I loved the first Guacamelee game for so many reasons. Not only did it just have a game title that instantly put me back into my gaming early years with Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition shouting at the Street Fighter II fan in me, but the presentation of the game was just so refreshing to see with references to other iconic names in gaming as well as cultural nods to TV and Films. It was just such a fun and surprising game to enjoy that got so many things it wanted to have players experience right. So, when I heard that a sequel was on the way I started to smile and all the way through playing the game that smile simply grew bigger.
The very first thing the game does is deliver a Rocky moment by having the player replay the final boss fight of the original game, which is just a genius way to put you back in the role of Juan the Luchador of Legend. It also serves as a fantastic reminder of how the original story ended with Juan defeating Calaca and returning to his normal live to start a family and be able to enjoy life. Skip to seven years later and Juan is a shadow of his former self, now a father of two young children, he is clearly a man who did little adventuring after his big win shown by his rather impressive Dad bod belly.
Suddenly Juan is summoned by his old mentor Chivo, the old man who can transform into a goat, to travel to the Darkest Timeline and help defeat the evil Salvador. This is where Juan discovers the ‘Mexiverse’ which is a multiverse of many different worlds of alternate timelines and finds out that he is the last surviving Juan and must defeat Salvador who in the Darkest Timeline actually managed to defeat Calaca when that timeline’s Juan fell in battle. Learning that Salvador is searching for the three ancient relics which will grant him the knowledge and recipe to make the God’s Guacamole in the hopes it will turn him into an all-powerful god himself. Juan is tasked with finding the relics first and defeating Salvador before he destroys the entire Mexiverse.
Much of what made the first Guacamelee game so brilliant has been kept unchanged and that is a good thing as it would have been tempting to dive back in and make changes. Instead and quite sensibly, attention has been put into crafting a larger story for Juan and players to inhabit for the sequel. Gameplay is practically the same, to being with at least, in that it is still a Metroid-vania style action platformer with the most fun combat I have enjoyed in this genre for many a year. It would also be fair to say that the dev team at Brink Box have doubled down on the clever humour threaded throughout the story and character dialogue making this one of the most charming games I have played this year. It shows great intelligence and self-awareness in the writing and gameplay so that it never crosses the line of being too clever for its own good and uses the cultural references and 4th wall breaking moments to enhance the story telling and offer some fun surprises along the way.
During the first few hours though I did get the feeling that a shift had been made to move the focus away from the combat system that was so acclaimed in the first game and instead place it on the platforming aspect instead. To that end I noticed that the abilities and powers Juan would gather throughout the first game were very quickly rediscovered such as the Rooster Uppercut, power dash, frog splash and power headbutt moves. Not only are these moves vital in combat as you face increasingly tougher enemies but they also provide much needed traversal aids such as the rooster uppercut allowing Juan to reach higher levels and the power dash that can help rush Juan to the left or right giving added distance. All these abilities are very much needed as travelling through the different regions in the game has been tweaked and made more challenging.
Moving and navigating the world of Guacamelee 2 is perhaps the biggest change in this sequel and at times it can be frustratingly difficult requiring close to second perfect timing of combining the various power abilities to solve the puzzles that are lined up before the player. There is a lot of trial and error repetition at times that will stop progress until you master that section. Perfecting the combinations sequence of mixing the different powers together in the early stages will just about prepare you for the really challenging areas later on in the game but it can be a stumbling block similar to games such as Super Meat Boy was designed to test your patience and whilst the game will try to ease you into how to use the abilities for moving around, the learning curve can spike at times.
Just as I was feeling the switch to a more platform focused gameplay it then gave me the gift of returning to the combat side which I loved so much in the first one by added new wrestling moves to the regular combat with new skill trees to be upgraded via the gold gathered through gameplay. The ability to add a piledriver or suplex finishing move to a combo which as a wrestling fan not only makes sense as Juan is a Luchador wrestler but its just very cool to grab an enemy during a combo and drop them with a piledriver onto other enemies. The bonus is that these moves can be used in your chicken or ‘Polo’ power form so bringing down a giant enemy with a suplex as a chicken never gets old in this game.
Guacamelee 2 managed to deliver everything I hoped that the sequel would simply by sticking to what worked so well before and just tweaking and adding new elements to the gameplay. The story is nuts but in a way fans of the original can embrace and newcomers will not feel too overwhelmed by as the writing and humour can appeal to everyone. Though the platforming side has been made the most challenging aspect by far, with a little practice and patience players can still get the most from this game.
This was just solid fun to play and even after ten hours I am still finding secrets to uncover and things to do following a satisfying story campaign. I had a big grin on my face from start to finish and the wait was certainly worth it.