I know a few reviewers aren’t always satisfied with a sequel giving you a very similar experience to the original, but my god even with the similar pacing, I adore this game. It takes off straight after the original (even starting you off with an abridged version of the final boss from the first game!). The game feels like it was designed to catch you up and give you access to nearly all the powers from the original game at a breakneck pace. It gives the devs ample time to start adding twists to the original moves, and really flex their level design chops. So even though I recognized the few special moves you unlock early on as carbon copies of the previous game, I always felt like the game’s interest curve was steadily climbing, and did not get bored. But anyways that’s enough of explaining my basic impressions: let’s get to the meat and potatoes.
Guacamelee 2 is a metroidvania inspired by beat-em-ups such as streets of rage or even Devil May Cry. It is very tongue-in-cheek with its plethora of references it showers upon the player, which can be seen as overtly pandering in nature. But I never really minded too much: the game honestly has its moments where it satirizes the meme culture these days. The game also revels in following tried and true gameplay beats, only to quickly subvert them with a quick and dirty gag. One of my favorite gags from the original game, which I am glad they expanded upon in this game, is the chicken form. The game very clearly emulates the feeling of Samus regaining her ability to use the morph ball ability, only to slap you in the face with “Hey guess what? You’re a fucking chicken now, and you’re gonna love it”. And my god did I love the Pollo form in this game for a few reasons. The devs essentially differentiated the pollo form as a separate character from Juan, the luchador. Well, perhaps I should make an apt comparison to the Echo Fighters from the new Smash Bros Ultimate: sharing many of the same basic attacks, dodges, and grapples, but with the smaller stature and different special powers. Guacamelee 2 also includes a new tech tree that allows you to enhance your favorite aspects of the combat: stronger special moves? more Health and energy to spam special moves? More power the higher the combo chain? Lucha Libre grabs? Becoming the chicken you always wanted to? Shout outs to my co-op bro, Devin, for convincing me to max out the Pollo Powers first – not a single regret all the way to the end of the game.
Once you fill out a lot of these skill trees, you will start feeling overpowered, but the game still finds ways to keep challenging you. In particular, there are so many challenge rooms scattered throughout the world (almost feel like Breath of the Wild Shrines), with 4 of those rooms being some of the toughest platforming sequences to bear for 100% completionists.
One of my favorite parts about Guacamelee 2’s level design is how it presents enemy layouts: the game will stop you at points and create very calculated spawn rates with a variety of enemies with certain shields. These shields are colored a certain way, and force you to use your other special moves to take out the enemy: which helps the player stay away from spamming the b key over and over. They even mix things up with combo puzzles involving manipulating the environment in such a way that enemies are forced to plunge themselves into spikes, and the like. One thing I will say, is that the bosses in this game are a bit lackluster: they’re fun, but after a few cycles, they are pretty tame. I do applaud the devs for making the bosses have very different approaches and weaknesses, but just relish in the hectic nature of the bosses’ last phase and soak it in.
I really don’t want to spoil any more of the game, because there’s something beautiful about allowing you all to appreciate the finely-tuned pacing that DrinkBox studios has crafted. There is so much love put into the game: from the colorful and vibrant hand-painted look of the backgrounds, to the way the game seamlessly integrates platforming and combat abilities. The game really forces you to be mindful of your entire moveset towards the latter half of the game, as you begin to string together special moves and precise jumps. As I alluded to previously, the game now boasts for the first time up to 4-player co-op insanity! I could sing the praises of this game for hours, but I still have a challenge room I need to tackle, so if you’d excuse me….
Title: Guacamelee 2:
Publisher: Drinkbox Studios