Guacamelee is both a PS3 and Vita game, and supports cross-buy, cross-save, cross-control, cross-everything. However, this review will only take into account the Vita game, so it will not mention the multiplayer mode, which is only in the PS3 version. Just be aware that if you buy Guacamelee you will get the PS3 version with multiplayer also. Other than that, the games are basically the same.
In Guacamelee, you play as an avacado farmer turned luchador, out to rescue el Presidente’s daughter from the evil Calaca. In order to do that, you must battle through skeletons, evil cacti, “chupacabras,” and all other manners of things who are dead set on stopping you. Hahaha. Haha. Ha. Kill me.
Guacamelee has everything I look for in an indie game, from over-the-top character designs to not-so-subtle references with solid gameplay mechanics at its core. The characters are all unique, from the bad guy with his head forever aflame to the goat-man who teaches you you special moves when you destroy his statues.
The thing that most impressed me about Guacamelee was the combat. It makes up the heart of the game, and does it well. Along with your basic attack, which you can string together in a three-hit combo, you also have throws, which serve as finishing moves, and colorful special moves which you unlock as you progress through the game and can be used both in and out of combat. I found it interesting that the creators had originally implemented blocks, holds, and charge-up moves, but they were dropped. Honestly though, Guacamelee gives you more than enough ways to kill something. And really, who ever actually blocks anyway?
I also really appreciated Guacamelee’s respawn system. Normally when you die you respawn at your last checkpoint, as you would expect. However, in areas with lots of platforms and no floor, where missing one jump means death, Guacamelee returns you to the last platform you touched before death. This prevents quite a lot of the frustration that I associate with these kinds of games, which was a major plus for me.
I was a bit disappointed with Guacamelee’s boss fights. After battling the first boss, which used a multitude of attacks and got harder once you brought down her health, and the second boss, who had a gun and summoned minions to kill you, the third and last bosses both seemed sort of uninspired. They were both strong, but after maybe three battles I had memorized their cues to attack and could beat them easily. They didn’t have any unpredictability factor, so it was more a question of doing the same thing over and over than using skill.
Guacamelee uses the dimension swapping feature well. Switching to either the world of the dead or back to the world of the living feels smooth, and you’ll find yourself using it constantly, even while in mid-jump or in combat.
One thing Guacamelee gets spot on is atmosphere. The world of the living is vivid, colors straight out of a Mexican fairy tale. The towns are filled with people, the music is light. Then, when you swap to the world of the dead, everything takes on a sadder, purpler tinge. The music also becomes sadder. The people in the towns disappear, replaced by one or two dead souls.
Guacamelee is easily one of the best Mexican-themed video games out there. Actually, I can’t think of very many Mexican-themed video games off the top of my head, so I guess that doesn’t mean much. All things aside though, Guacamelee is a fun, quick-talking, Metroid-vania style platformer, where you can turn into a chicken, which should convince you right there.
I swear though, every time I learned a new special move I thought I was going to have a seizure.