Preview: I'll have a wet carne asada burrito, heavy on the Guacamelee, please
Guacamelee is currently en route to the PlayStation Network, piledriving and headbutting everything that gets in its way in the process. The game, developed by DrinkBox Studios, features platforming gameplay that’s equal parts satisfying and tricky. There are also, like, a gajillion rear ends to put a boot to, but thanks to a variety of moves, there are many ways to do that. Combine this entertaining action-platforming style with some solid art and music, and you’ve got a downloadable game for the PlayStation 3 and Vita that’s certainly worth watching out for. I had the chance to check out an updated version of Guacamelee, running through some big levels, checking out the sights at local towns, and even getting in on some co-op action with DrinkBox.
A humble agave farmer by the name of Juan takes the spotlight as the unlikely hero in this Mexican-influenced action-platformer. Things go south when Juan’s love interest, known solely as El Presidente’s daughter, gets kidnapped soon after returning from college (She’s taking “jumanities.”) for the big Day of the Dead festival. As Juan attempts to rescue the lovely lass, he’s killed by the dastardly Carlos Calaca. Of course, thanks to the magic of video games — and the superstitious nature of Mexican culture (My last name’s Sanchez. I know these things.) — Juan gets a second chance at life after entering the world of the dead. That’s where Juan meets the deliciously named Tostada, who acts as his co-op buddy and luchador partner. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that when Juan gets killed by Calaca, he comes back as a masked wrestler, which is absolute genius.
Though Guacamelee doesn’t take its themes seriously, its gameplay is no joke. The duality mechanic, for example, allows Juan and Tostada to switch between two dimensions at will. One dimension may have platforms that the other doesn’t, which forces you to constantly switch so that you can progress. This is a great mechanic that’s used quite cleverly in Guacamelee. Sometimes you’ll have to wall jump upward and vertically to reach new areas or cross large gaps. It’s not as easy as it sounds, though, because a lot of the walls are only visible in certain dimensions, so climbing requires you to be quick with your reflexes and switch over at just the right time.
Secrets are littered across the entire game world, and finding them requires plenty of cunning. Thankfully, there’s no creature more cunning than the rooster. And hey, Juan can totally turn into a rooster, so that’s that problem solved! Rooster Juan will be able to enter small spaces that our wrestling hero wouldn’t otherwise fit into. Here you’ll find everything from heart chunks that upgrade your health to pesos that you can spend on upgrades at shops. These are usually found at Day of the Dead altars, which also act as save points. Here you can purchase new moves, more heart chunks, and other goodies.
Combat is a major part of Guacamelee. Juan is quite the versatile luchador, and while plenty of enemies are expendable, others are a bit tougher to defeat. Some enemies have color-coded shields that can only be broken if you perform the appropriate move. If your foe is protected by a green, yellow, or red shield, you’ll have to dish out a downward body slam, headbutt, or uppercut, respectively. You can also grapple baddies and toss them around. Oftentimes you’ll have to deal with enemies that are attacking in two different dimensions, but if you switch just as you’re about to toss another dude, you’ll successfully chuck him right at the other aggressor who totally thought he couldn’t be touched while in the alternate dimension. What a sucker!
I teamed up with DrinkBox in a little bit of co-op play and had an absolute blast. Guacamelee is hectic as it is, but when you throw in a second player, you get a satisfying sense of sheer chaos. Not only were my tag team partner and I throwing enemies around, but we were dealing some cool combos and makeshift double-team moves. It was pretty badass tossing an enemy in the general vicinity of Tostada and watching her uppercut the hell out of the dude as he landed. It should be noted that the number of enemies doesn’t increase in co-op, but they are more powerful, adjusting the challenge accordingly.
When you’re not bashing fierce skeletons or knocking fools into each other, you can explore towns at your leisure. These havens act as safe zones where you can interact with NPCs and even engage in a little side questing. Optional objectives are given out to you by citizens, and you’re usually rewarded with some nice stat boosts.
Once you brawl your way through Guacamelee, you’ll unlock hard mode. If you dare brave this component, you’ll find that enemies are not only stronger, but new bad guys also appear in certain areas. A few platforms are also missing, making previously daunting jumps even more precarious. Hey, it’s called hard mode. What were you expecting, more platforms and weaker enemies? Didn’t think so.
Guacamelee is due out sometime during spring on the PlayStation 3 and Vita, though a specific launch date has yet to be announced. I had a lot of fun playing the preview build of the game, so if you’re into beat ‘em ups, platformers, or a combination of the two that’s as sweet as pan dulce, I’d highly suggest you keep your eyes peeled for this game. If you need a little more convincing, then I’ve got two words for ya: goat man.
Shoot, I hope he doesn’t get turned into birria ...
Want to talk about indie games, Kirby, or cheap pizza? Follow me on Twitter @dr_davidsanchez.