Drinkbox Studios originally released Guacamelee for PC users, then brought over the “Super Turbo Championship Edition,” or STCE, to consoles this year. The game is designed to fit the “Metroidvania” mold that many indie developers tend to gravitate towards in recent memory. That being said, how does Guacamelee STCE fare against an eShop filled with massive amounts of games in the same genre of gameplay?
Visuals – 10/10
Drinkbox did an excellent job with porting their game over to the Wii U. A very solid frame rate, coupled with gorgeous “blocky” art design, make this a top notch visual feast for the eShop. Heck, I would even say that it looks as good as some AAA, 2D platformers that have been released. My favorite part of the visuals? The colors.
It seems that the software market has been saturated with many gray/green/brown-colored gaming experiences. Now, I’m not saying that those types of games aren’t worth playing, but rather, I’m saying that it gets to be very dull and boring if that is all that’s offered. Thankfully, Guacamelee is a game that colorfully sticks out amongst its peers.
But, Drinkbox didn’t stop there. The studio created something a 2D platformer truly needs in order to stay relevant and captivate the gamer, even after hours of gameplay: character. Guacamelee has tons of character in dialogue, story, humor, and gameplay mechanics, but even more so visually. The nice pop-culture references are pleasant surprises; seeing promo billboards of luchadors resembling Bane vs Batman, and the Mario Bros. was very amusing, as well as finding the much more subtle references throughout the game (like this Mega Man Easter egg).
The developers did a fantastic job creating a visually pleasing world full of life and character, immersing the player into this world full of luchadors, skeletons, and goats who complain about their statues.
Which leads me to the art design in the game: it was amazingly and lovingly created. The art design in the game alone is enough to purchase Guacamelee STCE. The actual characters throughout Guacamelee, even side quest NPCs you encounter along the way, each have their own unique sense of character and design. Because Drinkbox went the extra mile to design these characters with love and care, from the most typical of enemies to the big-time bosses, it most assuredly shows and will undoubtedly leave a mark on the player’s memory. Complaining goats, chupacabras, Leopard luchadors, chickens…Guacamelee STCE has it all.
Visually, I could not find any problems, nor do I have any complaints. Never did the game struggle, nor did any landscape bore me. Drinkbox put in some major work and did an impressive job with their game.
Audio – 9.5/10
As impressive as the visuals are, the audio almost matches it in quality. The game is very centered around hispanic culture, and more specifically the wrestling scene. The audio is wonderfully composed, ranging from Mariachi compositions to more techno-influenced ones. Never did I get bored with the music in each area, though there were some compositions that stick out more than others. An example of this was the Forest composition: it would easily get stuck in my head for hours after I had stopped playing. Click the picture to watch the video.
My one gripe, which is incredibly minor, is that I wish there were voiceovers for this game. My reasoning? Guacamelee is so full of character and flare that had there been voiceovers of the same quality as the visuals and music, the game would’ve been enhanced even more. Like I said, this is a very minor complaint, and I understand that would’ve been more money for the developer to pay, but I still felt like there was so much potential in bringing these fantastic characters to life through voice acting.
Other than that minor complaint, the music is varied and well done, and the audio cues are outstanding.
Gameplay – 9.25/10
The gameplay was my biggest concern, as 2D platform games can become very tedious, very quickly. I’m extremely pleased to say that Guacamelee does not fall into this category. The player starts with only the basic moves, but has access to various combos, much like games in the Action genre – or “button-mashing” genre, for the less technical terminology – and continues to add more technical moves as the story progresses.
There are an impressive amount of moves and combos that are acquired, and the player can get a little help to discover some of these combos by utilizing a chicken trainer (no, I’m being literal – he is a chicken). This really helped to open my eyes to the gameplay in Guacamelee, and it is surprisingly deep. Not once did I get bored with it, nor did it feel repetitive, which is another feat, considering the player will travel through many previously explored areas; especially if power-ups and collectibles for obtaining something special at the end of the game.
As far as the mechanics go, Guacamelee is a side scrolling game in the same vein as older Metroid and Castlevania games (hence the name “Metroidvania”). The player can go left, right, up, or down, with secret areas hidden all over. The shoulder buttons are used for dodging, the X or Y buttons are for punching/kicking, while the A and B buttons are for jumping. In addition, a second player can jump right in, similar to many arcade-type games. The controls are very tight, but for some of the more difficult challenges the game offers, I did die a substantial amount of times due to a non-responsive move; for instance, I would roll, jump, then need to use a special move to get to an area, and the special move wouldn’t register, leaving me to plummet to my doom. They weren’t nearly enough to distract the overall experience in the gameplay, but it was enough to mention it.
Aside from that, the gameplay was well designed, and incredibly thought out. It never got to a point of being dull, and would constantly introduce new moves/techniques without feeling overbearing or overwhelming. The gameplay walks a fine line between over-simplified and overwhelming.
Entertainment Factor – 9/10
First off, the story in Guacamelee is nothing new, but because there is so much colorful (literally and figuratively) character, the storyline is enhanced greatly. A lowly farmer named Juan tries to rescue his love interest, who is being taken by some dastardly fiends. You’d think Juan would save her, right? Nope; instead, Juan is killed and sent to a version of Hades, having to fight his way back into the living to save his love. Upon making it back to the land of the living, Juan has magically become something he has wanted to be his entire life: a luchador with a sweet heart tattoo on his chest. I won’t spoil the rest of the story, but I will say this: the characters you cross will be hilarious and incredibly fun, as stated many times previously. I cannot emphasize how much unique character is in the remarkable game.
As far as the GamePad is concerned, Drinkbox even managed to utilize that incredibly well. Is it innovative? Not particularly. But for a game like Guacamelee, it is utilized perfectly; the GamePad displays the map of an entire area the player is currently in, with un-explored areas blackened out. This was a useful tool in finding hidden areas, as well as seeing where the next objective was located. This really helped the pacing of the game, and made exploration incredibly fun, when it could’ve easily felt like grinding through unimportant content. The GamePad can also be used to play off-TV, which is another nice feature as well.
This is a very entertaining game, and I had a lot of fun with it. There was enough content as well, with my total experience ending with the “good” cutscene at around 11.5 hours.
I highly recommend Guacamelee STCE to all Wii U owners. Decent amount of content, great gameplay, and fantastic visuals and audio push this title up towards the top of my “Must Have” list. So, get over to the eShop now and put this game in a devastating submission hold that it won’t get out of….or just go buy it. Either way, you’ll have tons of fun!
Overall – 9.5/10