have already praised the visuals but the soundtrack itself is also sublime with many memorable tracks. It gets you into a rhythm during the platforming and combat sections and elevates the experience to a whole another level.
Guacamelee! 2 Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Head back to the Mexiverse in this long-awaited sequel to the smash hit Guacamelee! Uppercut your way to victory across stunning new hand-crafted levels.
Guacamelee! 2 is an example of a sequel done right. It is one of the most impressive co-op Metroidvania games on the PS4.