Guacamelee! was a surprising treat. The silly title wasn’t perfect, but it brought new life to the metroidvania genre. Years later Guacamelee! 2 hopes to accomplish similar things. With a new threat, more challenges and pretty much everything you could hope for, is it enough to warrant returning or was the first a fluke?
Guacamelee! 2 takes place after the events of the first game and has Juan donning the mask again. This time he needs to prevent Salvador from obtaining the perfect guacamole and curing his bad health. Even if the story is a joke and has no issue accepting that, so much of the experience is everything around the story.
Perhaps one of the most enjoyable aspects was seeing how the world changed. There are countless references, none too obscure for a casual player, with some being really amusing. The best example of this appears towards the end of the game and has an image of Kratos and Atreus, which alternates between skinned and skeleton versions based off which timeline you’re in.
Many of the optional quests and stages are built around jokes too. One makes light of microtransactions, with another addressing those who commented on the meme humor of the original. Both of these are a little heavy handed, as is the Street Fighter II car destruction fight, but they work towards finding that balance between funny and hard.
While this covers a lot of the story and humor, there is no escaping the fact Guacamelee! 2 can be quite challenging. Almost every section has at least one puzzle that requires a good understanding of the mechanics. You’ll often need to jump, kick, shoot, fly, zip and hop between dimensions’ countless times if you hope to fight Salvador. Better yet, the optional puzzles require a good understanding of the mechanics to be successful.
Perhaps the best praise I can give Guacamelee! 2 is that, even if it’s extremely difficult to accomplish, many of the puzzles are solved by using your powers creatively. Better yet, several sections are actually easier if you understand the underline concept or use them in an unexpected way.
The downside to this is a lot of people are not going to invest the time to see everything. There are many sections that come down to near perfect execution and a lot of different mechanics. Towards the end it’s a long series of doing a specific skill, change dimension, do another specific move and repeat. It gets so bad that the hardest part isn’t the timing, it’s pushing all the right buttons at the right time. This isn’t a criticism of the mechanics, per se, but a note that there is more to them than simply figuring out the secret or beating a foe.
In addition to platforming, there is a fairly deep combat system. Like the first game, Juan has special moves and, as a true luchador, a variety of grabs, all designed to give players a variety of choices. Players can further their choices by purchasing upgrades and unlocking new abilities. This becomes extremely important, as enemies still have shields that require a specific attack to break.
What stands out about every match is how creative Juan can be. Whether there are enemies getting ready to attack or a fearsome group of foes, a simple throw or a well timed dodge can make short work of them. Juan can also do enough damage to make fights a little easier, without ever hitting a point where they’re a joke. More often than not it’s about managing enemies than anything else.
This can be difficult with shields, parries, slow mo and unblockable moves but these challenges force players to think before they act. Often times a well timed throw or expertly timed special attack is enough to turn certain failure to a knock out victory.
Speaking of knock out victories, Drinkbox Games did a fantastic job with the visuals. Levels are lush, vibrant and have a great sense of culture and design. There are a lot of fascinating icons, vibrant colors and detailed environments that it’s hard not to be enthralled with everything Guacamlee! 2 has to offer.
Despite being challenging, especially if you want the optional true end, Guacamelee! 2 retains everything that made the original great. The silly story and amusing enemies are enough to keep players entertained, even if the overall adventure is not terribly exciting. Combine this with the same fantastic combat system and expertly crafted puzzles and it makes for an amazing experience. Sure, it could have a better approach to jokes and maybe some of the puzzles are excessively difficult but the overall experience is worth it. So if you’re looking for a fantastic metroidvania or just a fun game to lose yourself in, Guacamelee! 2 is a fantastic choice.
[Editor’s Note: Guacamelee! 2 was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]