Guacamelee! Gold Edition
Gameplay 9
Graphics 9
Sound 9

I was immediately drawn in by the charming visuals, but it was the gameplay that really hooked me. Combat remains entertaining without becoming tedious and the platform sections manage to mix in some brain teasers along with the precision jumping. It is very encouraging to see gems like this emerge from an already crowded genre, so don’t hesitate to snag this game.

Gameplay: This game is a joy to play.

Graphics: Crisp, detailed and very stylish visuals.

Sound: Packed with earworms!

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Guacamelee! Gold Edition

Developer: DrinkBox Studios | Publisher: DrinkBox Studios | Release Date: 2013 | Genre: Action / Adventure / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

Guacamelee tells the time honored tale of a princess captured by an evil doer leaving it up to the hero to rescue her and save the world in the process. Only this time the princess is actually El presidente’s daughter and the evil doer a charro skeleton named Carlos Calaca who plans to merge the land of the living with the land of the dead. Our hero is Juan Aguacate, a humble farmer who is effortlessly killed by Calaca in the opening minutes of the game.

Fortunately for everyone involved, except maybe Calaca and his henchmen, Juan is granted a mythical Luchadore mask that not only brings him back to life but bestows him with some impressive abilities as well. Guacamelee can be described as a Mexican themed platform title with some strong Metroid-vania influences, but after spending some time with the game I realized that there was actually a lot more to it.

Platform games are often praised for including one new gameplay element or gimmick that enhances the experience but Gaucamelee sets its sights much higher. Traversing platforms and exploring the open world is a large part of the game, but the combat is the real star of the show. The emphasis is firmly on melee attacks, but unlike other games where you can often rely on a single, powerful attack, Guacamelee constantly keeps you on your toes. Initially enemies pose little threat to Juan and can be disposed with ease, but it is not long before you have to pay attention to their patterns and exploit their weaknesses if you want to survive.

The combat can look like a chaotic blur of punches, grabs and throws to bystanders, but simply button mashing is not going to get you very far. Juan gains the ability to switch between dimensions which not only comes in handy for the puzzles and platform sections but has a use during battle as well. Some enemies attack from the opposite dimension than the one Juan is in which requires a switch if you want to land any hits on them. They can still damage Juan however, and you often encounter situations where some enemies are in the land of the living and some are in the land of the dead.

It doesn’t just end here though; enemies also begin to shield themselves, with the color of the shield indicating which attack must be used to break through their defenses. Each color is mapped to a special attack you earn so battles usually involve constantly switching between dimensions while busting out the best moves on the right enemies. It can be very daunting and confusing at first by the more you play the more instinctive it becomes. You can also dodge and shield against attacks so thankfully the controls are spot on. I highly recommend using a gamepad though, as literally every button is used and it is just way more comfortable for this style of game. This is a game where literally no move or skill is optional and you will find yourself getting better the more you play.

You won’t just be spending your time beating up enemies and racking in the coins they drop as Guacamelee has some pretty devious platform sections as well. In an interesting twist you have to use your melee attacks during the platforming sections as ordinary jumps don’t always cut it. A distant platform might be just out of reach causing you to fall short unless you perform an uppercut mid-air which propels you to safety. It feels a bit strange at first, but you soon get used to it. Once again things start of pretty sedate but eventually you will find yourself stringing together combos and swapping between dimensions almost without thinking about it while traversing the perilous platforms. In true Castlevania tradition, Juan is knocked backwards when hit by enemies or their projectiles which can be a tad annoying. Thankfully, falling off platforms only warps you back to the last bit of solid ground so while these sections can be tough as nails they rarely become too frustrating. The game also has a decent amount of check-points which doubles as shops where you can purchase upgrades and new costumes for your character.

Guacamelee sports some incredibly stylish visuals with a really eye-catching art style. Each area is literally bursting with color and the character designs are brilliant. Even at high resolutions the visuals remain crisp and impressive. The game is also packed to the brim with references and in-jokes that will bring a smile to the face of anyone that has been playing games for a while. I was constantly noticing subtle (and not so subtle) nods to other indie titles and classics such as Super Mario, Final Fantasy, Megaman and much more. There are also plenty of posters dotted about poking fun at Internet memes and the NPCs, especially the goat man with his Choozo statues provide some laugh out loud moments.

The soundtrack is another highlight for me and the Mariachi band style tunes is not only very appropriate but wildly catchy as well. I actually caught myself humming a few of the tunes while away from the game which is not something that happens very often. The sound effects are also very good, although the game does not feature any speech.

While the main quest is a bit on the short side there are enough extras to keep you coming back for more. Apart from simply exploring the colorful environments and hunting for all the Easter eggs there are also some side quests to keep you occupied. Everything from herding chickens by smacking them around to catching a chicken thief (yes this game is slightly obsessed with pollos) and finding ingredients for the world’s greatest enchilida can be attempted. These side quests are so enjoyable that I found myself wishing for more.

The “Gold Edition” in the title means that this version comes with all the DLC, which includes some new costumes as well as “El Diablo’s Domain” which is a brand new area with some brutal challenges. If you think the main game had some tough sections these challenges will really test your skills. Then there are the speedrun leaderboards to aim for and the unlockable hard difficulty for the masochists. Rounding off the package is the usual assortment of Steam desirables, such as achievements, trading cards and Steam workshop support. The game even has a nifty local co-op mode so a friend can jump in at any time and help you out although there is no online multiplayer.

Guacamelee requires some quick reflexes and good timing, but the gameplay is so addictive that I found myself watching the credits way before I would have liked to do so. Even while getting my ass kicked the game never felt unfair or undoable. It is rare to find a game that can provide a nice old school challenge without being too frustrating. I would have loved a few more boss fights as these clashes are quite entertaining.

This year has been a good one for the platform genre and despite the stiff competition Guacamelee still ranks as one of my favorites. The polished visuals, crazy storyline, catchy tunes and compelling gameplay made this one hard to put down. If you are a fan of the genre or just want to experience some nice uncompromising old school gameplay then I cannot recommend Guacamelee enough.

*Review originally published August 2013.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows 7, 8, XP, 2000 and Vista
  • Processor: 2 Ghz+
  • Memory: 512 MB RAM
  • Graphics: Shader Model 3.0, 256 MB VRAM
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Hard Drive: 800 MB available space
  • Additional Notes: Supports Xbox 360 Controller and other XInput-compatible controllers
  • OS: OSX 10.7 or later
  • Processor: 2.0+ GHz
  • Memory: 512 MB RAM
  • Graphics: OpenGL 2.1+, GLSL 1.2+, 256 MB VRAM
  • Hard Drive: 800 MB available space
  • Additional Notes: Supports Xbox 360 Controller and other SDL compatible controllers
  • OS: Ubuntu 12.04 LTS or later
  • Processor: Pentium 3 2.0 GHz or better
  • Memory: 512 MB RAM
  • Graphics: OpenGL 2.1+, GLSL 1.2+, 256 MB VRAM
  • Hard Drive: 800 MB available space
  • Additional Notes: 64-bit Linux requires 32-bit compatibility libraries. Supports Xbox 360 Controller and other SDL compatible controllers.

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