Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition / 21st of July 2014
Drinkbox Studios released the first iteration of their seminal Metroidvania title, Guacamelee!, back in 2013 to almost universal acclaim, and now, only a year later they have returned with an enhanced version full of additional content and revisions that make this already brilliant game, a whole lot better. And in doing so, they have ensured that this charming luchador platform game became a truly essential purchase for both PS4 and Xbox One owners everywhere.
In terms of its narrative, Guacamelee! Tells a simple story about a Mexican luchadore (Juan) whose love interest (El Presidente’s daughter) gets kidnapped by the villainous Calaca and his rag tag group of henchmen, leaving our luchadore to race off in an attempt to rescue her. What saves this from becoming the tripe that it might first appear, is the tongue-in-cheek manner in which it is told, with a plentiful supply of humorous dialogue to be found along the way, the story of Guacamelee! Is likely to be one that will delight gamers making their way through it, marking it as one of the high points of the myriad independent video games released over the last few years. But this has not been made possible simply with its successes as a storytelling vehicle, Guacamelee! Proves its mettle on many other levels too.
Drinkbox have given the game a highly stylised visual look, everything is quite simple and angular, yet this isn’t simply distinctive, it’s whimsical, and it ties in perfectly with the witty narrative to wonderful effect. Likewise, the audio is excellent, with the score alluding wonderfully to the game’s Mexican setting, and perfectly matching the mood at any particular time, the two versions of the Puebluecho track being well worth mentioning as my particular highlight, and one of the best additions to any score that I have heard in quite some time. Quite simply, Rom Di Prisco and Peter Chapman have done a wonderful job here, and they deserve all of the acclaim that heads their way.
Guacamelee! starts the player off with very little in the way of moves, granting just a very basic three hit combo to the protagonist, Juan, before slowly making a variety of powers available as players make their way through the game. “Pollo Power” grants Juan the ability to transform himself into a chicken to navigate areas that were previously inaccessible, much like the ball that Samus Arran can herself transform into, and in addition to this, he is also granted several moves, these being; a head-butt, ground pound and uppercut. These moves can be linked together with the standard combo to provide a far greater level of depth to the combat system, before they are made vital as enemies begin to appear with shields that must be destroyed with one of these powerful moves-the colour of the barrier indicating which move must be used to do so. On top of this, Juan is also granted the power to shift planes between the living world and that of the dead, it is a running theme throughout the game, but he learns to switch on the fly, and this power is brilliantly worked into the puzzle design to create some truly mind bending, yet thoroughly satisfying challenges.
Combining this plane switching with carefully measured jumps probably shouldn’t have worked at all, but after only a little time with it, the whole process becomes second nature. Guacamelee! refuses to punish players for failure either, it has a very generous respawn system that takes the frustration out of the game, leaving only the pleasure and satisfaction of besting its many puzzles in its stead.
In addition to the combat, Juan’s moves are also essential for exploration, and they can be seamlessly implemented into Juan’s standard roster of moves, the fluidity of which makes Guacamelee! a joy to play. For instance, the uppercut move can be linked together with Juan’s standard jump to give him an early double leap, before this is later extended to allow him to jump three times in order to reach new heights. Similar to the enemy’s shields, players will also encounter coloured blocks that block different paths, and can only be removed by using the specified move.
The original release of Guacamelee! came under some fire for its rather short length, though it offers side missions to stretch this out somewhat, they offer little more than rather uninspired fetch quests. Thankfully, with this new Super Turbo Championship Edition, Drinkbox have upped the ante somewhat by adding in a range of gameplay tweaks, as well as some much needed additional content. This expanded version features two whole new areas that add in some further narrative that expands upon the backstory of secondary character, Tostad, and an additional, and utterly brilliant boss fight. Drinkbox have made it somewhat easier for players to unlock the additional costumes that are available to buy, though the biggest game changer has got to be the addition of the Intenso meter that allows Juan to inflict even greater damage once activated. This excellent addition to the game adds a new found layer of strategy into the mix, and even more depth into an already ample package.
The new additions to the game are not entirely beneficial though. Drinkbox have thrown a new teleporting skeleton into the mix to keep players on their toes, but fights against these creatures are frequently tedious and frustrating events that detract from an otherwise supremely well balanced product, but this is such a minor flaw that it is easily overlooked.
Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition is a must have release for both PS4 and Xbox One, with its sterling soundtrack, comedic writing, stylised visual approach and extremely low price, it’s simply an offer that you cannot refuse. With the additional content offering an extended experience from the one released little over a year ago, old fans will find new reasons to return to this excellent, and unmissable indie hit, which, in bucking a common gaming trend prevalent to these times, also includes a rather solid drop in-drop out co-op experience and global leader boards to add in even more longevity. What more could one possibly want for just £11.99? Nada!