One of the most anticipated indie games for this year is Drink Box’s Guacamelee! 2, and I for one was very excited to play it. For those that haven’t played the original, you take control of luchador wrestler Juan Aguacate who has the ability to switch between the realms of the living and the dead in order to beat bad guys and overcome obstacles. What made the original great was the complexity of the game’s level design while still remaining challenging and fun at the same time. The Premise of Guacamelee! 2 is slightly similar to the original, but adds new twists to its Metroidvania gameplay that’s relatively easy to master, but keeps things fresh and fast paced.
Guacamelee! 2 takes place seven years after the events of the first title and it does a great job of explaining what happened previously. The first mission of the game is a version of the final boss battle against Calaca from the last game, but this time it serves as a combat tutorial. The beginning sections beyond this show how the main character, Juan Aguacate, was enjoying his retirement as a chubby family man. This comes to an end as an evil group threatens to destroy the entire Mexiverse. Juan of course then embarks on a journey to save his loved ones while learning a few new tricks along the way.
New moves in Juan’s arsenal such as the Eagle Hook lets players fling off grappling points in order to reach higher points in levels, while abilities like the Dash Punch, Rooster Uppercut, Frog Slam and KO headbutt all return. In addition to these power-ups, Juan can also run up walls, and fly or jump off them. There are skill trees available to unlock additional moves and abilities as well which encourages the player to use the gold acquired in-game to buy these. Juan’s powers are all useful when exploring different timelines in the Mexiverse, and without spoiling anything you’ll also get some enjoyment out of seeing the Easter eggs in Guacamelee 2, as they pay homage to some of the more popular indie games out there.
You can also turn into a chicken or Pollo like in the previous games, but using it in combat definitely feels more powerful this time round, and you have a good selection of moves to be nearly as effective as Juan. Pollo Juan can traverse through small tunnels in the game’s world and sometimes this can lead to small challenge levels or temples specifically designed for the chicken. The Pollo Shot ability lets Juan smash through giant purple blocks, while the Pollo Slide destroys orange ones. There’s also an ability called Pollo Glide which allows Juan to glide across the level or to use air currents where available to reach greater heights. All of this plays a part in discovering pickups, as well as finding new costumes for Juan which can give him improved abilities.
The game itself features eleven explorable areas which are very big, and you’ll want to take your time checking every nook and cranny. There’s enough of a variety between the environments to keep you interested and invested in both the fun game gameplay mechanics and the game’s slightly silly story. There’s definitely some finer attention to detail in the background of these levels compared to the original game, and this helps to make each level feel more alive and distinct. My favourite area to explore was the prison, that you have to escape at some point, by turning into a chicken and going down a toilet into the sewage system, but there are more epic moments to experience as the challenge gets harder.
The game’s soundtrack features many of the tracks from the first game, though there are some new additions, which keeps things fresh. Either way it’s still fantastic. It’s very true to both the Mexican themes used throughout the game and the new music stands out where it needs to.
Guacamelee! 2 also comes with a local co-op mode which is a real bonus as it’s a solid game without it, but this mode supports up to four players. The game plays exactly the same in co-op, so you’re able to enjoy the entire game with other people if you want to. The performance is consistent with the single player experience and it’s interesting working out puzzles together to be able to gather some of the tougher collectibles in the game. It’s hard not to want to explore each level when all the environments look so good, but with another player you’ll find yourself exploring and figuring out secrets even more.
Guacamelee! 2 also feels just the right length at 7-9 hours long if you’re a pro at the platforming and combat style of the game. However, speed runners will be happy to know that the game ranks you based on your play-through time. This is a really good fit and adds some longevity to the game if you’re hoping to creep up the leaderboard.
I’m not going to lie, Guacamelee! 2 is easily one of the most fun games I’ve played this year and it’s hard to fault it even at its most infuriatingly challenging moments. The game has incredible presentation, great level design and is just as good whether playing solo or in co-op. If you’re looking for a light hearted Metroidvania or 2D platformer to play on the PS4, then you need Guacamelee! 2 in you life.
Version tested: PS4