I have written well over one hundred articles for this site. One could surmise from this information that I am a pretty big fan of video games. Particularly, I love Metroidvania games. What I’m also a pretty big fan of is professional wrestling. Now imagine a game that combines video games, the Metroidvania genre, and professional wrestling. Guacamelee! is the game that I’ve been dreaming to play since I was a kid. Download it now.
The game features a unique cartoon art style that does a good job of capturing Mexican culture. The art style immediately draws you in with its perfect animation and lush visuals, so even if you don’t like Metroidvania or you don’t like professional wrestling, Guacamelee! is still good for some serious eye candy.
The story follows a farmer named Juan that is murdered by the king of the dead, Calaca. Juan is resurrected as a badass luchador that piledrives dead armadillos so that he can travel throughout the game world and save the love of his life, who has been captured by Calaca.
Exploring the large world within Guacamelee! is an absolute blast. This is probably in my top three greatest Metroidvania games of all time, right up there with Dawn of Sorrow and Super Metroid, of course. However, it has a leg up on those games in that it takes frustration out of the equation. Both Dawn of Sorrow and Super Metroid tend to have sections of the world that are just a chore to get through, but the vast array of abilities that Juan receives throughout the game constantly make exploring easier and easier, really making Juan feel like he’s becoming more powerful with each upgrade.
Exploring Guacamelee! is also fun because of everything there is to see and do. There’s plenty of collectibles to find, but beyond that there’s the hilarious NPCs to talk to, unique side quests to complete, secret areas to discover, and enough easter eggs to fill a WrestleMania stadium. There are references to WWE, Mario, Castle Crashers, Majora’s Mask, Metroid, and even extremely obscure references that show the developers are true and honest fans of professional wrestling. One example I can think of is a billboard that features the likeness of Player Uno, a wrestler from the tag team Super Smash Bros. that are perhaps most known in the United States for their work with PWG and Chikara. They put this reference in for the hardcore wrestling fans, and from that point on, the smile never left my face when playing Guacamelee!.
The combat is fast, fun, frantic, and constantly evolving. Juan learns a variety of new abilities over the course of the adventure that enhance combat (and exploration), perhaps the most hilarious of which is the ability to transform himself into a chicken. Besides the abilities learned throughout the course of the game, players can spend coins to upgrade Juan at shops as well as purchase hilarious new costumes for him.
Boss battles are a major part of Guacamelee!, and the strategies they require are always quite different. Each boss battle feels like an epic affair, punctuated by a high difficulty and demanding mastery of the controls. The boss battles in this game will leave you breathless each and every time.
One mechanic that I have mixed feelings about in the game is the ability to switch between the living and dead worlds. This is used for a few puzzles here and there and for some tricky platforming segments, as well as in combat. It is extremely rewarding when playing in single player, as it increases the challenge quite significantly, and it will make you feel awesome when you master it. It can also be used freely throughout the entire game, allowing you to see the “dead” versions of places that are now thriving and fully populated with people, which can make for quite the dramatic shift in scenery.
The problem comes in co-op. Guacamelee! features a co-op mode for one other person to join you on the same console, which is all fine and good, except the gameplay mechanic described above is a nightmare to juggle in co-op. Co-op makes the boss battles far less exciting as there is not nearly as much of a death risk, and co-op also makes the harder platforming segments less fun and more annoying. That being said, co-op still provides added replayability and value to the game, and I am glad that it is included as an option, even if it is not optimized to its full potential. It probably would’ve been better to have a separate mode completely dedicated to co-op, but I digress…
The biggest issue with the co-op by far is the fact that the co-op partner can’t earn achievements. Even though they are going through the game with you and experiencing everything that you’re experiencing, any co-op partner will not be able to earn any achievements or keep the progress that’s been made for their own game. This is a ridiculous oversight and is the biggest blemish on an experience that is otherwise very nearly perfect. I can’t believe we’re still having this issue in this day and age of co-op partners being unable to unlock achievements or trophies or whatever, and developers need to get the message that this is just annoying and completely kills the enthusiasm of some people to enjoy your game with a friend.
Wonderful music and hilarious sound effects combine to provide Guacamelee! with an extremely memorable presentation. The game embraces the Mexican culture completely, giving it a completely unique look that helps it stand out from all the other indie titles out there. I can still hear the music in my head as I type this review.
Fans of the original release of Guacamelee! should still get this game for a number of reasons. For one, the game adds a variety of content that was not seen in the original release that greatly improves the game. Furthermore, the DLC that was released for the original title is now perfectly integrated into the experience here, resulting in a world that feels more unified and makes the DLC feel like a natural extension instead of tacked on post-release. Xbox One owners should definitely get this game as soon as possible as it is free through the Xbox Live Games with Gold program as of the time of this writing. If you’re reading this long after Guacamelee! is no longer one of the free titles, don’t hesitate on simply buying the game, as it is worth every penny, especially if you’re a fan of the genre.
Guacamelee! is just one of those games that I can’t get enough of. I played through it in co-op and by myself. I explored every inch of the map to get 100% in the game, and never got bored in the process, and I am gearing up to go through the game all over again. Achievements and leaderboards increase the replayability tenfold, making Guacamelee! one of the most replayable games in the history of the Metroidvania genre.
Diehard pro wrestling fans will get a little bit more out of Guacamelee! than those that aren’t familiar with professional wrestling, but anyone can play this game and immediately enjoy it. The game perfects the Metroidvania formula and does so with its distinct charm and style, resulting in a game that is addicting and hard to put down. I wish that they fixed the co-op issues, but otherwise Guacamelee! is a damn near perfect experience on any console that it is played on.
Tested on Xbox One. Final Score: 9.5/10