Guacamelee! 2 review

Guacamelee! 2 is the follow-up to 2013’s original and is one of the better Metroidvania’s out there, pulsing with a personality from its characters as well as offering up fast and responsive gameplay. There’s plenty of new features in the sequel and this builds upon an already good game, and the sequel might even be better.

Often in games you have a catch-up cutscene or sketch to let you know what happened, not in Guacamelee! 2, no, here you fight a boss fight immediately, which provides a nice catch-up on the story of the previous game. There’s a funny line once you are done with Juan saying “I remember this being harder…”, and it certainly was.

Fast forward seven years and Juan is retired with his wife and two kids. He’s staying wistfully at his old posters, while the kids run around the house and his wife is making dinner. Juan is asked to go to the market and pick up some avocados for dinner, so off he pops to get the ingredients. Unfortunately, the local monk has bought them all, so you have to go to him and ask to borrow some. Upon leaving the church, you are beckoned through a portal to help save the world from a threat from another dimension.

This is where you get your first nod to other games with a quick jump into a dimension like Limbo, with the dark, scary forest. Jump through the portal and you even have the famous Spider crawling down the side of the screen, ramming its pointy foot into the ground before Juan escapes. You then jump into a world similar to Final Fight or Double Dragon, the pixel art, side-scrolling beat ’em ups of days gone by. Dimension hopping is central to Guacamelee! 2, and this collection of dimensions are known as the Mexiverse. This provides an array of environments and allows the developer to get creative with mechanics, characters and environments.

At the game’s core, it’s a Metroidvania, but much like the call-back in the early minutes of the game, there are elements of Streets of Rage and other scrolling beat ’em ups like Turtles in Time and the Simpsons, due to the combat style. You can punch and rush, plus there are some nice combos to be had too. The animation is slick and the controls feel responsive, plus the developers aren’t shy to throw in a joke or two on your journey. All this adds up to a very enjoyable experience throughout.

Staying true to the Metroidvania genre there’s branching exploration and you can gather power-ups to get to new places. Other players can hop in too in co-op, but it can get a little hectic with other players, so I’d recommend playing at least once through as a single player, and then testing out the co-op mode if you want to. When there’s more than one player on-screen at any one time, things get a little out of control, plus it gets easier too, and the best experience I had was playing solo.

Guacamelee! 2 nods to retro gaming though its beat ’em up mechanics. Some may turn their nose up at scrolling beat ’em ups, however, the genre represents some of my best memories in gaming, playing arcades like the original Turtles, The Simpsons, X-Men, and Final Fight. Guacamelee! 2 nods to these games with it’s combat, combos, and an array of punches and kicks. It’s simple to pick up and play, then tricky to master, which is exactly what you want. The developers should be applauded.

Complimenting the fighting systems is the other component to the game which is the platforming. You could forgive the developer for spending much of their time on the combat mechanics, but they have also done a great job with the platforming elements too. This isn’t on par with something like Celeste, which is my personal benchmark for platforming, but it’s up there with a solid platforming experience.

There’s a lot to enjoy about Guacamelee! 2, however, there are some things to grumble about too. As you get into the latter parts of the game some of the platforming challenges can feel a little obnoxious. The sheer amount of input the game is throwing at you in terms of enemies, moves, systems too can feel a little relentless. This game comes at you with pace, so it’s worth bearing that in mind before you go in… there’s a lot to take in and mechanics to learn.

Guacamelee! 2 manages to combine great feeling combat and decent platforming. It’s a game that can both frustrate and delight you in equal measures, but if you are looking for an enjoyable Metroidvania then you shouldn’t look past Guacamelee! 2.

Developer: Drinkbox Studios
Publisher: Drinkbox Studios
Platforms: Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date: 21st August 2018