Released back in 2013, the original Guacamelee! was a surprise success. Developer DrinkBox Studios’ previous efforts, while solid, were not truly indicative of their true potential. It took the creation of their Metroidvania-style platformer for them to truly be able to showcase their skills. Now after five years, and another critically acclaimed release, Juan is ready to don the mask once again in Guacamelee! 2.
Picking up some years after the good ending of the first game, Guacamelee! 2 sees Juan enjoying the simple life. Settled down with his beloved wife and two kids, Mr. Aguacate has hung up the mask, seemingly for good. Although he still wears the belt of a champion, his protruding gut shows he is not the sculpted warrior he once was. Unfortunately, the Mexiverse needs that muscular luchador to return to form. A wrestler by the name of Salvador, who saved the world in another timeline, has turned evil. In order to cure the sickness he is afflicted with, the mad luchador has traveled across the Mexiverse in search of relics to create a sacred bowl of guacamole. With alternate dimensions of himself already taken care of, it falls onto our Juan to save the day once again.
As you can see, the story of the sequel is once again absurd, and while I certainly think it’s funnier than it’s predecessor, I struggle to say that it is actually better. My main issue with it is that the villains, who were so memorable in the first game, don’t make much of a mark here. Magician El Muneco probably makes the best impression, but seeing that he serves as an early boss fight, he doesn’t stick around too long. The rest just lack the personality that made the last group of bosses such a blast to fight. That being said, if you are more interested in jokes, I think this one works better. The Mexiverse jumping allowed DrinkBox Studios to cram as many parodies in the game as they could think up. From an early homage to Limbo to a parody of the last game’s distracting memes, the bits never let up.
Despite the five year gap in releases, Guacamelee! 2 will feel extremely familiar to those who played the first title. Juan is blessed with most of the powers he previously learned, such as the Rooster Uppercut and Flog Slam. Since this is a sequel, though, he will need to learn everything over again, of course. The ability to go INTENSO has been dumped, which is one of the only major abilities to get the boot here. New powers for Juan include the sling-shot like Eagle Boost and propulsive Rocket Kick. With the added challenge the sequel brings, these hefty new skills are crucial to success.
Perhaps the biggest additions to Juan’s arsenal doesn’t affect his human form, though. Pollo Juan returns once again, and this time, he’s got some new tricks. Pollo Shot lets you propel into enemies and bouncy platforms with force, while Pollo Slide can get you across tiny gaps. Both abilities are additionally used to destroy purple and orange blocks, respectively. With all of the new skills Juan can acquire, the upgrade system has also been tweaked for the better. Instead of having to venture to specific areas in order to upgrade, you can now do it right from the start menu. A collection of trainers, including previous foe Flame Face, are on hand to get you back into shape. It’s a small change, but the convenience of it makes a big difference.
The familiarity between this title and the first Guacamelee! is both good and bad. On the one hand, that game is still pretty great, and just having more of it to play is a wonderful thing. On the other hand, it would have been nice if DrinkBox Studios took more chances with the sequel. It’s been over five years, and the landscape of the genre has shifted significantly since then. I’m not saying it needs to be like Dead Cells or Hollow Knight, but some more significant changes would not have been unwelcome.
In a way, Guacamelee! 2 reminds me of another immediate sequel, that of Super Mario Galaxy 2. Both games expand on the concepts of the original, but also up the challenge needed in order to complete them. Now, Juan’s latest adventure is nowhere on par with Mario’s galaxy-trotting sequel, but the parallels are there. The bump in difficulty, as well as campaign length, are a welcome increase, though. The platforming carries a harsh difficulty curve, the boss battles are more intricate and the new regular enemies require your full attention.
The aesthetics of Guacamelee! were something that really defined the original, and that success continues here. The visuals, although similar in style, look better than ever. The world of the series is still captivating, and the excellent use of color cannot go unnoticed. The animation is equally on point, as both Juan and his enemies move with a beautiful flow. And while I don’t love the personality of the bosses, I can appreciate their excellent design. Original composers Peter Chapman and Rom Di Prisco also return with another eclectic and catchy batch of tunes. I’m by no means an expert, but the fusion of traditional mariachi music and more modern trappings is a pairing that continues to work much better than you would expect.
For those that walked away from the original unimpressed, Guacamelee! 2 will do nothing to change your mind. The sequel is built around most of the same gameplay concepts of the first game, for better or worse. However, since I loved the previous one, the sequel was still plenty enjoyable for me. It’s delicious comfort food, even if I was more frustrated at times than I care to admit. The series has never looked better, the story is funnier, and the bigger world helps improve upon the meager length of Juan’s last great adventure. If Juan embarks on a third journey four or five years from now, hopefully DrinkBox Studios is willing to experiment just a little more.
This review was based on the PlayStation 4 version of the title, which was provided for us.
Guacamelee! 2 is another solid, platforming gem from DrinkBox Studios. The world is bigger and badder, and improvements to the shop and Pollo power make Juan's latest quest a success. However, the sequel's extreme similarity to the original may be off-putting for those wanting more.