Guacamelee – “Flex and Focus”

Vitals
Published/Developed by Drinkbox Studios
Platform(s): XBox 360, Playstation 3/4 and Vita, Windows, Linux & Mac
Retails via Digital Download and Your Local Gaming Retailer
Developer
for $14.99 (Gold Edition)
Steam for $14.99 (Gold Edition) or $14.99 (Super Turbo Championship Edition)
GOG.com for $14.99 (STCE) -|- XBox Marketplace for $14.99 (STCE)
Playstation Network for $14.99 (Standard) or $14.99 (STCE) – Search Results

Note: The Gold and Super Turbo Champion Edition has been made available at the same price point with content differences and improved gameplay features. Changes included retuned levels, more combat, extra visual details and a “charge mode” that grants your character temporary bonuses. That’s it. Buy the ones your friends have or just buy STCE.

If a mask and tights are adequate protection and wrestling moves your preferred weapon, Juan, the broad-chested hero of Guacamelee! is your luchador. Armed with supernatural powers and the aid of master-taught abilities, his somewhat typical quest pays tribute the games that inspired it. Rescue El Presidente’s daughter and defeat the skull-headed mastermind, Carlos Calaca.

Calacalated Evil

Calacalated Evil

Introduced to the world via the PS Vita and PS3, the Gold Edition of this game was a hit when it landed on Steam in 2013. Carefully trimmed with Mexican-Spanish flavored game references and caricatures, it could easily be said “challenge” is the main ingredient of this dish. Since then the updated Super Turbo Champion Edition has added more to love, and drop to the mat.

A direct port from console optimized code, this action oriented platformer is all polish. Two dimensional games like this just shouldn’t push your hardware, and this is a fine example of fine tuning. Even integrated graphics solutions won’t blink at the tight controls and on-screen combat. Your rig is undoubtedly ready for this match.

Thankfully not the "Rooster Booster"

Thankfully not the “Rooster Booster”

Okay, so I’ve sunk just over five hours into this title. It’s a strange one in the sense that there is no difficulty setting. Once you’re in, be prepared to train, and train hard. This is not a game for beginners; some mastery of your own reflexes is expected. The Metroid and Zelda franchises are paid homage, and continue the fight in style with style.

You have plenty of time to acquaint with Juan’s mechanics, which are forgiving and straightforward: Punch, kick and throw enemies around the screen to unbalance unreachable opponents. Executing moves requires little more than tilting an analog stick and pressing a corresponding button. A little practice and you’ll be clearing the floor like a pro.

Cause Guide (You Herd Me)

Cause Guide (You Herd Me)

More or less. Some scenarios pit you in arena combat with upwards of a dozen opponents at once. Fear not: You’re always equipped to win. As with any fight, you have to overcome yourself first. The rest is … well, coins, which you’ll receive after the defeat of any enemy. Occasionally you’ll be rewarded with a health or stamina perk, which all add up to increasing your odds.

Juan is more than solid muscle and tough … silence? Just like the thorns tattooed on his chest, his moves do the talking, opting for the classic self-insertion approach to narrative. The aforementioned techniques do more than open beat-down options: Most goodies can only be reached with the use of recently acquired, goat taught, skills.

Do Dead Men Sweat?

Do Dead Men Sweat?

You won’t spend much time retracing your steps, thankfully, because this is a demanding game. You may want to pit yourself against it when you’re feeling at your peak, because anything less could become personally disappointing. This drives home the point of enacting the part of a luchador, funnily enough.

Small wonder this title attracts twitch warriors.

If you’re not ready for a beating, invite a friend for two player smackdown at any time. Your weapons; Xbox 360 controller and keyboard which can be easily swapped at the option screen. Probably the slickest method of doing so I’ve seen in recent history. Few titles treat the PC platform with such respect, and Drinkbox could likely have gotten away with less.

Thankfully the fun doesn’t stop there: Guacamelee! has entertaining culture-steeped characters with plenty of attitude and humour. How often does a female villain have enough depth to flirt with the hero, just to shrug it off as a game? A little respect for personality goes a long way here, and a few choice lines for memory.

Speaking of fun, while the soundtrack may be stereotypical, I doubt it could be any more fitting and inventive without being derivative. You’ve heard the guitar riffs before, and sometimes they stand out too much, but I’d warrant this worthy of adding to your personal library. Rom Di Prisco and Peter Chapman are no strangers to game music, and deliver an energetic and memorable audio backdrop for your adventure. Suitably, it doesn’t distract from your focus, which you’ll be needing.

Just … a little … higher!

As mentioned, melee combat isn’t your only obstacle: Platforms and walls will push the limits of your patience, but somehow, never too far. Remember how I said there are no difficulty options? Everything meets here. While you can’t increase Juan’s attributes, you can purchase wrestling moves, health and stamina at skull-adorned tables strewn throughout the game. These pull triple duty as perk distributors, auto-saves and recharge stations.

From here on out how to beat this game is your choice. Complete the platform puzzles for rewards? Grind endlessly respawning enemies in open areas? Team up with an ally and share the fun? This is Drinkbox’s answer to scaling the challenge. The prize is yours to claim.

What’s fun: Options galore. Guacamelee’s sharp-edged, colorful visual style charges at you with gusto. An unreserved, but not unthinking, bash-fest is its own reward. Music is energetic, clever and thematic, if not a hint repetitive. Two player co-op is a riot. Steam Workshop is supported the community has adapted many characters from other games into the frames of this game’s heros.

What’s not: Did I mention this is demanding game? If you’re not the patient type, stay away. This game cannot be typified by the ‘dumb muscle’ stereotype. Use the moves you have or you will fail. Be ready to work for the win. Two player mode is strictly offline.

Recommendation: Know you’re in for a personally demanding fight. Once you do, pick up one of the finest titles of the genre.

hastypixels
hastypixels

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