I was an avid viewer of pro-wrestling for a long time. I always had a particular fascination towards Mexican Lucha Libre scene and used to watch shows such as Mucha Lucha and Lucha Underground. Someway along the line, me and wrestling broke up, being nothing more than strangers ever since. But after playing Guacamelee 2, it looks like that’s about to change. It made me remember what I loved about the Lucha scene in the first place. The masks chico, they never lie…
Guacamelee! 2 is a 2D action-platformer with metroidvania elements developed and published by DrinkBox for PC, PS4, Xbox One and was released on August 21, 2018.
Story & Narrative
In Guacamelee 2 you play as the Mexican farmer turned luchadore Juan who is buffed in all the right places. Being the direct sequel to the first game, Guacamlee 2 begins at the said title’s climax. Players are once again given the opportunity to beat the evil Calaca and save the daughter of El Presidente. They get married, have kids and live a happy, yet boring life. Pot-bellied and reliving the glory of the past, Juan is once again dragged into the thick of things when his fellow luchadore Salvador puts the fate of the Mexiverse in peril. Juan gets back his mask, his shape, the ability to turn into a chicken and….lay eggs?
While the story is definitely a step-down from the first game, it’s once again the humour that lifts it up. Guacamelee 2 is filled to the brim with pop-cultural references, geek humour, parodies, puns and of course, memes. Each cutscene is coated with a bucket full of these and it only gets better (or worse?) along the way. The game makes references to classics like Rivet City Ransom to Final Fantasy to PUBG while parodying things like microtransactions and season pass. There’s even an entire hidden level mocking those who voiced an outcry against the first game’s meme references (Guacamelee releases Despacito 2?). This can come off as a bit too much to some players. Depending on what type of person you are, this can either make you chuckle or roll your eyes.
Gameplay & Mechanics
Guacamelee 2 follows the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and “bigger is better” formula quite dearly. When it comes to gameplay, it’s basically the first game, but bigger and better. Progression, combat and exploration are more or less the same. However this time around, players get to explore a much bigger and detailed map filled with the same strong sense of Hispanic culture and folkore. Gameplay is divided into exploration, combat and puzzles. As you progress through the game, Juan unlocks more abilities that’ll unlock closed-off areas from previous levels in true Metroidvania fashion. Although Travelling between maps is made easier by waypoints, there could have been a bit more of them lying around.
Hidden cleverly throughout the map are treasures and stat boosters, both of which are used to enhance Juan to make him a competent fighter. Exploration is made even more alluring by allowing Juan to switch between the mortal and dead realm at leisure. This adds another layer to the standard formula and makes for some pleasing visual and design variety (Oh, how I miss Soul Reaver!). You also get the ability to turn into a chicken at will to fit into tight corridors, peck enemies and lay eggs. Because, why not?
The combat, at its core, is largely the same as the first game. Guacamelee 2 introduces a slew of enemy types that force you to use every bit of moves in your arsenal to beat. You’ll suplex, headbutt, uppercut and body slam through enemies, thanks to the smooth and fluid combat system, which is further enhanced by five unique skill branches. But what separates Guacamlee 2 from its peers is how the combat never gets tedious, or enemies pushovers. The game never ceases to amaze with its sheer number of scenarios it throws at you, each requiring a different strategy and quick thinking to overcome. Each ability you’ve gathered is put to the test along with your reflexes as the player. Mechanics like switching between human and chicken form, and between mortal and Muerte realm is integrated seamlessly into the combat. Then there are the crafty boss fights that keep you on your toes. Guacamelee 2 doesn’t disappoint at the slightest when it comes to combat.
Guacamelee 2 doesn’t break new ground when it comes to puzzles. But what it does, it does excellently. Like the combat itself, puzzles integrate the various abilities and skills Juan acquires along the way to make for a challenging experience. Switching between forms and realms is just the tip of the iceberg. You’ll have to switch between them in mid-air, under hazardous conditions and perform precise platforming. No ability of Juan and the skill of the player goes unchecked. Even after 10+ hour of gameplay, I was genuinely surprised at the variety of puzzles that were popping up. Just use a controller and save yourself from a world of pain.
Pretty much all of the puzzles in your main path, while being challenging, never crosses its foot into the frustration area. Wish I could say the same for the ones blocking the area to treasures or stat boosters. There are a lot of hair pulling and muffled raging sections here. It’s made ever the more frustrating due to the controls. Now coming from a game like Dead Cells, I knew I would have some trouble adjusting to the controls of Guacamelee 2. But the sheer number of button combinations and directional inputs you’re supposed to make under pressure or mid-air is baffling, at least to a casual player. Add to this, the unresponsiveness that happens when you press too many buttons at the same time. There have been a great many moments where I had to play a particular section over and over again because the controls weren’t as responsive as I wanted it to be. Hence, I found it better for my sanity to skip some of these sections altogether.
Guacamelee 2 also features a 4 player drop-in, drop-out local co-op just for some extra bit of fun. If you’re going for it, be sure to communicate very well with each other as you’ll need complete synchronisation to get past some of the tougher sections. Even though it lacks online co-op, it is a welcome addition and something more games should do often.
Visuals, Performace & Sound
Just like its predecessor, Guacamelee 2 features a stellar art style that smells of spicy Mexican culture. The levels are beautiful, packed with detail and varied. It’s great that the developers made two interpretation of the same scene, one in mortal and the other one in Muerte realms. Both feel similar, yet unique with their own themes and style. Switching between the two, just to see the difference never gets old.
Guacamelee 2 doesn’t demand much of your PC and will pretty much run in any potato without any performance issues. I haven’t even encountered a single bug along the way.
Sound design in Guacamelee 2 is excellent. The classic mariachi tunes mixed with some electronic and dark undertones really suits the theme of the game. Peter Chapman and Rom Di Prisco deserve much praise for their work in this game. Just like in the visual department, mortal and dead realms feature their own musical style and the switch between the two is seamless and organic. I just wish the dialogues were voice acted this time around. But that’s just me, nitpicking.
Guacamelee! 2 is the bigger and improved counterpart of the first game. Almost every aspect of Guacamlee has been improved or enhanced. If you’re a fan of the first game, there is no reason as to why you shouldn’t buy this. If you haven’t played the first game, now is a good time to experience the two together. Hilarious writing, fluid combat, rewarding exploration and challenging puzzles make Guacamelee 2 worth buying at full price.