How Metroidvania is it? Medium Fit. Guacamelee! 2 retains the same brawler style combat and more linear design when it comes to its challenges, its secrets are bigger and better than Guacamelee!
Primary Challenge: Melee Combat
Time to beat: ~8 hours
Review Info: The Steam review code for Guacamelee! 2 was provided by the publisher.
Buy Guacamelee! 2 if you like…
- Brawler Games
- Hardcore Platforming
- Tongue-in-Cheek Mexican style and Jabs at Video Game Culture
- Local Co-op
- The Chicken Illuminati
▼ Review continues below ▼
The first Guacamelee! had a simple damsel in distress plot with an irredeemable jerk villain. It didn’t need to be anything serious or meaningful because was essentially a fun little theme party that mixed Mexican and Video Game culture. Guacamelee! 2’s premise is a heck of a lot less simple. It explores a concept that is perhaps a little rarer than it should be; it asks the question “What might have happened if the player failed his mission in the first game?” It uses the most expected plot device to do this – you’re greeted by a familiar face who explains that in another timeline there is a bad guy who is threatening all timelines with his actions, and YOU the Chosen Juan are the only one who can stop him. While I’m certain that DrinkBox Studios went this route as an excuse to have the player go to timelines that continue to parody Video Game culture (which of course happens), in the process they manage to add a surprising amount of depth to absolutely every element of the first game. Because of this, Guacamelee! 2 surpasses the original in every way imaginable, and becomes a contender for the best Metroidvania of 2018.
Once the ball gets rolling, it doesn’t take very long to recognize that Guacamelee! 2 is something special. Every single screen is filled to the brim with detail, almost to the point of gaudiness at times, though never when it’s inappropriate. Thanks to this, every location obtains a much greater sense of place than the first game accomplished. The dimension swapping power from the first game is back and it’s been expanded far beyond making platforms appear and disappear. Levels now have wind tunnels that push Juan around, pocket dimensions that move about the screen allowing both dimensions to simultaneously affect you, and more. All of this allows the world itself to become a part of the gameplay in a manner that is only rivaled by the other greats in the platforming genre.
Guacamelee! 2 gets very difficult by the end, and a large portion of that difficulty is because the player is given control of a huge number of mechanics to keep track of. Besides the usual Jump and Move, you have a dodge button, dimension swapping, a button that grapples enemies and walls, a directional input that eventually controls four powers, and the ability to turn into a chicken which has its own set of powers. I said this in my review of the first game that this kind of design defies the usual goal of making your game “easy to learn but hard to master”, because remembering what to press at any given moment can be headache inducing. But I feel like as long as you’re not taking too much time off from playing Guacamelee! 2, the game works a heck of a lot harder to make sure you do memorize its button inputs. The best example of this is the dodge button, which in the first game was a button I too often forgot existed. They’ve added enemies now that are simply invincible unless you dodge them, and they throw them into combat from time to time as a wonderfully intuitive reminder that you need to make dodging second nature. It’s a subtle repetitive teaching tool that makes it so late game challenges feel a heck of a lot less unfair because you already instinctively know what button to press.
The multiplayer is also immensely improved by some changes that existed only in special edition of the Guacamelee! 1. It used to be jarring to have players fighting over who had control of swapping worlds, and this made an otherwise fun co-op platformer a Charlie Foxtrot. Well, in Guacamelee! 2, that problem is no more because players can individually swap to the other dimension – represented by them becoming a silhouette. Now you can enjoy both major gameplay segments – the Brawling and the Platforming – without fighting the game’s core mechanics. Brawling is a ton of fun with another player; you can divide and conquer or continue each other’s combos. Interestingly, now that the platforming is fixed, you can also do a lot to help each other by making yourselves into a makeshift checkpoint while you frog-hop through the challenge. Late in the game there are a few parts that do force you to swap the dimension for everyone, but even if I could label these parts as terrible in co-op (I’m not really ready to do that), they’re relatively short and teamwork was still beneficial and fun.
There’s just a tiny bit more depth to the game’s currency system this time around too. A lot of platforming puzzles that you can find scattered throughout the world reward only money, but now you have a skill tree to spend it on. The customization isn’t particularly deep, but you can choose what focus you want early on in the game and it did affect how we played in fun ways. I do have to nitpick, there are three powers that amplify the amount of gold you get from enemies, and being the analyst that I am we went with NO powers until we could purchase those first. By the end of the game we had over 60k gold with nothing to spend it on. This made some of the puzzle areas feel a little less rewarding. But, for me at least this is just a nitpick; I enjoyed completing the challenges just because they were fun. And, if Drinkbox Studios recognizes this as an actual problem I’m sure we’ll see purchasable costumes or something in a future patch or new edition.
Guacamelee! 2 is otherwise a near perfect game, but remarkably I think it goes just a little beyond with its narrative too. When Juan gets his “princess” in the first game, he doesn’t meander about the Mexiverse waiting for invites to have cake once in a while. He actually started a family, and while he’s still a silent protagonist, you get the sense that his world has grown and progressed through that family. While the game does poke fun at everything, the idea of “what if things were different” is still explored in sometimes heartbreaking ways. I could actually write a separate analysis of just the story itself, which is kind of baffling to me. But for those who don’t really care about Video Games as Art, you still might get the benefit of the emotional payoff that these heavier themes create. Even the game’s bad ending, is beautiful.
Guacamelee! 2 is definitely worth your time and money, but there was one thing that really tipped the scales on my opinion about it. They addressed one thing in the depths of the Infierno that was the worst and most game breaking aspect of the first game. I am of course talking about the filthy dirty memes that tainted every aspect of Guacamelee! 1. Had they not put these deplorable things in their rightful place, I might have given this game a score of 1. But because DrinkBox Studios, the artistic geniuses they are, have recognized that they had committed all seven of the deadly sins by including them in the first game and have repented fully, I have no choice but to give Guacamelee! 2 the score it deserves.
Fun Beat-em-up style combat system returns, but this time with more flair, and 100% more Chicken Suplexes
Highly satisfying platforming with a headache inducing number of mechanics to memorize, but the game teaches you well
You can treat Guacamelee 2 as a linear platformer, or you can dive into its surprising secrets and be well-rewarded
Has a great puzzle platforming element to it that sometimes will have you scratching your head
With all of its humor, there is a surprising amount of depth to the game's narrative as it tackles some heavy themes
Every screen is filled to the brim with detail, and the animations are often studio quality
The catchy music will likely foilow you long after putting the game down
Local co-op means you can share this with multiple friends, or you can simply enjoy the game's hard mode for one more play
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