Guacamelee! Gold Edition (PC) Review – A cute game with quite the punch

Uno de los juegos más difíciles que he jugado

Warning: If you are colorblind or an epilepsy patient, you may want to consider not playing this game. Whenever Juan, the protagonist, faces a boss or receives an upgrade, the screen will flash rapidly in bright colors, which might cause seizures.

Juan Aguacate is but a normal agave farmer when his childhood sweetheart, El Presidente’s daughter, gets kidnapped by Calaca (Mexican Spanish for skeleton), an evil skeleton overlord. As a mere mortal is no match for the forces of evil, Juan’s swiftly disposed of and now trapped in the land of the dead. There, he meets the Guardian of the [luchador] Mask, Tostada (Spanish f. sing. adv. for fried), who tells him that the mask she safeguards will not only grant him the power to once again walk amongst the living, but bestows upon him the powers of a luchador (Spanish m. sing. for fighter or wrestler, also used in Mexican popculture to refer to “Lucha Libre” [free fight] participants or performance art wrestlers). Now, Juan must set out to save the land and the girl.

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Piñatas are special rewards that contain lots of goodies

Guacamelee! Gold Edition (2013) is, of course, a rerelease of Guacamelee, a game that came out just a few months before it. Thanks to Chris McQuinn from Drinkbox, I am also able to tell the differences between the two versions. Originally, the title came out for the PlayStation 3 and Vita, but was ported to PC as the Gold Edition later on. This version includes a completely new area, “El Infierno” (Hell) – with a series of 17 new challenge rooms – as well as new outfits that change the character’s stats. Additionally, players can now use the Steam workshop to modify their protagonist’s design.

Both versions are otherwise identical and contain a variety of references to other indie video games, as well as console classics from the 1980s and 1990s combined with a couple of internet memes from the early 2010s. Lastly, Guacamelee‘s story also humorously points at several industry common tropes to tell its narrative. It has a cast of colorful characters, a really cartoonish art style, and is filled to the brim with humor. Sadly, although the entire thing is overall hilarious, here and there some jokes fall flat as they lack punch lines and basically just reenact other titles’ content. With that said, how does the adventure set in Mexico fair?

PC Release

I did not encounter any issues as I was playing this on a 32-bit Windows Vista Home Premium desktop PC with an Intel Core 2 CPU, 3070 MB RAM, DirectX 11, and a GeForce 9500 GT graphics card and could even switch freely between the keyboard controls and the gamepad without issues. However, as the game will require players to aim diagonally at times, I would recommend using a controller with this one. Also, whenever another player was to join the game, they could only do so by plugging in their gamepad, despite the game indicating that they would just have to hit the enter key. Finally, players who intend to replay the game on a higher difficulty without losing their progress on Normal should first locate their save file, save.dat, under
C:\Program Files\Steam\userdata\SteamID\214770\remote and back that up.

Gameplay

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Juan can perform combo strings

The title is a mixed genre title with elements of action platformers (or Metroidvanias), hardcore platformers, as well as hack-n-slash video games. So, in typical video game manner, every now and then players will get trapped in monster filled arenas where they first have to beat Calaca’s minions before they can proceed on Juan’s valiant quest. Here, the game does an excellent job at explaining the different fight mechanics, but those unacquainted with brawlers will still get overwhelmed quickly. Guacamelee uses almost all of the buttons on the controller, has a variety of combo moves, enemy health bars get quite beefy, and baddies approach the hero at the speed of a person who didn’t eat before going to the buffet. So, unless players learn to bring in the pain, the fun will come to a screeching halt even before they reach the first boss, Alebrije.

To me, this is Guacamelee‘s greatest flaw. The visual design and humorous dialogs make it seem like the focus lies on the comedy with the high difficulty level completely coming out of left field. As Atsushi Inaba (稲葉敦志) explained in his presentation during the Game Developer Conference in 2016, “it’s important for [those who play a game only once] to have the best experience” and if developers ignore them, they “run a risk of becoming niche[,]”1 2 which is exactly what is happening here. New players who bought the game hoping for a couple of fun afternoons are completely left behind. What’s more, the aforementioned arenas can have so many enemies that one might lose sight of their hero. This is then topped off with the introduction of color coded shields. Juan will have to destroy these first (by performing specific attacks), before he can hurt the baddies. But since the shields come in yellow, red, and green, those with red-green blindness are going to have a bad time.

Optional Challenges

Of course, it might sound now like Guacamelee is a bad game, which it definitely is not. There’s a lot of enjoyment to be had for more seasoned players and the title even has six optional challenge areas for them in stock. Two of these were even so tough that they even took me an hour each to beat. One was the Tule Tree (the árbol del Tule is a massive Montezuma cypress in Sta. María del Tule, Oaxaca, Mexico), the other the Cueva de la Locura (Cave of Madness), which both test the player’s platforming skill to the extreme. While the first one is the good kind of hard that just made me want to continue, the other has disappearing platforms that got me to put down the game for a while, because I initially couldn’t get past the fourth room. The challenge areas are also the reason why it took me fifteen hours to finish Guacamelee! Gold Edition with a 100% completion rate on Normal difficulty and another nine with a 100% completion on Hard.

Co-op

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Quick reaction times are key to get to the top

Less adept readers, however, should also keep in mind that notoriously difficult titles usually have means to make them easier3 and Guacamelee is no exception here. The local co-op allows for a buddy or the significant other to jump in and out of the game at their leisure. Having two players at once makes a lot of the puzzle platforming sections significantly easier and even allows for some unforeseen exploits here and there. Also, any power-up garnered by one character will automatically be activated for the other as well, so there won’t be any kerfuffle on who gets to pick up what. Even better is that characters can respawn shortly after dying. So, as long as the other protagonist is still alive, there’s little to worry about. However, as there only is the option for couch co-op and no online compatibility, those who don’t have anyone to play with are stuck all by themselves.

Guacamelee! Gold Edition gets a 8 piñatas out of 10 giant chicken

Conclusion

Despite its cute exterior and funny characters, Guacamelee! Gold Edition is a tough nut to crack for most players. It’s a hard game and certainly only meant for genre veterans. Those who do want to try it out, however, are going to enjoy the combat, platforming, and the humor, others might want to reconsider before purchasing.

Guacamelee! Gold Edition is currently available on Steam for MS Windows, Apple OS X, and Linux for $5.99 USD or your local equivalent.

The Daily Bubble

Hey there. Thank you for reading my article. If you like, please do feel free to leave a comment. There’s no need to register or login. You can also follow my reviews on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/curator/8839524-Gaos-Corner/ Also, all screenshots shown here were taken by me during my playthrough. Have a nice day.

References

  1. Nutt, Christian, 2016, March 18, Platinum Games’ guide to action game design, retrieved from http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/268401/Platinum_Games_guide_to_action_game_design.php, accessed 2017, June 17
  2. Inaba, Atsushi (稲葉敦志), Platinum Games: Action Without Borders, YouTube, Alphabet Inc., posted 2016, April 19, accessed 2017, June 17, retrieved from https://youtu.be/wrw2IP6pZu0, taken from minutes 11:29 to 11:52 and 19:33 to 20:28
  3. cf. Brown, Mark, Should Dark Souls Have an Easy Mode? | Game Maker’s Toolkit, YouTube, Alphabet Inc., posted 2016, April 25, accessed 2017, June 17, retrieved from https://youtu.be/K5tPJDZv_VE
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