I’ll say one thing. Drinkbox Studios knows their craft. One of the first games to be a part of Xbox Live’s Games with Gold was Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition. Now, by all accounts, that game was a stunning and precise action-platformer. It had everything that you could wish for, for a game of that type; responsive controls, tight combat, and an interesting plot. Now, several years later, Drinkbox are back with its sequel – Guacamelee! 2. The question, is whether luchador Juan Aguacate’s return can top, or meet, its predecessor.
I’ll answer that for you straight off the bat. Yes, yes it does. Guacamelee! 2 is every bit as engaging as Guacamelee! was, and although it can at times feel as though you’re simply treading new ground on similar functionality, the game gets a hell of a lot right. Guacamelee! 2 begins where its predecessor ends, giving you a quick recap of the events in the Mexiverse so far. Then, out of nowhere, we flash forward to the present day, some seven years later. The game certainly wastes no time getting you straight back into the swing of things, mind.
Juan, in the current day, is living with his two children and his wife, Lupita, reminiscing and fantasizing about his life as a hero. Once upon a time, the dangers and perils of an evil threat were all that Juan needed to concern himself with. However, in the present, it appears as though a quick journey to the merchant to pick up some avocados is about as exciting as life gets for our poor old protagonist. Luckily for Juan, and unluckily for the town of Pueblucho, strange rifts begin appearing all over the place, before Juan is taken away to fight a new evil.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, and that’s much of the point here. You see, this new threat takes Juan, under the lead of his mentor, to an alternate timeline in order to save the aforementioned Mexiverse. This is, by and large, just as wacky, just as outlandish, and just as hilarious as the first game. Perhaps the most endearing aspect of the game is that it can pull off this hilarity on such a frequent basis, without stepping any where near the boundaries of repetition or recycled content; that’s quite the achievement if you ask me.
Just like in Guacamelee!, Guacamelee! 2 offers a sizable world that’s inspired by Mexican folklore and culture, constructed in such a way that it comes across quite slapstick, but not at all offending. The game does a good job at welcoming in newcomers and feeding returning players back into the fold through its introduction of its characters and its mechanics. Traversal and combat is equally as fluid and as well rounded as the first game, instantly reminded me as to why it was such a joy to play. It helps that the plot isn’t cheap either.
Don’t get me wrong, Guacamelee! 2 isn’t going to win any story awards any time soon, but it doesn’t fall victim to lazy ideas that its peers can oftentimes rely on. I don’t have to make any noise about the fact that Guacamelee! earned acclaim due to its gameplay, far above its plot. Now, many a developer would simply tack-on some nonsensical plot in a sequel, and just continue to build upon what worked. Here, that’s not entirely the case. The story in Guacamelee! 2 makes sense, and it’s interesting enough to maintain its player’s attention.
The story tells of Juan’s defeat of the evil Calaca (in the first game, and the beginning of this game) only taking place in one dimension. You see, apparently, the Mexiverse isn’t just sprawling, but multi-dimensional too. In another dimension, Juan dies at the hands of Calaca, but, Calaca is killed by another luchador known as Salvador. Throughout these last seven years, Salvador has become corrupted by the mask’s powers, and seeks further power at the expense of stable dimensions and timelines. It falls to Juan to put a stop to him.
Despite being all-powerful in the flashback sequence at the beginning of the game, Juan will now need to earn back all of those powers, as well as a collection of new ones. The crux of play is similar to that of its predecessor. You’ll move throughout the game’s world in Metroidvania fashion, slowly growing your pool of capabilities and advancing the story as you move back and forth to new and interesting locations. The same color-coordinated system is in place for Juan’s powers, allowing you to know when, and where to use them.
It’s never not made clear, which is absolutely smashing as far as I’m concerned. These powers often come in handy for both combat and general traversal, allowing you the flexibility to play around with the game’s systems to create some truly memorably feats. The game’s world is designed in such a way that you’ll always find a solid pace when you’re moving around, and comes with just the right amount of danger that ultimately feels challenging, but fair; especially platforming. There’s very little to scoff at on this front.
Timing is imperative when it comes to the platforming. Several times did I find myself failing on a seemingly impossible section, only to come out (several, several more attempts later) feeling like a legend, once I surpassed it. Moments like this are frequent throughout, which may cause a bit of a problem for those that prefer something more relaxed. I wont deny that I felt the rage boiling from time to time, but when all is said and done, there’s a fine balance from start to finish, despite how frustrating it can at times appear to become.
I found the game’s world to be well structured around Juan’s growing pool of capabilities. Whether you’re double jumping a large drop, wall-clinging to avoid danger, or catapulting Juan to far out areas, the formula hardly ever grows tiresome. It took me some getting used to, but before long, I was phasing past spiky vines, killing an enemy, dodge-rolling a large tank-like foe, and then platforming my way to the next screen like I had done it my entire life. That’s not to say that I didn’t constantly die as new areas of the map was introduced…
That said, Guacamelee! 2 does house a decent checkpoint system, meaning that you’re never punished to the point of wanting to throw down the pad. Mercifully, the actual combat, much like the controls, remains as precise as the first adventure. Kicking ass and chaining combos brings with it a fluidity that Guacamelee!’s peers rarely relay. It’s as simple as one, two, three, and as satisfying as ever. There’s the occasional enemy that can break a combo unfairly, but this occurs infrequently and does very little to hurt the game overall.
Hell, even for first timers, it’s all too easy to dive on in and fight like a pro, thanks largely to the game’s accessibility. Guacamelee! 2 packs a large collection of various enemies, all of which seem to house their own unique movement and attack patterns. Forcing you to think fast, and act even faster – more so when you’re met with encounters that jumble together several enemy types. Upgrades can be purchased through the coins that you will collect from downed foes, as well as chests and hidden extras that dish out some extra income.
Chicken (pollo) play makes a return, of course, and quite rightly so. This is likely one of the most built upon aspects of the game when compared to the first outing. In Guacamelee!, the chicken gameplay amounted to little more than a traversal gimmick, despite how entertaining it was. Now, in the sequel, you have a range of new mechanics and functions thrown into the mix, including combat and refined platforming; ultimately making this side of play feel much more necessary, more rewarding, more grounded, and more inclusive.
Guacamelee! 2 supports four player co-op, allowing you to take to the fields of play with three of your nearest and dearest, each able to swap out their appearances. It’s a neat touch, if indeed quite chaotic when you go all in. Moving on to the game’s visual and audio design, Guacamelee! 2 is just as rich looking, and just as colorful as Guacamelee!, which is a good thing. The level of detail remains sharp and constantly diverse throughout, treating you to new and interesting locations at every turn, all grouped with a solid soundtrack and some exceptional audio design that truly elevates the adventure further.
Sequels often tread in muddy water, either playing it too safely and failing to innovate, or, stepping too far from the concept of their predecessors at the expense of their identities. Rarely do we see a sequel that truly builds upon what came before it, whilst staying faithful to its roots and its character. Guacamelee! 2 is of the latter, delivering an adventure that’s remarkably fluid, constantly enthralling, and thoroughly entertaining.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.