Tuesday, December 11

Review: Guacamelee 2 [Nintendo Switch eShop]


OK, so the world seems to be overrun with “Metroidvania” titles, I get that. The thing is, even though a ton of games out there bill themselves as being inspired by that style of play, honestly most of them do a pretty bad job of it. Whether you’re forced to backtrack too much and waste time, upgrades aren’t that inspired or come too infrequently, or any number of other common problems that distinction hasn’t been a consistent source of disappointment in the last few years more often than not. One bright was the original Guacamelee, which had the feel of a brawler in some regards but blended that well with smart level design and consistent challenge. The great news is that not only is the sequel now on Switch but it surpasses the original in pretty well every way and demonstrates very clearly how to do the Metroidvania genre justice.


Taking place seven years after the original game, Juan has settled into family life and even let himself go a bit, obviously happy with his lot in life but missing his former days of glory. That feeling doesn’t last long as he’s pretty quickly summoned into a portal to another dimension and tasked with saving the entire Mexiverse. The story is pretty silly and the game as a whole sometimes leans a little heavily into cultural stereotypes but for the most part it’s just meant to be fun.


Along your journey you’ll continue to acquire new skills at a pretty rapid pace which you’ll then be tasked with mastering pretty quickly to solve platforming puzzles and take down a pretty wide variety of enemies as well. There are frequent opportunities off to the side or hidden behind barriers you’ll need specific powers to break through and the degree of challenge for some of them is not for the faint of heart. That said, the promise of special character unlocks, stamina and health stat bonuses, and some good old fashioned gold can be pretty tempting. Your gold can be used to power up specific aspects of your character, whether that’s added health and stamina, more powerful combos and various combo bonuses, new and improved moves, or even added pollo power. That’s right, transforming into a chicken is no longer just for moving around quickly and fitting through small spaces, you’re quite a formidable foul and feathers will fly while you frustrate your foes with the force of your fury.


A surprising and very entertaining additional feature of the game, if you’re got some people to play with, is that it works very well as a multiplayer co-op game to boot. While visually things can get a bit on the confusing side when you’re brawling with a ton of enemies each screen becomes a sort of race where everyone is trying to solve the puzzle or execute the moves necessary quicker than everyone else. Once someone succeeds it then pulls everyone along to the next screen to repeat. While perhaps not everyone will be on the same skill level for the challenging puzzles being able to work together to take down enemies can still be a lot of fun and that can actually make it a fun family experience for younger kids to play along since there are no lives to concern yourself with and in general when you fall you’ll be right back in the action with no delay.


Overall it’s very difficult to find any significant fault with what DrinkBox Studios has put together here. Effectively mixing a side-scrolling brawler with Metroidvania progression, throwing in a ton of challenging but optional side rooms, and injecting it all with a consistent sense of humor (though not all of it connects)... it really aims to keep you engaged and coming back for more. Even if you’ve been feeling like the genre is a bit played out Guacamelee 2 is proof that when it’s handled right, with the pacing and degree of challenge constantly throwing new things at you, it makes for a very compelling and satisfying gameplay experience.


Score: 9

Pros:
  • Great brawler-style combat
  • A wide variety of enemies and scenarios that won’t allow you to keep using the same attacks and methods repeatedly
  • Some absolutely brutal action puzzles that will demand your full attention and skills
  • A blast to play in multiplayer mode

Cons:
  • Some of the more complex puzzles will put your fingers into pretzels manipulating everything you’ll need to execute with a high degree of precision
  • The humor leans a little hard into stereotypes, though generally in a benign way, which may turn some people off a bit