PS VITA – It seems that there is an ascension in regards of quality when it comes to recent platformers. Most of them doesn’t even use the possibility of the third dimension, but in return they have a great atmosphere, audio and sometimes a brilliant environment as well. The latest version of Guacamelee! (which might be the final one) checks all those marks nicely.
There isn’t even a slow story starting segment here. We have Juan – our hero starts the game as a normal gentleman, but he will get involved with the daughter of El Presidente and the main baddy called Calaca – who is basically an undead skeleton king. Juan will soon get a mask by a female luchador named Tostada – and that is when our adventure really takes off.
I have to take a slight detour here. The game builds heavily upon the Mexican lucha libre – it’s basically none other than their own wrestling, where the wrestlers (called luchadores) wear colorful and unique masks. Why is this explained? Simply put on a mask, and Juan will become one of the wrestlers.
Our warrior gets powerful from the get-go, but you’ll have to teach him more moves as you progress. You can do so by collecting pesos (another reference; this is the Mexican currency!), which can be found in some barrels, or in some enemies. If you get to one of the well-placed checkpoints, you will be able to do several things here. First off, your health is automatically refilled to the max. Second, the game is saved every time you go by one. Last but not least, you can buy new moves or costumes here. Or heart pieces to increase your health. (You’ll need 3 to do so.)
The moves are part of a well thought combo system, but mind you, it will take some time to get enough cash together to get them. The costumes are the game’s adaptation of perks. For example, one set can give you more money, but in return, you will be really fragile.
Guacamelee! is usually called a Metroidvania title. Why? Basically, the 1986 Famicom game Metroid was known to literally throw the player into the middle of the nothing, allowing the (female) character to explore everything with usually no hints. „-vania” refers to Konami’s Castlevania franchise, which was another popular sidescrolling platformer back then, being way more complex by the time it evolved up to the Super Nintendo platform.
This game does pay its tribute towards both franchises in a nice way. In the beginning, all the info you will get is to go to the forest. And that’s it. Everything else needs to be discovered on your own. You’ll find several coloured blocks that can only be destroyed if you already got the move that is able to break it. For example, the red ones can be crushed by the Chicken Uppercut, and I am not joking, that really is the move’s name. It shows how humourous this title can be.
It’s a good idea to check into every single area even if you don’t have every move yet. Getting heart pieces and money are a good enough reward to explore – and there’s always the map to rely on; getting stuck and/or lost is almost impossible.
Speaking of moves, there’s a new addition to the STC Edition called Intenso. It’s basically a rage mode, but it fills up slowly, so you have to use it wisely – healing yourself by attacking sounds good, but time is properly.
The STC Edition name reminds me of Capcom’s Street Fighter franchise… although Drinkbox Games’ product can be looked at as a definitive edition, as its story implemented the DLC’s well, having one more boss and the silver coin currency for costumes as well. The game isn’t brilliant because of this – the thing that makes it a recommended title is the multiplayer. The drop-in, drop-out cooperative game boosts the mood and the gameplay simultaneously. It’s simply feeling good to play together, and the good teamwork can result in more pesos.
I should mention one of the many small updates: the enemies now have a visible HP bar. It can mean a lot tactically, so if you need to play defensive, you can do so.
This version has improved well over the PS3/PSV one. In its roots it’s the same game, but it has more content, excitement and mood. Not only graphically has the latin flare, but in its sights too! Yeah, it might not be a graphical masterpiece, but it was never meant to be that. Juan has stepped up as a new challenger for that throne, standing right next to Shovel Knight, pushing Rogue Legacy aside a bit.
+ Rare to see games building on lucha libre
+ Even better when playing together with someone
+ Lots of small improvements: big boost over the earlier version
– Juan’s grunts might be a bit annoying
– Manouvering the platforms need a lot of precision
– It won’t be a PS4 killer app, but there’s certainly going to be interest for it
Editor: DrinkBox Studios, Spike Chunsoft, Activision
Developer: DrinkBox Studios
Genres: platformer, metroidvania
Publication: August, 2014