After saving the world, life carries on. Our hero from Guacamelee! has a real dad bod now, with two kids and his wife working on her dissertation papers. Then tragedy strikes and it is time to don the luchador mask once more. Now it is up to Juan to save the world, and the entire Mexiverse, from a luchador who is using his powers for evil. Sorry Juan, time to be a hero again.
Out of shape
Being a dad for a few years and well, eating a lot, Juan has lost all those special abilities of his and will take some work before he can pummel enemies expertly and bash through all those colourful blocks that hinder progress and hide tasty chests. Guacamelee! 2 is a mix of metroidvania and 2D brawling, with the levels often forcing you to beat a platforming section before completing an arena of enemies to move on. The game slips into a rhythm of platform, fight, platform, fight and hardly ever lets that cadence slip, so when it does finally change up for a short while it feels refreshing to do things differently for a change.
Guacamelee had lots of fun ways to travel around levels and while this hasn’t changed, the lack of change from the first game is disappointing.
Guacamelee had lots of fun ways to travel around levels and while this hasn’t changed, the lack of change from the first game is disappointing. All the moves you get are from the first game, besides a couple extras for your chicken form. While this opens up a few new puzzles where you have to quickly switch between chicken and human and then back again, it felt a lot like I was just solving the exact same puzzles as the previous game. Even the enemies have that same feeling, with too little variation and the only challenge lying in learning a boss fight or the few timed arenas where you die if you don’t kill enemies in a set time window.
This doesn’t detract from how fun movement and combat are in the game. You bash pinata skeletons up, watching beautiful sprays of ink splatter on the level as they die. A good amount of your time will be spent beating up enemies, racking up combos and using your wrestling moves to either throw enemies into other hazards or into other foes. Outnumbered? Juan doesn’t care as he launches enemies into the air, unleashes an air combo and then slams everyone into the ground again. Some fights can be really tough if you don’t dodge big attacks or work out which of your moves can interrupt them, and things get steadily easier as you unlock various abilities that give you more health from defeated enemies or make your special moves do more damage. Graphically the game is really smooth and the environments you explore are a right treat, from going to hell to the weird gold-plated chicken shrines. Doing an elaborate puzzle sequence feels so good, then you realise the reward is… some money when you unlocked every ability ages ago. The feeling of success, that high of beating something just doesn’t get any affirmation and after a while you stop feeling it. You aren’t rewarded with good loot or a nice bit of story. Instead, you are rewarded with an arena fight you can’t run from, before a new, possibly trickier platforming section starts.
Juan, it is time to leave now
At eight hours long, Guacamelee! 2 ends up feeling too long. The problem with roping out meta-reference after meta-reference is that things start getting stale. The first few minutes are great, with a nod to Limbo as you first journey across the Mexiverse but after hours upon hours of seeing references to every big game or genre trope, it stops being funny and feels rather tedious. The worst contenders are two journeys to alternate planes. One rips off JRPGs and their turn-based battles, by making you do turn-based battles and awarding dumb nonsense loot and level up bonuses. The problem is that they hang onto the joke for far too long, making you fight several enemies in turn-based fashion before taking on a boss in the same manner. At any point after the first fight the game could have broken out of the turn-based combat, the joke done and delivered, but it hangs around far too long. Another such joke is the Dankest timeline, which is full of memes and characters commenting on YouTube about the game having too many memes. It would have probably been funnier if it wasn’t near the end of the game where I was so tired of jokes and memes and references that I could have done with a break instead of the game ramping things up to 11. For a game that spends a lot of time talking about food, let me borrow from culinary parlance: if your entire menu is just one flavour, nobody is going to like the buffet.
For a game that spends a lot of time talking about food, let me borrow from culinary parlance: if your entire menu is just one flavour, nobody is going to like the buffet.
With some variation mixed into this game, or perhaps making it shorter so that the limited selection of jokes doesn’t end up reaching saturation, Guacamelee would have shined brighter. Combat is fun and fluid and moving around the world is great, but I felt like I had done this all before. Besides for a few abilities for your chicken form, you are doing nothing new here and in the later levels, it feels like you have seen this exact puzzle before, except now it has a few more spikes or a longer section of jumping. Maybe I am missing out on something significant by not playing the game in 4-player co-op, but as it stands I felt like it got far too long in the tooth.