Guacamelee! Review

Written by Mat Jones

May 8, 2013 | 10:00

Tags: #mexico

Companies: #drinkbox-studios

In his attempt to overcome Skeletal Evil, Juan gradually picks up new abilities that help traverse environments and add extra complexity to the game’s combat. Lucha Libre wrestling is about flair and grappling, so all of the moves reflect this, with flaming uppercuts and suplexes aplenty. The most entertaining move appears when you’ve worn an enemy down: a prompt appears that will let you launch them toward other foes causing a massive domino effect.

Guacamelee! Review
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Sadly, the combat reaches a point all too soon where you’ve used and mastered everything. You’ll find a Dial-A-Combo you like and bust that out in every encounter. From there, the only addition is that some enemies will grow shields that need to be hit with a specific colour-coded ability before any actual damage can be dealt. There are also occasions where you have to balance several opponents that each need different moves performed on them but have limited time from the first hit until their shields recharge, but this is about the extent of the combat’s complexity.

Guacamelee! Review
Click to enlarge

The final two bosses are, however, satisfyingly gruelling fights that’ll really push your understanding of attack-pattern memorisation and punish you for any mistakes. That said, the tedious gloating speech that plays before every attempt at the ultimate battle needlessly adds to the already over-abundant frustration from failure. It’d be enough that the section was difficult, it’s insulting that it’s also punctuated by this extended pause before you can try again.

Otherwise, the game’s difficulty is handled excellently. There are some tough platforming sections but failures are greeted by a quick restart from only moments before rather than any drawn out death or frustratingly far back restart point. This allows the game to get overly devious and complicated with the manual dexterity necessary to get from one place to another (it’s not quite Super Meat Boy, but it does require more complex command input than just correctly assessing jump arcs). This puts the boss fight in stark contrast and prevents the assumption that the time wasting is some sort of fitting referential statement about old games providing similar annoying tactics. Instead it just makes the ending frustrating.

Guacamelee! Review
Click to enlarge

The game’s about 5 or 6 hours long from start to story completion (with a free-roam after), which feels like the necessary amount for it to achieve it’s narrative and gameplay progression goals. It’s a tightly wrapped package that offers quick delight, some ingredients may have been better left out and what’s in there could have either been spaced out a little more expertly or contained a slight extra kick, but for the money you’ll hardly complain.
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