Drinkbox Studios broke through and had a smash hit back in 2013 when they launched the original Guacamelee on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. Starring a little lovable luchador known as Juan Aguacate (sorry El Frankero), we followed him along the journey to rescue his beloved from the evil Calaca. Before we dive further into this review, I want to say this now. If you haven’t played through and experienced the first game, you’re doing yourself a disservice by immediately jumping into the second. Go back and play the original, as it will make the references, nods, and insane game you’re about to play all the better.
Title: Guacamelee 2
Publisher: Drinkbox Studios
Developer: Drinkbox Studios
Available On: PC, PlayStation 4
Reviewed On: PC (Steam)
Release Date: August 21, 2018
Game Provided By Drinkbox Studios for the Purpose of This Review
Guacamelee 2 begins right as the first ended. In fact, we play through the last boss encounter once again. After stopping Calaca, we transition into the present timeline seven years later. Juan is now a happily married family man with two children, but he clearly is clinging on to the past as he still wears his coveted championship title and longingly stares at posters of the famous luchador he once was. While out on a simple task to fetch avocados for dinner, something terrible happens and Juan is needed to thwart evil one last time.
We are introduced to the Mexiverse, an interconnected timeline of parallel universes all based around the events of Guacamelee. Juan is needed in the Darkest Timeline, but to do that, they had to travel to this timeline to retrieve him. You see… this is the only timeline where Juan is still alive. Every other timeline.. Juan was defeated. Having this knowledge, Juan must go and see Uay Chivos to learn what needs to be done.
After going into the portal and seeing a Twilight Zone type of transition, you are introduced to just how wacky and crazy the experience is going to be with Guacamelee 2. Some lines are crossed, and you don’t end up in the Darkest Timeline yet. First, you stop in Pueblimbo, a timeline reminiscent of Playdead’s Limbo. From there, you end up in the Baddest Timeline, with nods to Bad Dudes (Bad Hombres), Double Dragon (Triple Dragon), and River City Ransom (Rivera City Ransom). This type of humor and tongue-in-cheek style persists throughout the entirety of the game, and let me tell you. This is some of the most fun I’ve had and the hardest I’ve laughed with some true laugh out loud moments during the campaign.
Eventually you make it to the Darkest Timeline, which is where Juan finds out about the evil Salvador and his quest to steal three legendary artifacts. In order to stop Salvador, you’ll need to collect these for yourself. For those unfamiliar, Guacamelee 2 is a Metroidvania game in the purest form, with elements of a side-scrolling beat ‘em up when it comes to the combat. You’ll need to do a ton of backtracking and revisiting old areas in order to uncover secrets and make it to platforms or entire areas that were once blocked off. To be able to access these and progress forward through the story, Juan will need to seek out Chozo Statues and smash them, which will grant new abilities like the Rooster Uppercut, Dash Punch, Headbutt, etc.
Chicken form is back, but it’s completely enhanced from the original game. It’s compared to Samus rolling in Metroid, with a hilarious reference to a Miiverse comment from a user by the name of Pauly back in 2013 when he asked “y cant metroid crawl?”. In Guacamelee 2, we have an achievement titled “y cant guacamelee crawl?”. It’s satire and humor like this that truly makes Drinkbox Studios stand out amongst the crowd and proves why they are destined for success in the industry. Anyway, back to chicken form being enhanced. Juan will be able to unlock Pollo Powers this time around, which will include abilities like Diagonal Dash, Sliding Bash, etc. Combine these with the abilities you unlock in luchador form, and you’ll soon be able to pull of some insane combos and dish out large amounts of damage.
Speaking of, combat is fast and fluid in Guacamelee 2. There wasn’t a single time I felt as if the game wasn’t being responsive, and pulling off moves while using abilities felt natural and better than ever. There’s five skill trees players can invest gold in once the requirements have been unlocked, and each of these skill trees will grant different moves or stat enhancements. For example, you can invest to learn new wrestling moves like a piledriver, suplex, and big boot. Or, you can have your abilities you already know do more damage, give back more health, and provide more gold upon defeating the enemies. It allows for a nice combination of personal choice and necessities to further your character. You can absolutely make the game more challenging by ignoring certain skills, and try and test your might with only the stuff absolutely required. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that though, as this one is tough.
One of my only complaints happens to deal with the combat. There are way too many instances where the gameplay and fast-paced action will literally just stop due to “Lucha” moments. Lucha moments are when Juan is forced into action against a set number of enemies, and by defeating them, is rewarded with a pinata full of gold. Having these happen every once in a while would have been fine, but seriously. These happen almost once a minute when you’re exploring a new area or going through one of the temples. It definitely took me out of the moment a bit and prevented me from really getting set in a rhythm.
Guacamelee 2 is absolutely a Metroidvania, but it does so with a twist. Some of the most skillful and pinpoint precision platforming I’ve seen in a game to date is required in order to reach some of the secret areas, or just progress the story. While out trying to stop Salvador, Juan can collect pieces of hearts and pieces of masks. Three hearts will equal more life, and three pieces of a mask will equal another stamina bubble to perform more abilities without having to wait for a recharge. Some of these treasure chests are locked behind some grueling and insane platforming, but highly addicting at the same time. Trial and error and getting so close just to fail will truly make you want to keep coming back for more and feel that level of satisfaction when you do reach the end.
One last mechanic I’d like to mention is the ability to travel between the land of the living and the land of the dead. Certain enemies may only be attacked in one dimension and not the other, and certain platforms or pillars may exist in one but be invisible in the other. This, coupled with the requirements of using your abilities and skills to traverse the platforming, makes this an experience that is frantic and pulse-pounding, but deeply rewarding and enjoyable.
Without question, this is Drinkbox Studios best outing to date, and will propel them even further in the industry. With a writing style that is absolutely insane and a plethora of nods to pop culture and other video game franchises, a colorful art palette and beautiful graphics, to a soundtrack that is one of the best we’ve heard this year so far, you really owe it to yourself to play through Guacamelee 2. I honestly can’t wait to see what the studio does next.
9.0 / 10