Last week wasn’t just about Gamescom, as it also marked the release of Guacamelee! 2 by Drinkbox Studios. It’s only been released for PC and PS4 so far, but I wouldn’t be surprised if other platforms follow in the next few months – both on the basis of the first Guacamelee’s track record and the quality of the sequel. Here’s our review.
Drinkbox Studios is a studio that I always keep an eye on, as I’ve enjoyed their previous work. I realize that that’s funny in a way, because (if you don’t count the re-releases of Guacamelee) they’ve only created four games so far. Three of those have been on the Playstation Vita though, and they’ve been some of my favorite games for the platform. They’ve also been showcases of the studio’s diversity, as Mutant Blobs Attack, Guacamelee and Severed were all vastly different. Guacamelee 2, however, follows closely in the footsteps on the first game – and unfortunately isn’t available on the Vita.
The game picks up where the previous game left off, pacing you through the final boss fight in the direction the game wants you to take (in order to set up the sequel). Lucky for me (and those who never played the first game), the boss fight is far easier this time around – I remember it taking me multiple attempts on my first go around with Guacamelee.
Taking place about seven years after the events of that boss fight, Guacamelee 2 sees Juan as a family man – only to be cast back into the role of the main protagonist in another metroidvania-type adventure is the Mexiverse. The latter is of course Guacamelee’s game world that’s heavily influenced by Mexican culture in both the narrative and visual sense. There’s also a ton of personality to the game, both in the cultural sense and in the wacky humor the game brings to the table – some of it directed at videogame tropes and genres.
As with the first game, the level design in Guacamelee 2 is excellent and works fantastically well with the metroidvania approach while making sure you don’t spend ages aimlessly walking around (which happens to me more often than I’d like in other metroidvanias). Juan can also jump between the world of the living and the world of the dead after gaining the ability to do so – evoking memories of the recently-released Flipping Death by Zoink as well as the first Guacamelee title. The mechanic can be used to get past certain areas (because things (dis)appear when you switch) and makes for some fun platforming challenges.
Combat still works great, although it hasn’t changed much since the first game. Juan’s moveset flows together nicely, and many of his attacks are used both in combat and in reaching certain spots in a level while platforming. Your uppercut launches you up in the air and thus serves as a double-jump as well, for instance – and I haven’t even mentioned Juan’s magical ability to turn into a chicken and traverse areas Juan can’t. This doesn’t just mean that you gain the ability to crawl into tight spaces, but you’re also capable of flying across short distances. Your chicken form is also a pretty capable fighter too, which makes for some hilarious battles.
Used to playing Guacamelee on the Vita, I mostly played Guacamelee 2 as a single player adventure – though it supports multiplayer for up to four players as well. Where I did try and enjoy multiplayer was in the game’s many speedrunning-esque trials, which often also include heavy use of the game’s ability to switch between dimensions and human/chicken forms. They’re in the single player game too (and you get rewarded with upgrades for doing them), but work well for a little local multiplayer competition too.
Guacamelee! 2 is most definitely “Guacamelee” in that it’s similar to the first game, despite the addition of new moves and enemy types. As such, it may not attest to Drinkbox’s track record of wonderfully original games, but it does feature plenty of creativity and character that made me happy to return to Juan’s world for another epic tale in the Mexiverse. My Vita is so jealous.