Mario and Rayman may be the few titles still clinging to the platforming genre in the retail space, but the downloadable market is wonderfully full of them. Drinkbox Studios is following their Tales from Space games with Guacamelee!, a 2D platformer set in Mexico that has you donning a luchador mask and jumping between the worlds of the living and dead to rescue your one true love, El Presidente’s daughter. It is also following the brilliant strategy that Sony has implemented and is cross-buy between PSN and Vita.
Juan is just a lowly agave (where tequila comes from) farmer when his childhood friend and the love of his life, El Presidente’s daughter, is kidnapped by the evil charro Calaca so he can sacrifice her, merging the worlds of the living and dead and creating an endless nightmare to spite the living. Juan must don a special luchador mask and fight back against the evil that encroaches on his home. There’s also a goat shaman that will grant you special powers if you destroy his Chozo statues.
Guacamelee! (PlayStation 3 [Reviewed], PlayStation Vita)
Developer: Drinkbox Studios
Publisher: Drinkbox Studios
Released: April 9, 2013
Yes, they are Chozo statues from Metroid and they grant you abilities. Not only is Guacamelee! full of references, they are almost always in favor of a joke. There are many games that try to be funny, but Guacamelee! is one of the few that gets it right. Your first ability is a goat kick, which is a wall kick, but the shaman didn’t think “wall kick” was goaty enough. Cue neon epileptic attack. Drinkbox somehow knows my love of absurd humor and have pandered to me, and hopefully everyone else that plays the game.
Exploring is great, but what gives Guacamelee! the edge in standing out is its excellent combat system. A simple attack button is mixed with several special attack that are unlocked with each new ability. I especially enjoyed the throw mechanic. Combat encounters became me seeing how many enemies I could send sprawling with a single thrown enemy. It worked for the most part, up until the last third of the game where I had to actually put those abilities to use. Combat took a nice, difficult turn.
As with any metroidvania style game, scouring the environments for unlockables was one of the many distractions offered. For some of them, specifically the hidden mask pieces, you are presented with challenge areas. It’s been awhile since I’ve slogged through that much failure to finish a level, even with the many challenging platformer releases. At a certain point, I had to let the search end and actually finish the game, though now that the review is done I plan on finding those last few pieces and I can’t say that about any other game from recent memory.
It seems like Sony is hell bent on getting as many incredible indie developers in their corner as possible. The PS3 had games like Papo & Yo, Flower and now Guacamelee!, and even the PS4 is going to have The Witness. While I was at first sad that Drinkbox was sticking to Sony, this shows a clear trend that indicates who I want to follow in the next generation. Even without ‘choosing sides,’ Drinkbox has far surpassed themselves with Guacamelee!, it’s the loving tribute to platformers I didn’t even know I wanted, but will stick with me as one of the best.