Play
Please use a flash video capable browser to watch videos.
00:00:00
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Review

Guacamelee! Review

  • Game release: April 9, 2013
  • Reviewed: April 9, 2013
  • VITA
Aaron Sampson on Google+

Guacamelee! is so full of personality and challenging gameplay that it's a shame it ever has to end.

Retro-game-homages are as popular as ever, but too many fail to capture the magic of their inspirations. To call Guacamelee! anything other than an homage is downright uninformed. However, it's surprising just how well it manages to both cite its source material and use those inspirations to form a game with a fresh and distinct identity. Those in the know will quickly recognize hints of Metroid, The Legend of Zelda, and even Portal, but these references never quite dominate the unlikely setting of a dimensionally disturbed re-creation of rural Mexico. They've inspired parts of the world, and to a larger extent, the gameplay, but Guacamelee stands tall thanks to its brilliant art style, witty writing, and a steady pace, of which the biggest flaw is that the fun comes to an end sooner than any game of this caliber should.

No time for tequila; Juan's a man on a mission.

Your adventure starts simply enough. As Juan Aquacave, a humble agave farmer and tequila distiller, your rise to luchadore-dom is fueled by the kidnapping of an old acquaintance turned recent love interest, the nameless daughter of El Presidente. The kidnapper from the Land of the Dead, Carlos Calaca, strikes during the Dia de los Muertos festival. Juan is ultimately banished to the Land of the Dead by Calaca; here, he meets the Guardian of the Mask, who bestows the legendary luchadore relic unto the humble farmer. Forthwith, Juan's resurrected into the Land of the Living as a superpowered luchadore and sets off after his kidnapped love. Apart from the luchadore-themed wrapping, the damsel-in-distress scenario is a tired trope, to be sure, but the trite conflict between hero and kidnapper is merely a catalyst. It gets the game rolling, but the real driving force is Juan's growth as a superhero.

His 2D crusade sees you ascending mountains, exploring caverns, and platforming among the tree-tops, but you'll spend a lot of time smacking enemies around and tossing them into blunt objects along the way. From these two types of attacks spring dozens of opportunities for tactical and offensive variety. Combo attacking and juggling enemies in midair are encouraged, and the right approach lets Juan take out a half-dozen enemies before touching the ground. His skill set evolves so rapidly that it's largely up to you to discover his hidden potential, but the game is good about teaching you the fundamentals of each maneuver by ramping up the challenges accordingly after each acquisition.

Sorry El Bano, you asked for it.

New moves and abilities are earned by discovering Choozo statues (blatant references to Metroid's Chozo statues) strewn about the world. They belong to a grumpy yet affable goat shepherd, Juan's eventual sage-like sensei, who imparts the knowledge of moves such as Olmec's Headbutt and the Goat Climb, the likes of which expand your ability to explore your environment and manhandle esqueletos. Combat truly shines once you learn to zip up a wall, dash to uppercut an oncoming enemy, and toss their body into encroaching reinforcements, a delight that rarely gets old. Whether it's the promise of new abilities, a laugh, or Juan's next rumble, there's always something in Guacamelee just around the corner that grabs your attention.

Though the progression of locales and challenges are paced well, accented by charming music and expressive colors, there are occasional dips when the action feels uninspired relative to the world around it. These moments are easy to spot: rather than introduce a new type of challenge, the game simply throws more enemies on the screen. Sometimes, it's the small number of enemy types in a given area that contribute to the sense of repetition. Thankfully, these moments are usually fleeting.

Juan hates skeletons, but he especially hates conquistador skeletons.

A few hours into your adventure, in a touch reminiscent of the action platformer Outland, Juan earns the ability to teleport between the lands of the living and the dead. The two worlds bring different moods and experiences to the table, defined by their respective soundtracks and color palettes, but certain enemies and objects are hidden between dimensions as well. The ability to alter your surroundings is an increasingly important component of combat, and it turns already difficult platforming sections into true tests of reflexes and intuition.

Though it demands precision, Guacamelee hardly punishes failure. In fact, it practically encourages you to take chances by being so forgiving. When Juan plummets off a cliff or platform, he's magically whisked back to safety without penalty. If he happens to run out of health, he's revived at the last checkpoint, the frequently encountered shops that auto-save your game and refill Juan's health. Guacamelee's meager consequences keep the action moving at a steady clip, but considering the exacting nature of the game's design, you can't help but feel that there should be some penalty for sloppiness. No game should rely on punishment to determine the length of the experience, but in the case of Guacamelee, the lack of expendable lives or a game-over state contributes to the unfortunate brevity of Juan's tale.

