The original Guacamelee turned out to be a surprise favourite of mine when it launched in 2013. A fresh twist on my most beloved genre – the Metroidvania – Guacamelee infused it with Mexican flavour, packed it with irreverent humour and wrapped it all up in a gorgeous artstyle. But when Guacamelee! 2 was announced, I responded with a resounding “Huh?” rather than the cheers and applause Drinkbox deserved after it’s killer premiere.
The thing is, Guacamelee felt like one of those perfect games that did everything it set out to do the first time round – so what was the point in a sequel?
Can you have too much of a good thing? Luckily for me – and Guacamelee! 2 – the answer is simple: no.
Guacamelee 2 comes out swinging, and puts its best foot forward with a hilarious opening act. Its excellent writing is firing on all cylinders from minute one, parodying countless video games as it sets up a playable ‘previously on’ segment for the original game, catching lapsed players up (it has been five years, after all) whilst also having a tremendous amount of fun with it along the way.
After Juan the Luchador kicks Calaca’s butt once again he and his family are allowed a decade’s respite before the world is thrown again into the kind of chaos only a masked hero can rectify, and Juan dutifully obliges. Hopping into the ‘Darkest Timeline’ of Guacamelee’s newly extended universe, the game allows itself to play not only with countless homages and parodies but also pokes fun at the original game relentlessly, channelling Dan Harmon (of Community and Rick and Morty fame) levels of self-referential and self-loathing humour. It’s truly wonderful stuff, with most dialogue boxes eliciting a laugh from myself. Video games classically struggle with humour, but Drinkbox have proven they have a knack for it time and time again.
Much like the first game, Guacamelee 2 sends you around a vibrantly colourful world that looks like the inside of a Piñata, exploring its labyrinthine 2D layout and unlocking new skills along the way. Including double-jump uppercuts, screen-crossing slingshots, and the ability to turn yourself into a chicken (a lateral upgrade to Metroid’s famous morph ball), Guacamelee seems intent on loading up you with fun skills early on – really early on. By the end of the first couple of hours I felt like I had a similar amount of options at my disposal than I did near the end of the original – which is absolutely awesome.
Metroidvania’s usually drip-feed these upgrades out slowly over the course of the game, resulting in a final few hours that offers some of the most engaging and enjoyable platforming and fighting to be had in the genre. Guacamelee says “to hell with that,” and dumps a load of awesome movement tech on you early on, resulting in an experience that captures that demanding sense of fun and lets you enjoy it for the rest of the game, rather than shoehorning all the best content into the final stretch.
You might think that this early complexity plateaus into a somewhat dull experience later on, but Guacamelee 2 is truly a master of pacing. It moves its goalposts so often, and throws so many varied challenges at you, that I was never bored during the campaign. There’s an ingenuity on display here – one that takes an idea and wrings every drop of innovation out of it before swiftly moving onto something more fresh – that I have only ever seen from Nintendo platformers. I don’t think there’s a greater compliment I can give to Guacamelee 2.
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