games / Reviews

Guacamelee! (PSN) Review

April 15, 2013 | Posted by Stephen Randle

Title: Guacamelee!
Publisher: Drinkbox Studios
Developer: Drinkbox Studios
Genre: Platformer
Players: 1-2 (Simultaneous co-operative multiplayer available)
Rated: Teen
Available for PS3 and Vita via PSN (Cross-Play/Save Title)

From the twisted imaginations at Drinkbox Studios comes Guacamelee!, an energetic platformer/action game with a delightfully bent sense of humour. You step into the shoes of Juan, a humble agave farmer living in God’s country, Mexico, who dreams of one day being the sort of man who can be worthy of your childhood crush, the daughter of the El Presidente. Then, chaos erupts during Dio De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead, a Mexican national holiday for remembering late family members), when a mysterious skeletal figure named Carlos Calaca absconds with the El Presidente’s daughter. Juan rushes to attempt a rescue, but is quickly defeated and banished to the Land of the Dead. However, once there, Juan is imbued with the power of a mystical luchador mask, and returns to the land of the living to get revenge on Calaca and his army of henchmen, and rescue the woman of his dreams. Is it a crazy concept for a video game? Sure it is, but no more crazy than an Italian plumber or a super-speedy hedgehog, and Guacamelee! treats the subject matter with the tongue-in-cheek, off-the-cuff humour that it demands.

Hey, I Think I’ve Seen The Guy On That Poster Somewhere Before…

As you take Juan through the fantastical world of…Mexico…you’ll encounter all manner of men, women, monsters, and transforming goats, and every single one of them is loaded for bear with snappy dialogue (stereotypical Mexican speech patterns a specialty) and witty remarks that make you wish the game contained voice acting. Even the boss characters that you’ll face off with multiple times over the course of the game have dialogue that will make you laugh before they try to wreck your face. In a world where many games seem to be skewing towards the dark and grim, Guacamelee! rejects that direction and goes entirely the other way, into a world (two, actually) where light-hearted fun is the course of action.

Yes, Who Are You To Doubt El Bano?

Nowhere is this style more apparent than in the graphics. The world of Guacamelee! features the brightest colours available to the artists, with hot pinks, shocking yellows, and luminescent blues the order of the day. Even when you travel to the Land of the Dead, where black would seem to be the obvious dominant colour, you’ll find just as much variety, with a riot of purples, turquoises, and greens turning what you’d assume to be a dour and dark place into a place of surprising life and energy. The art style is cartoonish, yet detailed, and wouldn’t look out of place in your typical animated kid’s show. Tying it all together is the game’s soundtrack, which fills your ears with hours of upbeat, culturally appropriate music that helps keep the up-tempo, bouncy feel of the game going even during its most dangerous moments.

Even In Mexico, Some Things Never Change

In terms of gameplay, Juan is armed with a series of simple melee combos, and you can unlock several wrestling-related “super” moves by defeating enemies and collecting coins. Similar to the Metroid or Castlevania series, you can also pick up special abilities (by destroying a certain type of statue that some people might find familiar) that will unlock new areas in zones you’ve already visited before, giving you some definite backtracking options. The combat itself is never horribly difficult, but the game will occasionally spring waves and waves of enemies on you, which can lead to some frustrating situations, especially once it introduces the concept of shields that can only be broken (temporarily) by certain special abilities.

However, the real frustration with any sort of game like this will always be with the platforming elements, and to its credit, Guacamelee! offers jumping puzzles that can be taxing to your abilities , but with enough practise and perseverance, you’ll rarely find yourself in a situation that can’t be solved by good timing and use of all your special moves. Personally, I only found a few situations that left me stuck for long periods of time, and in all of them, it was my own lack of ability (curse you, slow reflexes!), and not any sort of unfair game situation, that caused the frustration. If you get stressed out easily when confronted by really complicated jumping puzzles, be warned, you might break a controller or two before you figure out the solution. Boss fights can seem similarly ridiculous, but again, patience will pay off, and veteran gamers will find just the right amount of challenge without freezing out casual players.

Simultaneous co-operative multiplayer is available for Guacamelee!, by picking up a second PS3 controller, or via Cross-Play using a PlayStation Vita, which is a welcome feature for those who happen to have Sony’s portable console on hand. In addition, you can manually upload and download your saved game to either console via cloud storage, and since you get exactly the same game whether you play the PS3 or Vita version, you can literally take Guacamelee! anywhere that you can take a Sony console. My only concern with the multiplayer option is that the game does not scale combat for the presence of an additional player, meaning that the exact same number of the exact same enemies spawn regardless of how many people are playing. Thus, most of the combat can become fairly trivial when you have two people involved. However, I like the option, and I’m all for anything that shows off the Cross-Play feature and gets some extra use out of my Vita.

I Did Say It Was A Metroid-Style Game, But This Is A Bit On The Nose


– Just plain fun to play
– Excellent soundtrack
– You get the same game whether you buy PS3 or Vita version


– Fairly short
– Having a second player massively lowers the combat difficulty
– Some jumping puzzles require more than average dexterity
– If you don’t like Internet memes, don’t pay too much attention to the backgrounds

The 411

Guacamelee! is an enjoyable romp through a colourful setting full of life and humour, with simple combat and tricky, potentially rage-inducing platforming elements that force you to master all your abilities in order to proceed. It’s tough without being unfair, and most of the time, it’s a breezy little game that anyone can have fun with. For such a short game, it packs in a lot of story and unique characters, and every boss fight is a unique experience that will call upon all your skills to defeat. For only fifteen dollars on PSN, it’s a title well worth the money. Pick up Guacamelee! today, and you won’t be disappointed.

Graphics8.5The unique art style is fresh and bright, perfectly setting the tone for the game. 
Gameplay8.0The combat is simple and easy to master, but some of the jumping puzzles will have you throwing the controller in frustration 
Sound8.0No voice acting, but the soundtrack is wonderful and absolutely captures the mood 
Lasting Appeal6.0It’s a short game, six to eight hours, and there’s minimal replayability. 
Fun Factor 8.5This game is fun, with an open and witty sense of humour, you will fully enjoy the experience, however brief. 
Overall8.0   [ Very Good ]  legend

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Stephen Randle
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