Guacamelee! El Diablo's Domain Review

El Diablo's Domain brings three new costumes and a series of challenges to Guacamelee that will push even expert players to their limits.

If you're familiar with the comical story in Guacamelee, you remember the cursed charro Calaca transforming Diablo into a rooster. That ridiculous but pivotal plot point is the basis for the new downloadable content, El Diablo's Domain, where the heroic Juan and Tostada must clear a path to the top of the feathered demon's former headquarters, thus allowing Diablo to reassume his throne. This mini-quest pits you against a series of torture chambers designed to test your skills in platforming, combat, and, of course, chicken hurling. It's not all for the glory of Diablo; Juan and Tostada stand to gain up to three new costumes for their feats of strength and agility. More than just cosmetic enhancements, they alter your health, stamina, and strength attributes to varying degrees.

There are 17 torture chambers in all; some can be completed in well under a minute, and others last upward of five minutes. However, since they're trial stages, they're better measured in difficulty than length. The majority of the chambers have high standards for success, at least in the context of chasing silver and gold medals.

Combat-oriented chambers challenge you to build up huge combos without getting hit or with some of your powers stripped away. The more forgiving platforming challenges test your awareness of the environment and the limits of your mobility, though still leaving little room for error. As you work your way through the various stages, it may be wise to try on a new costume or two if you have them; stronger melee and throw attacks are useful for some of the more difficult combat stages.

With enough attempts under your belt, you can figure out how you might land a 400-hit combo or navigate a series of spike-lined corridors, but the challenge is in the execution. With such strict requirements for success, you instantly recognize missteps, leading you to hit the select button and restart a stage from the beginning. This can happen seconds into a run, or three minutes in, but it's always frustrating when you fail to meet your own expectations. That in itself has no bearing on the quality of El Diablo's Domain, but the way that the game handles resetting a challenge does. Games such as Bit.Trip Runner and Super Meat Boy follow a similar formula, where repeat attempts at a perfect run are a given, but while those games let you quickly reset so you can keep your adrenaline-fueled momentum going, Guacamelee takes its time.

With spikes galore, it's easy to slip up and ruin a perfectly good run.
With spikes galore, it's easy to slip up and ruin a perfectly good run.

There's the death animation and the brief transition back to the beginning of the stage, followed by a re-explanation of your objective and medal criteria. In all, it takes less than 10 seconds, which isn't unheard of for a stage reset, but the unnecessary restating of objectives makes the entire process a frustrating experience, especially when the act of resetting takes longer than your previous attempt. When the only thing standing in your way is a series of unnecessary text windows, it begins to feel like punishment. Given that the aforementioned games have established a winning formula for this style of challenge, it's difficult to ignore how it's handled here.

To unlock the new duds, you have to earn 10 bronze, silver, or gold medals. Your performance during each trial is graded fairly: complete any challenge to receive a bronze medal, perform better than average for a silver medal, and for a golden hallmark, nothing short of a flawless attempt suffices.

A collection of bronze medals activates the El Portero costume, which is a colorfully patterned outfit designed after that of the soccer star Jorge Campos. Wearing it increases the damage caused by throws, but at the cost of weaker melee attacks. Acquiring 10 silver medals earns you the Alebrije costume, which is a vibrant rendition of colorful Mexican folk art that increases your damage output by sacrificing a bit of defense. Finally, the grand prize awarded to anyone worthy of gold medals is Diablo's Suit, a dashing, dark costume that shortens your life bar in exchange for the ability to steal life with every attack and the gift of a larger stamina meter. Each costume has a unique appearance, even down to the remodeled versions of the wrestlers' chicken forms. In the case of El Portero, you transform into a soccer ball, fittingly enough.

What's in the box!?
What's in the box!?

All told, the high quality of the game's level design and control isn't greatly overshadowed by the time-consuming stage resets. There are new challenges and bits of humor to discover, and the lure of flashy, powerful costumes makes the content more than just an interesting diversion. The new gear is entertaining and useful, fitting in perfectly within the game's offbeat world. Despite the inability to rapidly restart challenges, El Diablo's Domain is a solid addition to an already great game that will make you laugh and push you to your limits, for better or worse.

The Good

  • Masterfully designed stages that demand precision.
  • Three good-looking costumes to discover, with unique attributes.

The Bad

  • The clunky stage-reset process tests your patience.

About the Author

Peter used to work at GameSpot. Now he just lurks at GameSpot.