Guacamelee Gold Edition – Review (PC)

Dios mio! Where did it all go wrong? – Gucamelee

Ay, ay, ay, where do I start with this one? Guacamelee is probably best known for being a smash-hit on PS Vita and PS3 when it launched back in April. Players and critics alike praised its complex combat and smooth platforming, as well as its wonderfully cartoony presentation. Now it has been released on Steam for PC and us non–console gamers can take a whack at it and see what kind of goodies are inside.
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You play as farmer-turned–luchador, Juan. Your mission is to save the world from Carlos Calaca, an evil skeleton from the dead world. To make things worse, he’s also taken El Presidente’s daughter hostage and is going to use her in a dark ritual. Now it is up to Juan to summon the luchador within, rescue El Presidente’s daughter, and save the world from Carlos Calaca.

Guacamelee Gold Edition features all the usual hallmarks of the metroidvania genre, you’re able to freely roam the map, upgrade your skills, fight enemies and take part in platforming sequences.

The world of Guacamelee is large, colourful, filled with humour and internet memes (I’ll leave it for you to decide whether that last part is good or not). In order to progress through the map Juan must learn new skills. To do so he needs to destroy Chozo statues – a nice nod to the Metroid series. Every time a statue is found a little Goat man will chastise you and then teach Juan a new skill. There’s an uppercut style move, a ground pound, and kick move –as well as others. Not only can these moves be used to reach new areas, they can be used in combat too.

Fighting enemies in Guacamelee is, largely, an unrewarding experience. Things start out simple enough, with only a handful of enemies being thrown at you. Over time though, the developers replace fine-tuned, calculated combat with a button mash-fest. Enemies swarm the screen making it hard to actually see Juan, projectiles from flying enemies will continually knock you down, and to top it off the player need to switch between the dead world and living world to kill all enemies. When these fighting sequences are over you will most-likely feel relieved, rather than rewarded.

Similarly frustrating is the precise timing required for the platforming sequences. One sequence near the end requires Juan to jump through nettles, uppercut the air to maintain his height, and then kick the air so that he can land on a platform. This wouldn’t be a problem if the controls weren’t so unresponsive. A quick left-trigger press is required to jump through the nettles, but if your timing is anything but atomic-clock-accurate you aren’t making it to the platform. This kind of sequence is commonplace – even more so towards the end of the game. They require the patience of a saint and are not fun.
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Almost as if to make the experience even more frustrating a cooperative two-player mode has been included. This is the single most-redundant addition to a game I have ever played. Why would Drinkbox add a two-player mode to a single-player game? The puzzles alone barely work with one player. Almost in an admission that Guacamelee wasn’t made for two-players, the developers allow the second player to drop-in and out. When it comes time to complete a puzzle or jumping sequence – of which there are many – one player will constantly have to drop out of the game to allow the other to complete it. Having played the game in co-op with my partner I can tell you it doesn’t work well. It’s probably the worst case of tacked on multiplayer I have ever played.

Guacamelee should have been an instant hit at CIG. How could we not love intricate and varied combat mixed with Metroid-style exploration? Somehow Drinkbox managed to make a game that should have been fun into a chore. More often than not we found ourselves frustrated with the tedious combat and platforming. Perhaps something was lost in translation from the console port; nowhere is it evident that this is a game worthy of the accolades many reviewers showered upon it. As it stands Guacamelee is a frustrating adventure that scrapes the bottom of the stereotype barrel. Instead of begging for more we were relieved when it was over.