- Beautiful and charming
- Tight platforming with plenty of variation
- Bucketloads of humour
- Deep exploration in a large, well designed world
- One too many mechanics
- Dimension-hopping causes frustration
Guacamelee 2 starts with a bang, recreating the battle from the end of the first Guacamelee, although with the difficulty level cranked downwards substantially.
It’s an impressive opening and controlling your hero, Juan, will be second nature to anyone who has played the original game or even those coming in fresh. However, it’s not long before these powers are stripped away, and Juan is ready for his second grand adventure.
Juan has become fat, letting himself slide into the mundanity of home life. He’s heralded as a hero in the village, surrounded by trophies, but he now dedicates his life to his wife and children.
He’s seemingly living a melancholy life, trudging through time yearning for his old glory days. It’s when his wife asks him to fetch an avocado from the market that the fabric of reality begins to rip apart and Juan finds himself asked to journey through timelines to save the world again. It’s up to Juan to jump through portals into various timelines, collecting old and new powers that will be used to stop the big evil Salvador and his henchmen.
It’s a silly, throwaway story but never fails to provide laughs and unique moments. Salvador is dying, and he needs to recreate the guacamole of the Gods by bringing together three unique relics. Putting on his old Luchador mask, Juan’s body is transformed to its former glory.
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Slowly, as with all Metroidvanias, powers are drip-fed from exploration. Hiding away in cubby holes and dead-ends are Mayan statues aping the Metroid style, waiting to be broken by Juan, unleashing a new power that will open up previously gated areas. Blue, yellow and red slabs of concrete halt your progress until bestowed with a power punch, headbutt or uppercut, respectively. Each of these moves is integral to moving forward, but also for defeating enemies.
Each foe you come across will have a certain aura that acts as a shield. A red glow means the first move will need to be a Rooster Uppercut, which drops the shield and then allows for combos. Green requires a Body Slam first, otherwise subsequent attacks won’t damage the enemy.
As in the original game, Juan can initiate a grapple in the middle of combos, before holding a direction and actioning a Luchador wrestling move. When the combat flows it’s a wonderful experience. Combining the special moves, standard combos and air juggles makes each fight feel exciting and fresh. Certain moves and projectiles, as well as environmental hazards, are dodged by flicking the right analogue stick and phasing through danger.
It takes much focus to mix all of these moves together – and this can lead to moments of frustration. Reaching spacious areas is often an indicator that a fight is coming, moments before an arena forms, the sides closing off and a swarm of enemies attacking, all of which need to be killed in order to move on.
Later fights will combine waves of red, yellow and green auras, asking you to perform moves that sap stamina, before rolling through powerful actions to flank other bad guys – and even morphing into a chicken to fight those with spiked purple edges.
Reflexes need to be sharp and you’ll need to be aware of every enemy and how they move, what their attack patterns are, if you want to pass through unscathed. Thankfully, each arena fight ends with a piñata full of coins and health. Mission accomplished.
And yes, Juan turns into a chicken. In order to wind through the smaller tunnels, Juan must transform into Pollo the chicken. These sections are highlights, as the pacing for the platforming becomes increasingly frantic.
Sure, Juan’s acrobatics make traversal enjoyable, but later upgrades to Pollo certainly bring a whole new layer to movement. The dash manoeuvre is great for zooming between spikes and later pinballing off walls and into enemies. Combat is still entirely possible, too. So, watching a chicken suplex a large skeleton induces huge grins.
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Each of these moves can be upgraded via in-game trainers, from the pause menu, expanding the repertoire, powering up existing moves, or adding perks such as extra coins after hitting a 25-hit combo. The core game doesn’t differ too much from the original – but as the saying goes, if it ain’t broke…
It’s in the periphery that Guacamelee 2 manages to grab an audience. The entire game is brimming with charisma, from the characters to the world that surrounds them. Landscapes are littered with billboards that nod to pop culture, puns are two a penny, and the fourth wall is broken more times than a birthday piñata.
Everything looks wonderful, too. Colours pop off the screen; even when hazed with particle effects, townships glow with fires or appear eroded from time. There’s character in everything and the music accompanies it all so well – as long as you’re a fan of Mexican guitars, that is.
The only time the visuals jar is after opening a skill in the second-third of the game, where you can switch dimensions at will. Oftentimes when switching, the game would pause for a short time – less than a second, but noticeable enough to break the immersion.
While the dimension hopping is an interesting concept, it sometimes leads to platforming moments that anger, rather than please. Too often you’re required to switch dimensions between jumps, avoiding spikes. Wall jumping is regularly bogged down with this mechanic of shifting the surfaces as you move.
In fact, it’s the dimension changing where Guacamelee 2 falls down, especially when introducing enemies that only appear in a certain dimensional states. Add in all the different auras and fighting becomes a touch too cluttered with mechanics.
Guacamelee 2 is an excellent sequel, bringing new mechanics but retaining enough of what made the first game so charming. There are times when repetition kicks in or the concepts become too numerous, but the dialogue, design and core movement will keep things fun.
Add to this all of the costumes to unlock, the four player co-op and leaderboards, there’s plenty to keep bringing you back. While the sequel doesn’t outshine the first outing, it sits nicely next to it as a tag team partner.