Guacamelee! is, for all intents and purposes, slavishly dedicated to honouring the customs of Day of the Dead. From its outset, the Drinkbox developed platformer is an assault on the senses; bursting with colour, humour and an irrelevant tone throughout that only serves to immerse the player in a visually arresting take on Mexican Folklore.
Taking control of Juan Aguacate, a down-on-his luck wrestler with grandiose dreams, the player sets out on a quest to rescue El Presidente’s daughter from the clutches of Carlos Calaca, an evil skeleton hell bent on retribution. Thankfully Juan acquires a mask that turns him into the world’s greatest luchador, and so he sets out on the adventure of a lifetime between the lands of the living and dead.
Guacamelee! is never afraid to subvert expectations, planting tongue firmly in cheek as Juan sets out to rescue his love in the face of insurmountable danger. Draped in calavera themed Metroid design, Guacamelee! is a loving ode to 2D platformers of the past, as players are challenged with a variety of environmental and combat puzzles.
Thankfully Drinkbox hasn’t let combat fall by the wayside, realising that style can’t come at the expense of substance. It’s here where Guacamelee! marks its major departure from the Metroidvania design conceits, as it also doubles up as a fairly robust melee brawler.
The mechanics are quick and easy to pick up, but difficult to master, as Juan takes advantage of his Luchador skills; with takedowns and a myriad of other wrestling themed moves at his disposal. It’s fun for the most part, but in the latter portions of the game the systems don’t hold together as well as you’d expect. The sheer amount of combat eventually turns into a button mashing frenzy, challenging dexterity (and patience) as the limited upgrade and combo systems suffocate under the games lofty requirements.
Guacamelee! has its problems, but most can be overlooked as you drown in the deliriously entertaining world of memes, Mexican culture and engaging gameplay. It’s not the best 2D adventure to be found on PlayStation systems, but it’s a wonderful example of Sony’s dedication to bringing new and independent experiences to the hands of its gamers.