PN Review: Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition
Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition (or ‘Guacamelee!’ as I’ll be referring to it throughout this review for the sake of being concise) is exactly that – a ‘deluxe’ edition of 2013’s Guacamelee! For those unfamiliar with the title’s initial incarnation – Guacamelee! is described by its developers at DrinkBox Studios as a “Metroidvania Brawler”, and upon starting the game it’s easy to see why. You take up the role of local farmer Juan Aguacate as you set about by exploring his quaint little pueblo. Within the first five minutes of the game however, Juan is killed by the evil skeleton Carlos Calaca, who takes off with the President’s Daughter. Admittedly, it’s a rather unusual opening to a video game, but it perfectly sets the scene for the rest of the adventure. Whilst being in the land of the dead, a mysterious female character named Tostada restores Juan’s life by presenting him with a magical Luchador wrestling mask. Wearing the mask gives Juan the ability to transport himself between the world of the living and the dead, helping him to carry out the heroic quest of saving his childhood sweetheart from Carlos and his colourful cast of henchmen.The first thing that strikes you when starting up Guacamelee! are its gorgeous visuals. The characters are depicted in a very bold, angular art style reminiscent of Bruce Timm’s famous work on the Batman Animated series, only with a spicy latin flair. The whole experience resembles a picture book that has burst into life in front of your eyes. The wonderfully catchy mariachi music accompanies the visuals to make Guacamelee! a mexican feast of the senses. Guacamelee!’s cheerful vibes also stem from its incredibly witty writing and awareness of pop culture. Guacamelee! is crammed full of humourous dialogue and easter eggs – from internet memes to references of other video game series. Even the ‘Super Turbo Championship Edition’ monicker is an amusing reference to the Street Fighter series of games. Those playing through Guacamelee! will find sheer delight simply in recognising the many references strewn throughout.
Guacamelee!’s “Metroidvania Brawler” classification is a term that perfectly sums up the gameplay whilst also drastically underselling it. One may assume that combining these two, fairly discordant, genres would result in the experience feeling a little disjointed, with either the exploration or fighting elements feeling diluted in order to accommodate the other. After all, how can a frantic ‘beat ’em up’ encompass the leisurely pace of an exploration-based adventure? In Guacamelee!’s case – surprisingly well. The fighting sections are consistent without being incessant, whilst exploration and back tracking don’t feel laboursome and are broken up by regular encounters with enemies. On top of that, Guacamelee! even features a number of side quests. Whether it be reuniting a disbanded group of musicians or rounding up a group of riotous chickens, these quests encourage you to deviate from the main path, and offer even more variety to Guacamelee!’s core gameplay.
Where Guacamelee!’s biggest appeal lies, however, is in the gameplay itself. You’re not overwhelmed with boring tutorials or patronisingly ushered through the introduction. Instead you’re given a simple restricted control scheme to ease you in, consisting of a jump, a punch and a kick, with the right thumb pad also acting as an evasive roll. As you gradually purchase upgrades and learn new attacks, the move set builds up, allowing you to grow in your capabilities and adapt at a steady pace. Every so often you will learn an essential new move that can be used to access new areas (which are conveniently colour-coded) and which can also be implemented in brawling. For example, the blazing rooster uppercut opens up the red paths but can also provide some added height for those hard to reach areas as well. It’s also great for smashing your enemies into the air, of course!
Unlike many classic ‘beat ’em ups’, Juan feels light and fast on his feet which makes the gameplay all the more engaging. Exploring and backtracking are not arduous as you effectively skip from one end of the map to the other in no time at all. Thankfully, combat isn’t jeopardised by your character’s pace, and instead the fighting portions feel truly riveting and energetic. Brawling is fun and you won’t find any greater enjoyment than stunning an enemy before hurling them, as a makeshift projectile, into a horde of your opponents. Despite making up a majority of Guacamelee!, fighting never becomes stagnant as it effectively evolves from the offset. Over time your fighting moves will increase, making combat all the more fun and giving you the ability to carry out some truly impressive combos. The Link to the Past inspired dual world system also adds a fun puzzle factor to the fighting as well as the platforming. For example, you’ll find yourself needing to shift between worlds in order to defeat on-screen enemies that are invulnerable to your moves in one realm, but susceptible in the other.
Those who played Guacamelee! to absolute completion originally will also find plenty of reason to return to the Super Turbo Championship Edition. There are a few minor additions like life bars above enemies and the ability to purchase cute costumes that give you different strengths and weaknesses, but where the most alluring factor lies for Guacamelee! veterans is in the inclusion of brand new areas, some freshly created enemies/bosses, and added capabilities such as the “Intenso” ability, a power-up that can be unleashed after filling its respective gauge, allowing you to unleash greater damage upon your enemies.
It’s extremely difficult to find any negatives in Guacamelee!, and any complaints are gratuitously finicky. Arguably, the ability to play through the adventure Co-operatively with a friend doesn’t entirely suit the experience, but the very fact that DrinkBox Studios included the option to do so is admirable in itself. Guacamelee! may not be the longest or most challenging title either, and purists might criticise its lack of difficulty, but Guacamelee! certainly isn’t the type of affair that encourages you to throw the controller at the wall in a fit of rage. That’s not to say the game is a breeze. There are especially tricky sections and those seeking a greater challenge can ignore features such as the aforementioned Intenso ability, if they choose to do so, making late-game bosses all the more difficult.
As a whole, Guacamelee! feels like its own secret recipe, a perfect amalgamation of a classic video game titles thrown into a metaphorical chilli pot and left to simmer until just right. Part brawler, part puzzler, and part platformer, DrinkBox Studios have got the formula spot on. Simply put, Guacamelee is an essential purchase for all Wii U owners. It is quite unlike anything else available on the Wii U, and in the absence of the likes of Castlevania and Metroid, its worth is even greater. Fun and captivating gameplay, sumptuously colourful visuals, and sharp and witty writing all combine to make this one of the most desirable titles on the eShop. Whether you’ve fully beaten the standard edition in the past, or are coming to the title for the very first time – Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition is an absolutely essential purchase. Es Fantástico!
Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition review copy was provided by Drinkbox Studios