For the uninitiated, “Guacamelee” tells the story of Juan; an agave farmer looking for his way. The legions of the underworld invade his quiet farm town led by the evil Calaca. Calaca kidnaps el Presidente’s daughter. It’s up to Juan to don the mask of the luchador, and use its mystical wrestling powers to send them back from whence they came.
Co-op partners play as the female Tostada. An added level gives some of Tostada’s backstory, which wasn’t in the original game.
The story is built on a foundation of humor. Just the basic idea of a masked man performing wrestling moves on the undead is funny. Throw in dozens of references from video game culture and the fact that Juan’s mentor is a goat, you have a hilarious experience.
The 2D, caricatured land is open to explore, but only if you can get to the different sections. Areas are blocked off until Juan earns the power to grant him access. Moves like the body slam, headbutt and dashing derp derp will break color-coordinated stones that block the way. These moves are also used to mix up Juan’s impressive combo skills.
The game’s combat adopts classic beat ‘em up mechanics, but twists them enough to make the game feel unique. Enemies can be weakened by moves, which then allows them to be thrown. Throwing enemies into other enemies knocks them back and keeps a combo going. Taking on huge groups of enemies by pounding and throwing them into each other with fast paced attacks is empowering, not to mention an absolute joy.
The Intenso meter, similar to a rage meter, is a new addition to “STCE.” This meter is filled by stringing combos, which can be activated by clicking the analog sticks. When active, Juan is stronger and faster. Benefits can be purchased with in-game currency which fills Juan’s health when Intenso is active. This is a helpful perk especially when playing on the hard difficulty.
Exploration is as integral to the “Guacamelee” experience as the fighting. Earned abilities like the double jump and the Goat Fly opens new areas to Juan. The platforming can get pretty difficult, especially when the dimensional shift is thrown in. Juan eventually earns the ability to shift between the world of the dead and the world of the living. Shifting between these dimensions makes certain platforms and objects appear and disappear. The mechanic is implemented wonderfully, making for creative and challenging trials.
“STCE” includes additional costumes for both Juan and Tostada. The costumes not only change Juan’s appearance, but also grant benefits that come at a cost. One costume makes Juan stronger, but takes more damage when hit. Another makes his strikes weaker, but his throws stronger. It’s wise to for a gameplay style that works for you, and then purchase a costume that augments that style.
The costumes can be purchased by silver coins, which are found throughout the game. You won’t be able to unlock all the costumes in a single playthrough, but playing for a short while on hard mode will earn enough silver to get the whole collection. Hard mode grants twice the silver.
Hard mode is unlocked after completing normal mode which can take a newcomer around five hours. Getting the true ending by finding hidden mask pieces will take an additional two-to-three hours. The mask pieces are hidden within the most challenging parts of the game, which provide a true test of skill. Hard mode considerably ramps up the difficulty of the combat.
Local drop-in-drop-out co-op is a part of the “Guacamelee” experience. As much fun as taking on a horde of enemies while solo, it’s even more fun tossing them back and forth with a friend. Co-op isn’t online, but the throwback natured gameplay lends itself better to a couch co-op experience.
Few games hook me like “Guacamelee.” I didn’t think this new version would repeat that process, but it did. I couldn’t put it down for two days. The combat, the challenges and the exploration all lend such a rewarding sense of progression while remaining fun throughout the game’s entirety. After finding 100% of the collectables, I tackled hard mode. “Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition” is my first PlayStation platinum trophy.
This is a special game. It also puts me in a bit of a quandary. The original game came out last year, but should this version receive game-of-the-year consideration? I have five months to figure that out, because it’s the best game I’ve played in 2014.
10 out of 10
Note: “Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition” is free during the month of July for all Xbox Live Gold members. Go get it! But go get it even if you have to pay for it. It’s well worth the money.
Terrific beat ‘em up gameplay
Hours of new content
Charming and funny story
Nothing to see here
PS3, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U, PC
T for Teen