When Metroid was released back on the NES, it introduced a different style of side scrolling platforming. There was a large focus on navigating left, right, up and down the screen and exploring to acquire new abilities to reach even more places. Later Castlevania adopted this same style of game for the 2D titles. The name “Metroidvania” was given to this type of game. These games were generally large with a lot to find and are known for back tracking to previously visited locations. Guacamelee! is a game that approaches this style of game, and well, it just seems to fall short when compared to Metroid. Though it is enjoyable, the game just isn’t that great.
You play as Juan, an Agave Fields farmer. He meets El Presidente’s daughter, who happens to be an old friend. Soon her home is attacked and Juan rushes to her rescue to find she is being kidnapped by Calca, who then kills Juan. Trapped in the world of the dead, Juan discovers a special luchador mask that allows him to return to the world of the living. Then he sets out on his quest to save El Presidentes’s daughter. The story is simple and you wont be scratching your head about any details on it. But in this kind of game it doesn’t really even matter.
Now like I said before, this is a Metroidvania game. So throughout the game you will receive new power ups. All of these are fighting type moves, which fits well since you are a luchador. The combat is the strongest mechanic in this game. Your punches and kicks flow together nicely, racking up combos is very satisfying, and fighting enemies just never gets old. Another unique feature is that it allows you to instantly jump back and forth between the world of the living and the world of the dead. Jumping between the realms changes what platforms, walls, and obstacles that can be encountered. Switching is necessary to progress and is nicely executed with some platforming puzzles the player will encounter later on. The game even has some great music influenced by Mexican culture mixed with some electronic, and it just fits so well.
Of course what game is complete with out its fair share problems. For me Guacamelee! has many small problems. None of which are game breaking, just more along the lines of annoyances that hold this title back. The first problem is how the story is delivered. Once you get the main basic story of the girl has been kidnapped and you need to save her, everything else just doesn’t matter . The main problem is the overall design of the world. This is a “metroidvania” game but doesnt feel it. The back tracking and branching paths are optional. This takes away that metroid feel of the game. This also makes the game feel very linear. One of the smaller problems is the humor. The game tries to be funny and it just isn’t there. Guacamelee! makes references to other games, but they just feel lazy and could be more clever. But these are a bit more personal thing.
Before, I mentioned the ability to jump between worlds. In the game you encounter enemies that you can only kill if your in the same world as them. In the end, you will just be faced with some sort of cheap death later in the game. This is would be a huge problem if there was an actual penalty for death. The games difficulty is not very hard to begin with. With the lack of punishment from death, it makes alot easier. Not to mention the game has one of the most cheap and uninteresting final bosses. For the sake of spoilers, I’ll just say it felt like I was playing Marvel Vs Capcom 3. Which is disappointing because the other boss battles were actually fun and quite challenging
With all that said and done, Guacamelee! is far from a bad game. In fact it’s good and is worth your time playing. The game has some great combat, fun platforming and an excellent soundtrack. It is only worth a one time play through. Its small flaws is what keeps the game from being anything bigger than it is. Nothing feels like it stands out in the game and it is easy to forget.
*This Game Was Reviewed Using The PC Version Of The Game
*Guacamelee Is Available On PC, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation Vita.