A benefit of playstation plus is the wealth of games you can get free every month. However, for those of us that have limited space on our hard-drives, sometimes games get relegated to the “yeah I’ll download that at some point” list. Saved but not downloaded, these games often go unnoticed and it was this fate that befell Guacamelee for me personally.
When a favourite lets player of mine started playing the new edition of Guacamelee, the Super Turbo Championship which boasts additional DLC (downloadable content) and extra costumes, I remembered I had it festering away in my download list. I’d previously ignored the game as I thought it was a stylised 2d beat-em-up, rather than the Metroid-esque platformer that it actually is.
You take the role of Juan, a regular shmoe in a peaceful Mexican village, going about your daily life. Things take a turn for the very worse when the evil Carlos Calaca, a charro (traditional Mexican horseman) skeleton, turns up with his posse of supernatural freaks and kidnaps el Presidentes daughter. It doesn’t help that she’s your childhood friend, giving motivation to stop him in his plot to sacrifice her, linking the worlds of the living and the dead which he will rule over. Unfortunately however, when Juan stands up to Carlos he is immediately killed. Saved by a mysterious force in the land of the dead, a mysterious luchadora named Tostada appears and gives him the mask of a luchador which revives him and empowers him, giving him the muscle and speed to stop Carlos in his plot.
The Mexican theme of this game is un-ignorable, and its a massive part of the games charm. The game style is utterly unique, with beautiful visuals and a great soundtrack. While the game is unforgiving to players who don’t know the mexican terms for a lot of the characters (I for example knew Carlos was a Charro but had to google what one was in order to write this review!) its never too distracting from the game. Another aspect that sets the game apart is its pop culture references. With the exception of one line of dialogue, this is all tastefully done. Gaming, movies and even comics arent safe as the game lampoons internet memes, pitting memes against each other in wrestling posters stuck to the walls. I spotted Insanity wolf, Grumpy Cat, Strong Bad, the O’Rly and Ya’rly owls to name a few. Wreck it Ralph, Batman, final fantasy and Link aren’t safe from lampooning and the Chozo statues from Metroid are actually pivotal to the story as they offer upgrades for destroying them (even IF it frustrates their poor owner).
The combat of the game is its bread and butter, a game about Mexican wrestling would be a poor offering if its combat wasn’t good and Guacamelee lives up to the second half of its name. Initially you can only punch and toss your enemies but spending the in-game collectables means learning new moves including suplexes and big boots to toss your enemies. Story driving power-ups mean you’ll be head-butting, uppercutting and body slamming your way through both the enemies and environments. This game has no shortage of secrets, with new power-ups meaning you can revisit areas to break open new areas. As the game progresses, the puzzle element of the game becomes more prominent, rewarding explorers with either skull or heart segments, mirroring the Zelda heart piece system and increasing max stamina and health respectively.
I could sit and gush over the visuals and the gameplay all day but its something you should experience. I sat and utterly hammered the game in the space of two days. Its refreshing to see a game not bogged down with filler to interrupt your main goal. You are playing this game to rescue your friend and NOTHING gets in the way. Recent games have ruined any sense of tension (Far Cry 3 I’m looking at you) by establishing an urgent need to save someone then distracting you with filler that takes you away from it. Which brings me to probably my only issue with the game: its length. I finished the game in two nights, admittedly with lots of secrets left over but still quite quickly. But for a budget game and with extra DLC stages available, I can’t recommend the game enough. Its style is charming, its platforming and combat tight and its sense of humour hilarious. You owe it to yourself to check it out, even the base game without the DLC was a great experience.
Oh and its Co-op so you and a friend can tag team up to smash that skelly scoundrel!
Reading at Recess