Being raised in the South, I grew up watching a lot of World Championship Wrestling. While many wrestling fanatics enjoyed watching the legendary names like Ric Flair or factions like the NWO, I was most fascinated by the luchadores, performers that came from Mexico and other Spanish speaking countries. Most of the WCW luchadores wore masks and pulled off a stunning array of maneuvers. Their matches felt more like dramatic action scenes versus the normal fake punches and kicks associated with American and European professional wrestlers. Due to that respect for these performers, I have been looking forward to Guacamelee prior to its release last year on the Playstation 3. Fortunately, Guacamelee Super Turbo Championship Edition (STCE), which includes the original game and all its Downloadable Content (DLC), has been released on both Playstation 4 and Xbox One consoles, with the latter offering the game for free to Xbox Live Gold subscribers.
Guacamelee is a spiritual successor to the classic “metroidvania” styled games as well as side-scrolling beat-em ups like Double Dragon or River City Ransom. However, limiting the game to that description would be doing it a disservice. Although it was originally created for the previous console generation, Guacamelee is one of the most beautiful games available on the Xbox One and Playstation 4. The colors are vibrant and the game’s locale’s stand out from one another. Juan, the main protagonist, is well illustrated with his masked luchadore appearance including wrestling tights and boots. The antagonists look just as good, and I found myself looking forward to reaching a new location in the game just to sit in awe of the visuals. The mix of cell shaded characters and colorful backgrounds gives the game a Saturday morning cartoon feel.
One of the many ways Guacamelee stands out from the number of metroidvania styled games on consoles these days is the combat, which starts out as basic punch combos, but evolves to slams, suplexes, flying punches, and much more. Another plus for Guacamelee is the game’s soundtrack. The Mexican-themed tunes complement the gameplay and graphics so beautifully that together they truly immerse you in the game’s world. Drinkbox Studios developed a game that is not just an ode to the aforementioned style of games, but to video game history and the game’s lucha-libre influences. There are items and jokes in the game that intentionally remind players of Super Mario Brothers, Mega Man, and Legend of Zelda, as well as pop culture characters such as Batman, Strong Bad, and Grumpy Cat. These subtleties make you appreciate the game in its entirety, not just the incredible graphics, combat, or soundtrack. These additions as well as the plot support the certainty that Guacamelee: STCE is a game that does not take itself seriously and will make players laugh on several occasions. Meeting key characters or learning new maneuvers presents the players with a splash screen akin to the fight cards for old wrestling matches and becomes a running joke. While the game’s dialog is text based, non-playable characters speak with Juan in either English, Spanish, or both, and regardless of the language it all adds to the Guacamelee’s story and gives you a laugh.
Learning new moves is a key point of progressing in Guacamelee. The player is blocked off from areas of the game until they can use a newly learned move to break the block. Each of these blocks is color coded, so it is obvious which areas are accessible to you when you reach them. Another addition to the gameplay is the existence of two separate dimensions. Guacamelee’s plot takes place prior to a Dia de Muertos festival, and both the land of the living and the land of the dead play an intricate part in the story. During points of the game, Juan will bounce between the two dimensions, this not only affects the environment but also changes combat, as often times, gamers will be forced to battle enemies in the same room, but in different dimensions.
The overall gameplay experience in Guacamelee: STCE is incredible, whether you are journeying through the numerous areas in the game that are inspired by exploration-heavy 2D classics, or if you are smashing enemies with uppercuts or headbutts, Drinkbox Studios’ title is a memorable experience. Guacamelee: STCE is an enjoyable romp that steadily amps up both the difficulty and the character’s abilities, making proper use of RPG elements, as well as the various styles of so many of the games that came before it. The entire journey is all the more enjoyable due to incredibly responsive controls; Juan moves exactly how you want him to, and it is rewarding when you pull off the proper combo to clear a room of enemies, or when you master some of the challenging platforming sections. The game also has a co-op option allowing you to play with a friend in your home, but truthfully, this game is better enjoyed as a single player experience.
Drinkbox improved on the classic metroidvania games and capitalized on modern gameplay techniques to provide players with an experience that is memorable. Guacamelee: STCE is a title that sits near the apex of gaming, if you grew up playing Metroid, Legend of Zelda, and Super Mario Bros and want to recapture the original experience you had with those games or if you just enjoy cracking skulls, this is the game for you.
+ Beautiful graphics
+ One of the best soundtracks EVER
+ Good use of humor
+ Impressively Deep Combat
– Easy boss fights
– Anti-climactic finish