Video Game Review: Guacamelee!

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Its been said time and time again that 2013 was where the indie scene really started to go somewhere releasing some of the most innovative and unique gaming experiences that the indie developers could offer. From short 3 hour games to solving mind-bending puzzles, who knew that the one game that would make it to the top of the giant indie mountain would be a simple action platformer developed by Drinkbox Studios, Guacamelee!. Guacamelee! is out for the PC, PS Vita, PS3 and soon will be released in PS4 and Xbox One.

The premise of the game is simple enough and it’s like every other action platformer that has come before it. You make your way through several stages/chapters, in Guacamelee!’s case, it’s through different areas around the map.

The story of the game also borrows many similar elements from past platformers. You are a farmer named Juan whose old friend is the princess of your village. One fine day the princess gets kidnapped and of course, you have to stop her captor and save her, with the help of a wrestling mask that grants you many magical powers. Hmm… Some random guy, Princess gets kidnapped by villain, go save the princess? Mario anyone?. Obviously, this game isn’t a Mario clone, in fact, I’d pick Guacamelee! over Mario.

What I truly loved about this 6 hour game is the art style. The game is set in a rural mexican area and you can tell from the Mexican themed music that’s constantly playing when you enter through towns. The environments are very colorful but not to the point that they make your eyes sore. But the most important piece to this puzzle has to be the fun and lovable characters. Yes, the characters don’t have the voice acting in them, but in a game that tries to emulate the play style of action platformers of old, voice acting isn’t really needed in the first place. To out the artstyle of Guacamelee! in a word, it would be “Charming”.

Gameplay wise, Guacamelee! gets more and more creative as your progress through the game adding new powers and the ability to switch dimensions between the “living” and “dead” worlds at will.

Powers in this game can be used in battle but take up a yellow block that’s below your health bar. These powers are wrestling moves like the uppercut or the headbutt and they are color coded. Why color coded you ask? Well, because these powers not only prove useful when fighting enemies but also provide a wider scope for puzzle solving in the game. The puzzles in this game aren’t impossibly difficult, rather they’re actually pretty easy. All you need are quick reflexes and you will be rewarded with that sense of satisfaction that comes with finishing a puzzle. The color coded special moves are also a means to advancing through hidden areas in the game. For example, you won’t be able to smash through a green block unless you have the “Headbutt” power which is attained later in the game.

If you thought that the battles in Guacamelee! were easy, then putting enemies that can only be attacked when in a certain dimension will do the trick. If that is still not enough, hitting them with the correct special move according to a glowing color around them will definitely leave you challenged and satisfied. And I haven’t even gotten to the boss fights yet. Boss fights in this game are hard, but not impossible. They require precision and proper timing to find the right spot to hit the boss. make one wrong move and there goes a huge chunk of HP. However, These boss fights are always different and that’s something that makes the game all the more fun and have that “Just one more try” feeling.

There is also a shop that appears in every stage, and this shop serves as a save point as well. You can purchase many things like health bonuses and different fighting moves that are only fitting for a Luchador.

When I was about to play this game for the first time, I knew nothing about it except that it had a bunch of high scores from reviews and that it’s a 2D action platformer. Finishing the game, I was left with immense satisfaction and extremely delighted by the experience so much so that I didn’t want to finish the game so fast. Before playing, I had no idea why this 2D platformer had received such critical acclaim. After playing, I wanted EVERYONE who played it to give it a great score. You’ve got your charming and funny characters, fun and challenging bosses to fight and gorgeous art work that will make you appreciate the Guacamelee! experience even more.