Guacamelee! was originally released in April of last year, and was met with accolades galore, including much love from our very own staff. Fast-forward to a year and some change later, and we’ve received the same great game, packed in with a healthy amount of extra content and all-new title: Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition. A revamped and anticipated re-release, this new version is very much worth a revisit (or two) and is, for damn sure, a must-play for any and all newcomers.
The story is definitely a simple one and it’s all the better for it. You play as an agave farmer, Juan Aguacate, who receives a powerful mask from a luchador named Tostada. And, as is usually the case in the land of fiction, said mask ends up changing his life, because its power eventually compels him to attempt to save El Presidente’s kidnapped daughter.
An evil charro skeleton, Carlos Calaca, is essentially this game’s Bowser, which is a fair comparison because Guacamelee‘s narrative contains a hefty amount of references to other games, with more than a handful of chuckle-worthy nods to the industry’s legendary Italian plumber. It’s not going to win a BAFTA, but man, it’s hard to care when it has such a surprising amount of funny and clever calls to all kinds of video games, both modern and classic. It’s definitely tempting to tell you some of the jokes, but a lot of the pure joy of these references comes from stumbling upon them yourselves and having a good chuckle over some “Hispanic-ized re-namings” of popular games. This really is a game for gamers, those who have a loving passion for the medium.
In truth, Drinkbox’s Mexcian-themed platformer knows its story isn’t anything groundbreaking, nor is it trying to be, and this is evidenced in the game’s breezy pacing. It’s light and whimsical, never having you stay on one story beat for too long. This also holds true for the gameplay, perhaps even more so in that regard. And when it comes to gameplay, Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition handles its mechanics with the opposite approach it has to its story, meaning to say that the combat and platforming are honed to perfection.
Combat is your typical square-button masher when you first start, but fear not: it doesn’t stay that way for long. By the time you’re suplexing bigger and badder foes in the game’s last level, you’re pretty much utilizing every friggin’ button possible on your controller. Thankfully, it actually never gets too complicated, even when it seems it can. This is, again, all thanks to the masterful pacing. New combat abilities are introduced periodically (and they’re color coded for certain shields and secret areas) and this allows you to spend time with the ability, helping it to become second-nature as you play. So, don’t be fooled by the game’s deceptive simplicity in the beginning, because you’ll be pile-driving, dodging, and using every ability possible by the end. Also, be sure to use the always-handy Intenso mode (think super saiyan) once you unlock it to keep vein-popping to a minimum.
There are also spots where it seems like battles are just too overwhelming. Times when you want to just flat-out quit and arrange a meeting between your living room wall and your controller. Thankfully, it actually never quite induces you to do so, and the same can be said for Guacamelee‘s boss battles. In tradition of trial-and-error Metroidvania games, you’re going to die a couple of times at each encounter, at least until you memorize what patterns to look for. Each of these fights are fun and engaging, though, and they all test your reflexes in different respects. Combat in general can become an absolutely rage-summoning, hair-ripping affair, yet it’s never unfair or cheap, so a major tip-of-the-sombrero to Drinkbox Studios there.
Now, as seemingly impossible as some of Gucamelee‘s brawls can get, the platforming will be sure to have you screaming “fuck it all!” at more than a handful of moments. There will be numerous moments where you’ll swear you have no idea how you’re going to pass a certain platforming spot, but much like its combat, those instances are only maddening at first; so, with a cool head, you can circumvent these obstacles with relative ease. The traversal, much like combat, also has its little arsenal of different abilities, including a Pollos power where you turn into a chicken to fit into tight spots. You even have to use unlocked combat abilities to access certain regions in true Metroidvania fasion. Moreover, players can also collect coins and silver to purchase different kinds of combat upgrades or outfits that each come with different perks. Sharp difficulty spikes aside, Guacamelee! S.T.C.E. handles, well, perfectly.
Guacamelee‘s graphics won’t make you blow a wad, but it does have a pleasant and diverse color palette that’s undeniably easy on the eyes. The art is simple but sharp and it reminds me of the old Cartoon Network show Samurai Jack, which is a big personal plus. The music very much fits the whole Mexican aesthetic with horns and acoustic guitar aplenty. Granted, there is no one defining theme, but that’s just a personal nit-pick.
Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition definitely warrants a first, second, third, fourth, fifth and so forth playthrough. The additional story bits, awesome Intenso mode, and new area and boss only sweeten an already superb product. Oh, and did I mention there’s drop-in local co-op? The combat and platforming simply can’t be praised enough, and the constantly entertaining and amusing dialogue and references make it an absolute blast to save yet another damsel in distress.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided with.