Do you know what a luchador is? Nup,
neither do I. But after a few minutes into Drinkboxís new platformer
Guacamelee! (yes, the exclamation is part of the title) Iím pretty
sure itís Mexican for bad-ass. Either that or professional wrestler.
Whichever way, it equals an exciting new arcade adventure thatís sure to
give you at least a few solid days of fun.
first thing that will grab you is the gameís gorgeous art direction.
This is no retro pixel fest; the graphics are crisp and sharp, with
Guacamelee! Colour palette as bright and dynamic as a piŮata. The
cartoony stylings work brilliantly, and draw inspiration from
traditional Mexican culture and folklore.
play as down and out luchador wrestler, Juan Aguacate. In classic video
game style, a damsel in distress has gone and got herself kidnapped by a
supernatural terror. This time itís El Presidenteís daughter who needs
rescuing - a nasty Charro Skeleton named Carlos Calaca has decided for
reasons quickly lost on everyone that heís gotta have her, and so you
decide to save the girlfriend youíve never met. You quickly come into
possession of a magic wrestling mask (yes, thereís a proper Mexican name
for it Ė I donít do much research, ok?!) that grants Juan some super new
moves. And so he sets off, and the fun begins.
Guacamelee! is not just another platformer. Not since Bruce Lee
on the old Commodore 64 have I had such fun jumping from level to level
and delivering high-kicks as I went. Indeed, there is plenty of combat
in this game. As you move through the stages youíre met with all sorts
of south-of-the-border nasties, (the undead armadillos are particularly
fiendish), skeletons, devils, even evil roosters, all determined to do
you in. These must be engaged hand-to-hand (hence the melee!) and
vanquished with a roster of moves that expands as you progress. Theyíre
bone-crunching fun to pull off too; youíll be pile-driving demons,
suplexing goblins and scissor-kicking skeletons. Your moves arenít used
just for fighting either; youíll need them to break through walls, make
desperate jumps, and generally engage in what is a better than average
action begins in your little Mexican village and expands out from there.
You move through the worlds using villages as hubs, and are able to go
back and forth to unresolved areas as you gain more power-ups and
skills. Some levels that seemed impossible become easy-peasy once you
have (for example) the super goat-jump that lets you rebound off walls.
And while this gives the game a longer life as you backtrack to chase up
missed opportunities, it does make for early frustrations. Youíll be
stressing over a platform puzzle that seems just out of reach, and
thatís because it is.
extra twist - thanks to that evil Skeleton Carlos Calaca, a dimension
switching mechanic comes into play. The villain moves between the world
of the living and the dead, which means in game there is plenty of level
swapping and switcheroos going on. Enter a level while on the living
world and it will look one way, re-enter when switched to the dimension
of death and things will be completely different. This all adds up to
some brain-bending puzzling and healthier replay value.
than half an hour in, and I was already stumped by some pretty tricky
challenges. If you go into Gaucamelee! Expecting a forgiving FEZ
style gaming experience, think again. This game requires some solid
puzzle solving skills and split second timing for those tricker jumps.
Of course having infinite lives to pull things off helps Ė modern games
still arenít ruthless enough to return to those old 20th
Century arcade rules. Still, completing Guacamelee! wonít make
you feel like youíve just gone through the motions either, thereís
plenty of real challenge here for the old school gamer.
Mario and Luigi style two player option can be incorporated into the
action Ė the second player appearing as a sassy femme wrestler. Together
you help each other unlock doors, fight off baddies and generally get in
each otherís way. Thereís also some fun unlockables and skins. For each
baddie bashed, coins are snaffled up and used to buy new moves, new
abilities and new looks. Iím particularly keen to slip into the
devil-chicken suit, and unlock some killer rooster attacks.
plays a big role in Gaucamelee! Drinkbox has tapped into that old
Monkey Island style absurdity and used it to full effect. Youíll
actually want to stop and talk to NPCs to hear the crazy stuff they come
out with. Look out for the old goat of a trainer, heís particularly good
for a chuckle, and beating up his chickens has never been so much fun.
only real missed opportunity in Gaucamelee! is its sound. Given
how much attention has been devoted to the gameís look, the audio is
surprisingly predictable. Yes, the effects are fine, the biffs and bops
are all there, but the soundtrack is far too timid. With so many great
mariachi bands out of work these days, Drinkbox could have really rocked
the casa. Still, for a price of just ten bucks, Gaucamelee! is
definitely a game worth checking out. If only just for the gorgeous
design and crazy cartoon yuks, itís a platformer that pile-drives the