Guacamelee! Gold Edition PC Review
Earlier this year, Guacamelee! was released on the Playstation Network for both PS3 and Vita, reveling in the acclaim of critics and the admiration of gamers. The Metroidvania/2D Brawler delivered one of the most entertaining and mechanically sound games seen in either genre, and helped make an early case for why Sony’s focus on Indie developers is one of the smartest decisions to usher in the next generation of consoles.
But why should console owners have all the fun? In what is becoming a rapidly growing trend, the console exclusive Indie hit has now made its way to Steam, the undisputed king of digital PC gaming. Re-branded as Guacamelee! Gold Edition, the game brings its golden championship belt into the digital ring complete with all of its content from its console debut, plus a few extra DLC to bring in fans both old and new.
The story of Guacamelee! centers around Juan, a simple Mexican farmer who has become smitten with El Presidente’s Daughter (seriously, that’s the only name she’s referred to). Suddenly, the evil skeleton Carlos Calaca and his horde of undead minions have wrecked havoc around town and snatched El Presidente’s Daughter. In order to combat the skeleton horde and rescue his beloved, Juan has been bestowed the mystical Luchador mask, granting him incredible strength and upgradeable abilities. Dungeons will be traversed, puzzles will be solved, and enemies will be pummeled in this multi-path adventure.
The first thing to take note of with Guacamelee! is the visual aesthetic. Featuring a flat-yet-delightfully cartoony look, the game’s flash-based graphical style works wonderfully on a 2D plane, making every character and scenery look like a hand-drawn comic come to life. This is enhanced further by the clever writing and memorable characters that, on the outset, may appear to be leaning too hard on the Mexican stereotypes, but overall embraces the culture fondly without mocking it. A tougher case to make would be the abundance of memes literally adorning the walls of the town as well as several obvious nods to classic games in each dungeon. You’ll either love it or hate it, but there’s no arguing that many of the Spanish-flavored references are pretty clever.
But what truly makes Guacamelee! shine is the gameplay. Specifically, the control scheme is one of the most polished ever seen in a 2D game, including the standards set by Nintendo. At no point are players ever required to swap out abilities in order to proceed through puzzle-laden dungeons. Every power-up and ability is mapped to a button on the controller (or keyboard, for those that go against the game’s own recommendation), and every one of Juan’s powers can be achieved and combined on-the-fly, which is crucial for many of the multi-tiered obstacles. The color-coded blockades and other visual cues also make it clear where players can and can’t go at all times.
The quick reflexes for navigating said platforms make up the bulk of Guacamelee!’s challenge, but there is also the variety of enemies to fight against. Fortunately, those same moves used to traverse those hard-to-reach places can also be used to deliver a righteous beat down on foes. While the game never really requires precise mastery of the combo system, the difficulty is flexible enough without it feeling like a cakewalk (plus there’s an unlockable hard mode that doubles the amount of foes as well as damage dealt by their attacks).
As PC ports go, Guacamelee! is carried over flawlessly from its console beginnings. The Gold Edition also includes the extra costumes previously added as DLC at no extra charge, and also uses the Steam Workshop to allow user-made costumes for both Juan and his female companion Tostada (who can now be accessed during singleplayer, although sadly the game’s co-op is still limited to local multiplayer only). The costumes are simple enough to apply so that any artistic fan can create their favorite wrestling homage or anything else decidedly wacky, although currently there is an amusing bug that replaces Tostada’s vocal samples with that of Juan while using her custom outfits.
Also included is Diablo’s Domain, a new challenge area accessible in the main game after receiving a specific power-up. Containing multiple floors filled with time trials, combat arenas and other rule-specific challenges, these bonus rooms offer ratings upon completion ranging from Bronze to Silver to Gold, and also feature online leaderboards for those obsessed with flaunting their gaming skills. Add this on top of the original game’s meaty package filled with its own mini-quests and collectibles, and you’ve got a game that’s briskly paced yet still rich with content that warrants repeated returns.
The same endorsement given to the console version applies to this PC port, and then some. Guacamelee! remains one of the most entertaining 2D experiences in a long while, and if you missed out on the Playstation fiesta, the party has now made its way over to the PC without missing a beat. Absolutely recommended.