PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, Mac, Wii U
One of the greatest things about the burgeoning indie marketplace is how it has opened up the gaming medium in every direction imaginable. Take Guacamelee! for example: developer Drinkbox Studios wouldn’t have had a luchadore’s chance in hell of getting published 10 years ago. With the advent of this new digital frontier however, a side-scrolling adventure game about a Mexican wrestler is now a totally marketable product.
And what a product it is. While Guacamelee! is far from the first game to play on old-school gaming tropes and inspirations, it wears each of them on its sleeve, even as it handily bests many of the games from the series’ that it’s aping. The so-called “metroidvania” niche of gaming is the most obvious of these influences, and it’s this aspect of the design where Guacamelee! soars highest. The game consists of one giant map after another, and with the timely introduction of several upgrades, these landscapes slowly open up more and more. That these upgrades take often ridiculous forms, such as a morph-ball inspired augmentation early on, which allows protagonist, Juan, to take the form of a chicken, is just half the fun.
Fun is, of course, the operative word here, as a game this ridiculous couldn’t hope to succeed without a healthy does of humor and self-awareness. From the silly old goat man who offers you your upgrades, to the dozens of in-game winks to other franchises and titles, Guacamelee! is a game that rarely takes itself seriously for more than a few seconds at a time.
With that in mind, don’t be too mislead by the quirky aesthetic because underneath it lies one of the most hardcore fighting systems imaginable. To triumph over the multitudes of enemies that Guacamelee! throws at you requires a Devil May Cry/Ninja Gaiden level of mastery. Even with the utmost levels of concentration, players can expect to die and die often.
The story happens to be a blast as well. Brimming with wacky characters and zany happenings, Guacamelee!‘s goofy tale of an undead luchadore seeking justice while travelling between the world of the living and the realm of the dead is surprisingly rich even in its deliberate absurdity. A hilarious cast of well-written, gorgeously animated characters populates the cast, while the rogue’s gallery, each with it’s own silly Metal Gear Solid style backstory are just further icing on the cake.
For fans of retro gaming, Guacamelee! is a godsend, and even with its many influences, you can rest assured that you’ve never played anything quite like it.