Up, up, and away, esqueleto scum.

Defeating the game once opens the hard difficulty setting, but the lure of collectibles may be reason enough to revisit earlier sections of the game. If it were only to fulfill obsessive-compulsive tendencies, backtracking may not seem particularly important, but by hinting at multiple endings, the underwhelming default conclusion justifiably compels your continued search. Your newfound abilities go a long way toward uncovering all of Guacamelee's secrets, but it takes a keen eye to find every last item hidden among the caves and treetops alike.

All things considered, Guacamelee is one of the strongest games on the PlayStation Network, period. The responsive controls and a grin-inducing sense of humor make it near impossible to put down, and the expressive use of color will warm the hearts of even the most cynical among us. It's chock-full of pop-culture references, yet it doesn't feel patronizing when there's a nod to your favorite 8-bit game, thanks to the provided twist of the world's luchadore-obsessed culture. When Guacamelee isn’t trying to make you laugh, occasional moments of drama and intense action fill you with a sense of purpose and emphasize Juan's triumphant rise to superhero status. After hitting so many high-notes, Guacamelee's conclusion is a bittersweet farewell, but every adventure, even the best of them, eventually comes to an end.

The Good
Charming characters and dialogue
Flashy and nuanced hand-to-hand combat
Fantastic use of color
Great balance of comedy and drama
The Bad
Mildly repetitive enemy designs and encounters
9
Superb
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for Guacamelee!

About the Author

Discussion

23 comments
nkaiton
nkaiton

Awesome game. By far one of the best PSN exclusives. 

banggu
banggu

hello,my friends ,recently I lost myself in a foreign website .I would like to share with you 

P> WLtoys V212 Receiver Board gold GUI tree is osmanthus tree of variants, ye Mao and often green, autumn flowering, aromatic four spill, is China specialty of ornamental flowers and aromatic tree. While, in many belonged to in the, osmanthus is a longevity plant. discount corsets Song poet Yang Wan-Li''s had such "chants GUI": "not people intercropped with, moved from months to. wide cold fragrant is, blowing have full mountain open." this certainly is poet of imagine, Osmanthus fragrans are not suited for growing in fe

Sp0ilzbury
Sp0ilzbury

sounds like a good purchase, i'll wait for a price drop.

therealneoturk
therealneoturk

i own this and i love this game. persona gonna collect a little for the moment

Supabul
Supabul

Nintendo inspiring all the great gameplay for most of the top scoring games

pylothepylon13
pylothepylon13

PS3 game are never dissapointment, this rendition of dark castle/ lucha side scroller might actually be something exciting to be looking forward to.


SolidSnakeFan
SolidSnakeFan

From what I've seen of it, it looks great, but I find the inclusion of internet memes in certain spots to be quite off putting.

Superman_legend
Superman_legend

This is a must have trust me guys/gals. It's up there with the best 2D Metroid's and Castlevania's with a fraction of the price tag. You won't regret buying this game. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality could easily sold for more, free PS3 version comes with it too. 

ItsEvolution
ItsEvolution

Sweet. Another great game to play on my Vita.

Myst17
Myst17

Heh, looks funny. Maybe I'll get it. (Greetings from Mexico)

nkaiton
nkaiton

@Godendag 5-6 hours, give or take. 

therealneoturk
therealneoturk

@Supabul halo bioshock gah i can keep going but i dont dont feel like it so im basically tell you to stop typing log off the internet and go away..

bndori
bndori

@superfalcon1234  on PSN it says 853MB

Guacamelee! More Info

  • Released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • + 7 more
    • PlayStation 3
    • PlayStation 4
    • PlayStation Vita
    • Unix/Linux
    • Wii U
    • Xbox 360
    • Xbox One
    Guacamelee! is a Metroid-vania style action-platformer set in a magical Mexican inspired world.
    8.3
    Average User RatingOut of 251 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Guacamelee!
    Developed by:
    DrinkBox Studios
    Published by:
    DrinkBox Studios, Spike Chunsoft, Activision
    Genres:
    2D, Action, Platformer
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    All Platforms
    Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol