Guacamelee! 2 PC Review

Guacamelee! 2 is not only a blast to play through but also one of the most stylish and recognizable Metroidvanias to date.

By Woozie, Posted 27 Aug 2018

Seven years after defeating Calaca, Juan finds himself with a home, a wife, a family and a fairly noticeable beer belly. A task as mundane as picking up something from the market turns into something else entirely when a familiar shape shifting goat mentor shows up, telling Juan how the entire Mexiverse is in peril. An introductory sequence, and some inter-dimensional travel, later and Juan becomes his old self again donning his luchador mask, ready to smash skeletons to bits and save the world.

Guacamelee! 2 takes the route of a safe sequel, following the recipe established by the original, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. From the get go, you’re met with a familiar moveset and control scheme. You start with simple punches and gradually learn special attacks, like uppercuts and slams, from statues, just like in the original. Optional challenge rooms spread across the map reward fragments that increase health and stamina if bested. A healthy alternation between travel, combat and platforming keeps things varied and engaging. Although a Metroidvania, the amount of backtracking required is rather small, unless you’re hell bent on finding every secret, while freshly learned skills integrate well into overcoming the obstacles in your path. Around the halfway point, you even get hold of the ability to shift between the world of the living and the dead. To anyone that’s played the original, or any of its later incarnations, all this should sound very familiar.

Guacamelee! 2, PC, Review, Screenshot

To this familiarity, Guacamelee! 2 adds a handful of new traps, abilities and enemies. Juan can propel himself using certain spots in the environment, allowing him to traverse longer distances. Among the more dynamic platforming sequences are those involving moving bars which change portions of levels to different dimension, requiring fast reflexes but also a keen eye. In chicken form, Juan can flop his wings to slowly descend through perilous environments or ascend using air currents. He also learns two new attacks, a diagonal thrust and a ground slide, turning him into, what’s arguably, one of the Mexiverse’s deadliest chickens. New hazards such as electricity, floor spikes that pop a while after stepping on them, alongside summoners, skeletons with bombs instead of their heads and ranged opponents that throw Molotov cocktails leaving behind a fire patch also put the luchador’s skills to the test.

As you smash enemies and objects to bits, gold fills your pockets which can then be used to unlock a set of skills from five different trainers. Dona Chamoila’s skills increase Juan’s health and stamina, Flame Face’s are focused around chaining combos, while the other three trainers enhance the special attacks Juan unlocks both in human and chicken form. Most of these also require performing certain actions in order to unlock them, alongside spending gold. The majority of them come naturally while playing, but a few do require specifically targeting certain attacks over others, making you approach combat encounters slightly differently.

Guacamelee! 2, PC, Review, Screenshot

The tale it tells follows similar beats to that of its predecessor’s only managing to be a fairly predictable affair with rather unimpressive boss fights. The different timelines shtick, however, leads to a lot of references to other indie or retro titles – there’s a Street Fighteresque sequence where you beat up a car for no reason –, and tons of great humor that had me laughing frequently, especially when conversing with NPCs around the world or in cutscenes. It’s also hard to ignore how Guacamelee! 2 retains a lot of the visual liveliness of its predecessor. Its levels brim with color, detail and decorations, both in the foreground and the background. Light sources have a subtle glow to them that enhances scenes and, whether running through ancient temples, open barrens or hell itself, everything fits together into a polished, easily recognizable aesthetic that’s a joy to see. Musically, it re-uses tracks from the original, particularly in areas like towns, whose identities they helped build. There are also new, stylistically varied tracks which together successfully complement Juan’s journey. Switching to the dimension of the dead fades out elements of the music while adding echo and reverb, a touch I’ve always liked as it settles one into the version of the world they suddenly find themselves in.

While undoubtedly welcome additions, Guacamelee! 2’s new enemies don’t shake things up enough to differentiate it much from its predecessor. Combat, however, feels as good and punchy as in the past. A skilled luchador can chain attacks together resulting in stylish flurries of uppercuts, piledrivers and good old punches. Sending enemies flying into the air only to then grab and smash them into the ground is extremely satisfying and the road to saving the Mexiverse is paved with many opportunities to do just that. A handful of fights stood out as the rotten apples of the bunch, with enclosed arenas being either too crowded, making it hard to figure out where Juan was among all the effects going off; others were exasperating as they made use of enemies that instantly killed Juan if he didn’t get to them in time, but neither were frequent enough to hamper enjoyment.

Guacamelee! 2, PC, Review, Screenshot

Guacamelee! 2 doesn’t shun away from requiring you to employ special attacks in its platforming. You’ll mix them with more traditional jumps and dodges. You’ll propel yourself through the air with a punch, switching dimensions to enable launching yourself further, finishing it off with an uppercut that then gets you on that one sought-after platform. With a few exceptions, special abilities still “recharge” once you hit the ground and the removal of the small freeze frame after executing them makes for a much more fluid experience, whether in combat or outside of it. For a good portion of the game, the different platforming challenges have intuitive solutions, maintaining a steady flow while keeping you on your toes. The more challenging, analysis-demanding bits are usually found in the optional challenge rooms, although not always.  Until its final stretch, Guacamelee! 2 expertly balances not only the type of activities you’re doing, never chaining too many combat or platforming sequences after another, but also their level of challenge. It also employs moments when you turn into a giant blue rooster stomping everything in its path with ease, or when breaking a block leads to punching a series of unfortunate enemies into oblivion, both which do a good job of defusing any potential tension that might have gathered in the meantime.

Towards the end however, Guacamelee! 2 does tend to overuse instant death hazards on the main path, leading to unneeded repetition as you strive to quickly chain button presses in sequences where a fraction of a second determines whether you’ll stop your wall run just in time or smash your face into fatal spikes. Fittingly enough, the original also suffered from this. These parts do tend to move away from the previous, intuitive platforming to bits that often involve trial and error, stretching over more screens. This means that you’ll die and repeat a good number of times before you figure out the right moment to jump or the order in which to chain actions. It’s a visible break in the game’s flow and one that had me put it aside in frustration a couple of times. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of checkpoints.

Guacamelee! 2, PC, Review, Screenshot

If there’s something to leverage against Guacamelee! 2 it’s, without a doubt, the fact that it plays things safe. There’s no paradigm shift to talk about, as it doubles down on what made its predecessor great. That being said, it successfully capitalizes on the first game’s strengths, polishing visuals, making gameplay more fluid while bringing a few additions that make platforming and combat more interesting. What shines the most is how it paces itself and balances the level of challenge , at least until its last part when it’s trying a bit too hard to ramp up the challenge in the wake of the final, potentially apocalyptic, encounter that might just bring an end to the entire Mexiverse. Although its story is fairly predictable, the loads of great humor, references and occasional moments of self-awareness save it. Simply put, Guacamelee! 2 is not only a blast to play through but also one of the most stylish and recognizable Metroidvanias to date.

Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed
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General Information

Guacamelee! 2

82/100

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC
Publisher(s): DrinkBox Studios
Developer(s): DrinkBox Studios
Genres: Action-Adventure,Metroidvania
Themes: Indie
Release Date: 2018-08-21

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