For a while now I kept hearing about a game on the PS3 called Guacamelee by developer Drinkbox. It had been a PSN Plus title on its release and the general consensus was that this was a game to look out for should it ever come to PS4. Well luckily for me, it did with an upgraded Guacamelee Super Turbo Championship Edition version release, and with that Street Fighter II reference in the title bringing to mind arcade games of my youth, how could I resist picking it up?
Guacamelee is a traditional tale of a Mexican peasant boy, Juan, who whilst helping the local Monk prepare for ‘The Dia de los Muetos’ festival meets the beautiful and very flirty Presidents daughter who not only asks for Juan to help her in preparation for the festival but also to be her plus one for the event. However, the joyful day is quickly broken up by the evil lord of the dead, Carlos Calaca and his henchman who attack the Presidential home, kidnap his daughter and promptly deal with Juan by killing him. Waking in the land of the Dead, Juan discovers a magical Luchador mask which grants him the power to return to the land of the living to hunt down Calaca and rescue his new love.
This upgraded version of Guacamelee is a joyous blend of what fans liked about the original game and what I loved about this new version. The Super Turbo Championship Edition comes with extra save slots, new costumes, two extra levels, additions to the original soundtrack and new abilities which enhance gameplay; ‘Intenso Power’, a chargeable meter which makes attacks more powerful until it drains, and ‘Shadow Swap’, the ability to switch dimensions during the game.
The game is a 2D Metroid-vania platformer style title which sees the player fighting and exploring different locations, trying to find and defeat the forces of Calaca whilst learning new Luchador powers needed to eventually take on the Lord of the Dead. By moving from screen to screen you will open up more of the map with some areas being locked away until you obtain the necessary powers to access them. The platforming begins quite naturally with movement obvious to perform, but does bring in elements of ‘Super Meat Boy’ at later stages when the new ‘Shadow Swap’ ability comes into play.
For me the best part of this game has to be the combat and its combo-centric flavour blended with wrestling grapples. On first look the combat looks relatively simple – punch, grab and throw – but the heart of Guacamelee STCE is the deep and rich combo chains you can string together which only increase with the more skills and abilities you acquire during the game. From a simple uppercut, you can send an enemy up in the air to juggle them and with enough damage you are given the chance to grab that enemy to throw into a hazard or other enemies to continue the combo chain.
The ‘Shadow Swap’ ability also comes into play in combat with some hidden enemies who are capable of doing damage to you in either dimension, so as you fight your way you will also need to switch dimensions to take care of them. There’s a wide variety of enemies on offer in Guacamelee who throughout the game will become more difficult as you gain more power. Certain enemies will have a shield colour coded to a special move you have learned and will need to be hit with that move before you can do any damage to them. However, this is where the new ‘Intenso’ ability does come in handy but it does feel rather cheap to just obliterate all the enemies in a quick fashion, robbing you of the chance to really give your combat skills a test.
The boss fights can be a tricky affair but this is also where for me Guacamelee STCE falls down a little. There’s a certain cheapness as they all have an attacking style which will take around two fights to get to grips with, especially in the later stages as you take down Calaca’s henchmen one by one. The final fight with Calaca himself was frustrating as his attacks would kill me in no time until I learned the pattern of those attacks enough to survive. Annoying and frustrating as they were, it is by no means a deal breaker for this game.
Overall, I loved Guacamelee Super Turbo Championship Edition. Its visual style is superb and gives the game a richness that elevates it from just a standard 2D game, the characters feel fresh and clever and the story is full of old school gamer humour and nods to other famous game series. The combat system needs time to really get to master but you can make it through the game by adopting your own style. The platforming sections are challenging and will have you on more than one occasion channelling your own ‘Intenso Power’ as you have to combine special moves with ‘Shadow Swapping’ to navigate some of the areas.
If you like your arcade games challenging and rewarding then Guacamelee Super Turbo Championship Edition is going to give you hours of entertainment. My first playthrough was just shy of ten hours and I still needed to visit the DLC area and find all the collectibles. This is a game that deserves a place in your collection if you like a good punch up, a challenging platformer and a superb story laced with humour.
Guacamelee Super Turbo Championship Edition is available for PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, Wii U and PS Vita. Owners of the original Guacamelee can buy an upgrade pack that will add the Super Turbo Championship Edition content.