By Steven Tench
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita & Wii U)
Developer(s) – DrinkBox Studios
Publisher(s) – DrinkBox Studios
Developed by a privately operated games developer, DrinkBox Studios, Guacamelee is a Metroidvania game, but with a different approach to combat; it being much more akin to a conventional fighting game, which admittedly, is what I was expecting it to be at first. I was pleasantly surprised to discover just what kind of a game it is; one that’s rich in conceptual design, and very pleasing to play.
Graphics – 8/10
The visual style of the game is heavily based on Mexican culture and mythology; similar to Grim Fandango. Both game revolve around Mexico’s variation of Halloween, or the Day of the Dead as they call it. But aside from that, the game is also rife with references to other video games. They are predominantly Mario references, but there are also references to The Legend of Zelda, Street Fighter and Super Meat Boy to name but a few. It can be quite fun to try and spot each of them as the game progresses.
Gameplay – 7/10
The game’s combat and additional abilities reminded me somewhat of Dust: An Elysian Tail, but whilst it isn’t quite as enjoyable to play as the former, it still has a decent amount of substance, with side quests and the traditional trope of having to unlock each area with new abilities. It also has variety in the many different moves that can be learnt to improve player’s chances of survival throughout the game. It can also be quite the challenging in that different tactics must be employed to accommodate for different kinds of enemies throughout the game.
Controls – 10/10
Since 2D side scrollers have been replicated time and again throughout gaming history, there should never have been a problem with this game’s control scheme. And so there aren’t any. However, it is interesting to see what modifications this game makes to the formula, and how it takes ideas from many other different kinds if games to form it’s own fully cohesive concept.
Lifespan – 6/10
Clocking in at around 10 to 15, it lasts only the average lifespan of a 2D open world side scroller, and whilst it isn’t terrible, it always makes me a little bit disappointed, since I’ve always believed that they can be made to last considerably longer; ever since the time I first played through Symphony of the Night. A game of its kind with enough side quests could theoretically be made to last as long as 3D adventure games, but I think the majority of that has to do with developer’s imagination.
Storyline – 7/10
Reminiscent of Super Mario Bros, the player is put in the shoes of a farmer named Juan Aguacate, who in love with El Presidente’s daughter, resolves to rescue her after she is taken by the evil charro skeleton, Carlos Calaca. Whilst the overall plot of the game is fairly straightforward, there is a bit more to it than the hero saving the damsel in distress. Each villain, for example, have their personalities and traits projected in much more abstract ways than they do in Mario games, and whilst the protagonist may be silent, his struggle to complete his objectives are much more apparent.
Originality – 7/10
Though most games of this kind play out extremely similarly to each other, this game stands out for a number of different reasons; but the most prominent thing by far is it’s sophisticated combat system. It took me completely by surprise that such a traditional video game could have so much variety packed into it, and would be able to exceed the quality of many decent 2D side scrollers to have come and gone over the years.
In summation, Guacamelee is one of the best indie games I’ve played throughout this generation of gaming so far. It’s a much different game than what I was originally expecting, and is a must-try for any fans of the genre.
Steven Tench is a fountain of trivia; his greatest weapon being his vast knowledge of the gaming medium, and fighting to share the many different wonders and intricacies of gaming with the world.
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