Monday, April 22, 2013

Guacamelee! Review

Guacamelee! is simply put a triumph in game design. Everyone I have talked to about this game is immediately enchanted with the world, sound design, and gameplay.

Guacamelee! is a metroidvania type game. That is, the world is completely open, but you can only explore certain areas. Once you have unlocked a new ability, you can return to these areas and complete more quests and explore even further. This may be the best Metroid/Castlevania clone ever, and it many ways it reaches and surpasses the aforementioned.

You play a Mexican man who hasn't been having too much luck. Once you're given a magic luchador mask, your adventures unfold. It is very much a save the princess adventure; however, the game mixes humor and a unique art style to make the paper thin story shine. Each of the main characters brim with personality and you will have a smile on your face for the entirety of the adventure.

Within the gameplay there exists an intricate combo system. While at your first you can only punch your way to victory, slowly but surely you can string punches with launches and throws with ease. It feels smooth and frenetic, and, thankfully, the game rests entirely on your skill. Whenever you die you can be certain it was your fault and your fault alone. The game also has a fantastic day/night (living/dead) component that is better left unspoiled. But it will definitely push your skills and reflexes to the test.

Graphically, the game shines at every moment. The bright colorful world of the living and the charming world of the undead make for a wonderful pairing. Within the world lurks dozens upon dozens of references to famous games and internet memes. From Zelda, to Mario to even Grim Fandango, Castle Crashers and even to Angry Cat, the references are funny and fun, and there is always a reference lurking somewhere.

The sound is also equally well done. The only thing that lacks are voice overs for the characters. Some things may be left better to imagination, but I for one would have enjoyed full voice overs. The absence, however, may have been to avoid any racist implications.

Over the past week some people have talked about whether the game is "appropriate." As a person of Spanish heritage, I found nothing about the game inappropriate. What I would say is that the creators took an aesthetic and had fun with it. You always get the sense that Drinkbox Studios was treating the material with care and respect. Those who are looking for something malicious are splitting hairs.

Two issues. One is that I hit a bug in the game where I got stuck in the wall. It wasn't too much of a big deal because checkpoints are plentiful, but I had to reset back to the main menu. The bigger issue relies solely in the length of the game. Most people seem to finishing their experience in and around the five hour mark. The optional side quests take very little time. I wish there were more of these quests because I really enjoyed them. There is also a nice battle royal cave that is fun and definitely tough. I enjoyed the normal play through and cannot wait to return on hard difficult in another month or so. Overall though the game is over too quick and another hour would have really gone a long way; nevertheless, Guacamelee! is simply put one of the most charming and fun games available on PSNetwork, and this is one game to remember come the end of the year.

Overall: A-

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