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A retro-styled Metroidvania brawler, Guacamelee is unquestionably a unique and colourful title in which you play as Juan, a Mexican farmer who is in love with El Presidente’s daughter who has been kidnapped by the evil charro skeleton Carlos Calaca. Transported to the land of the dead Juan teams up with the mysterious luchador Tostada who also bestows on Juan a Mexican wrestling mask which transforms him into a powerful luchador.
Set in a hyper colourful and cartoon styled version of Mexico as old school styling meets with modern character design it really is a fantastic world and one which is only added to by the Mexican-inspired soundtrack which really makes for an immersive experience that its easy to lose more than a few hours in.
Switching between the distinctive lands of the living and the dead, Juan learns various wrestling skills to battle the numerous foes which stand between Juan and the rescue of his true love. As such, his basic kicks and punches are complemented by the ability to uppercut, toss and a belly flop move called “The Frog Slam” on your opponents, which will soon see you building huge combos as you toss your foes across the screen and reduce them to piles of scattered bones. It’s a surprisingly deep combat system and one that only builds over the course of the game as certain enemies will turn up with coloured shields which have to be broken by using the corresponding special move which really adds to the difficultly when you have 2 or 3 different coloured shields on the screen to break.
The combat mechanics are extremely satisfying, even if on occasion it can feel that the odds are unfairly stacked against you, but at the same time there is a certain satisfaction of throwing a foe into a group of enemies and watching them topple like dominoes. Equally the combo system is easy to pick up and rack up those big hit values without having to memorise complex button combinations. As Juan progresses on his quest and collects coins, he can upgrade his stats as well as buy new outfits, which all come with their own bonuses let alone the fact that one of them is a chicken costume, meaning that you will no doubt be looking into every path to find those extra coins.
While on first appearances this might look like another cute cash in on your gaming nostalgia, especially with the game giving nods to the likes of Metroid and Super Mario Bros, this is in fact a surprisingly tough title which can see you one moment battling a screen full of bad guys while the next can see you tackling a series of challenging platforms, which not only require you to use your wrestling superpowers but on occasion switch between dimensions as well. Needless to say, at times the game can come across as being unfair but never to the point that you will want to quit, only try harder or just improve your controller ninja skills as this game certainly has more than a few moments which benefit some nimble finger-work.
One of the main issues with the game is not with the gameplay but rather the length as the game can be beat in around 6 – 7 hours depending on your game skill level, which is more of an issue because of how much fun the game is that it’s frustrating to see it end so quickly. There are however, several fun (if random) side quests that you can choose to do along the way, from finding ingredients and missing action figures through to breaking up a crab turf war. They all serve to provide fun distractions from the main plot, while giving the player a chance to earn more coins for upgrades and costumes.
A fantastic Indie title, especially for those yearning for a decent old school platformer, as this more than delivers while at the same time providing a memorable and colourful world to explore. Still, how can you not want to play a game which not only allows you play as both a kick ass Mexican wrestler but also one who can turn himself into a chicken.
Game description: Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition is a 2014 action/adventure game from DrinkBox Studios.