Guacamelee! is a Metroidvania game and costs 14 Euro. I haven't played the original release and couldn't be bothered to do any research, so I have no idea how much added content this update has; it's the more complete version for sure though. The game is about the farmer Juan who dies an unfortunate death and is allowed to go back to the land of the living to save his loved one after he puts on a mask that is traditionally worn by Mexican wrestlers. So that's why it's called Guacamelee.

The developers played plenty of classic Nintendo games, so there are some obvious references to the likes of Super Mario Bros., Zelda 2 and Metroid. The latter inspired the placing of the upgrades which you get by destroying Choozo statues. Yeah, that does sound familiar. Less known games like Castle Crashers also get a nod here and there. The same way these references decrease over the course of the game, the quality of the story itself does as well. While somewhat interesting at first, the dialogue begins to drag on after a while and jokes feel increasingly more forced.

Combat is well executed for the most part. After you hit enemies with a few normal punches, an icon pops up to let you know that now you can grab them if you wish. If you do, you can proceed to either throw the enemy in any direction to hit and stun other foes or perform a wrestling move to do more damage. You can dodge attacks with a separate button which helps to get out of trouble when you are about to get cornered. The biggest drawback is that any hit you take means that you don't regain control until Juan has fallen to the ground and got back up again. This is something that can be very frustrating in vertical sections (watch how deep you can fall) or in the forced combat sections where a room gets closed off until you defeat all enemies. There are a few enemy types that have unblockable and undodgeable attacks, so when a hit makes you land in a corner, there's a good chance that a hard hit follows because you simply can't get up and jump out of the way in time.

Various special attacks that require endurance (auto-regenerates over time) add another layer to the melee and become eventually required when enemies begin to have shield auras. Their colors hint at which special attack you have to perform to do damage. Your combat abilities can be upgraded at checkpoints you come across very often. Unfortunately, most of these upgrades don't have much of an effect, so whether you have them or not barely makes any difference. About the only worthwhile ones are extensions of the Intenso mode (rampage), namely the ones that make you regain health and allow you to break any enemy's shield with a normal attack during Intenso. Speaking of which, if you manage to keep a combo going, the Intenso bar replenishes, so if you fight well, you can remain in this powerful mode for quite a long time.

Of course, this being a Metroidvania game, you can find various goodies if you do not stubbornly follow the main path that hands out pretty much any ability you need. In other words, you won't find anything special if you search the areas, but you'll gain pieces that will extend your health, endurance and Intenso bars every time you've found three of a certain kind. There are also chests that contain money; it is used to buy upgrades, but I've already pointed out that those are a bit of a letdown. Lastly, the rare silver coins unlock new costumes, each with positive and negative attributes. However, it turned out that they aren't so rare, because they are cumulative between save files. Just play through the game twice; on the unlockable hard mode any silver coins you find are doubled.

But back to the exploration aspect, it's not really rewarding despite additional sidequests you can accept from the population. Most of the time the chests are behind breakable blocks that have the same color as the respective special attack, so the spots where you can find something usually stand out from the rest of the environment. The actual task are the little obstacle courses to get to the chests. They don't just involve walljumping, but later on also your ability to swap between the dimensions of the dead and the living. This can be done on the fly via a button press and the developers sure did abuse it. There's too much of it for my liking. Another thing I don't like about it is that it got two dedicated shoulder buttons that do exactly the same thing while the Intenso mode has to be activated and deactivated (if you want to end it manually) by pressing both sticks simultaneously. That's outright stupid. The developers could have used a shoulder button or at the very least required only the press of one stick. The final thing that bothered me about the controls is that Juan sticks to walls automatically when you get close to them; I find that irritating. Lastly, more than one warp point per area wouldn't have hurt; some levels' design is vast, so there is a lot of travel time if you have to return to a fork in the road that you didn't take yet.

All that might sound quite negative, but Guacamelee! is still good. It started out feeling like an 8, but ultimately it couldn't deliver on what it promised initially. The dreaded fall-to-the-ground-before-you-regain-control mechanic, disappointing upgrades and the lack of genuine secrets speak against this game. With a length of around 12 hours for 100%, two endings and an unlockable hard mode, its value is not too shabby. The graphics have a clean and consistent style while the music fits the theme of the game, but is ultimately not memorable. The Gamepad shows the map, so you don't have to pause the game to take a look at it.


Controls: Decent.
Gameplay: Good.
Story: Meh.
Graphics: Solid.
Sound: Okay.
Value: Acceptable.

Final Score: 7.4/10

Good start, weak finish. That's Guacamelee! in a nutshell and thus pretty much the exact opposite of the 3DS's AeternoBlade.

Legend11 correctly predicted that GTA IV (360+PS3) would outsell SSBB. I was wrong.

A Biased Review Reloaded / Open Your Eyes / Switch Gamers Club