GUACAMELEE! SUPER TURBO CHAMPIONSHIP EDITION
Console: Wii U
Start Date: October 10, 2014
End Date: September 21, 2016
When I started The Nintendo Resolution back at the beginning of 2015, the goal wasn’t merely to catalog the games I’d beaten, but to specifically focus on my backlog – games that I’d started but left unfinished for an excessive amount of time. As my attention shifted to newly-released titles, I lost sight of that goal a bit, and Guacamelee was one of the casualties lost in the shuffle.
It was over two years ago when I first played, and subsequently abandoned, this game. At the time, I happened to be subletting a friend’s apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn while he was out of town. My main memories of that experience are eating lots of OddFellows ice cream, seeing Halloween at the Nitehawk Cinema, and playing Guacamelee on the Wii U. It was a nice time.
Guacamelee is a genre-bending combo of Metroidvania platforming and combo-based beat-’em-up gameplay, with a Mexican Día de Muertos theme and a beautifully colorful art style to match.
As I said, Guacamelee has a Metroidvania structure, but judged by the standards of that genre alone, it’s kinda weak. Your exploration of the world is heavily guided, with arrows constantly pointing towards your next destination and non-player characters constantly telling you what to do. In fact, sometimes you are straight-up restricted from traveling in any direction outside of your current critical path.
That’s pretty lame, and it’d be really lame if this game’s primary purpose was Metroiding. But for me, the beat-’em-up action really stole the show here. As you progress through the game, you progressively gain a series of special moves, each one color-coded and mapped to a certain button or combination of buttons. These moves are mostly focused on punching and/or jumping in a specific direction – (red=up, green=down, etc). I liked that these mechanics were not only used for brawling with enemies, but also for platforming. The game’s very best moments involve rapidly switching between these moves to traverse complex obstacle courses.
The combat is fun too, once you grow accustomed to its intricacies. There’s a wide array of enemies and bosses to kick the shit out of, and most of them require pretty specific methodologies to defeat. The guys who gave me the most trouble were the hovering bomb creatures who violently exploded if you didn’t kill them before they counted down to zero.
In fact, it was a room full of these pieces of shit that halted my progress back in that apartment in Brooklyn. Although, despite my repeated failed attempts, I honestly didn’t mean to stop playing the game this time. It’s just that as I was struggling with this, my time in the apartment came to an end, and I had to move to a different place, and I guess Guacamelee kinda got lost in the shuffle.
Out of all the games still on my backlog this year, this one nagged at me the most for some reason. When I finally decided to get back into it, I found that my muscle memory of all its intricate techniques had long since expired. So I started over, and this time I plowed through that room full of exploding monsters with no problem. That seems to be a lesson I’m constantly learning, that they key to overcome difficult sections in a game is to just start the whole fucking thing over. It’s not a very time-efficient method, but it works. Before I knew it, I’d beaten the game.
That victory screen is a perfect segue into what is probably Guacamelee‘s most distinguishing feature: its sense of humor. The whole thing feels almost like a Naked Gun-style parody of video games at times, with cute little jokes hidden almost everywhere. References to other games are the most prevalent of these jokes. Here are just a couple of examples:
This kind of shit, when cleverly done, never fails to put a smile on my face. Unfortunately, the game’s humor occasionally ventures a little too far into what could be described as “internet meme” territory. Like, this kind of shit:
Indie games use this type of joke way too often, in my opinion, and Guacamelee shoves it down your throat at every given opportunity. Since there’s also a lot of genuinely funny stuff in the mix, I can forgive the writers for these indulgences, but they’re still pretty eye-rolly.
Overall, Guacamelee is a pretty solid game with a lot going for it. If you’re looking for a pure Metroidvania experience, there are a lot of games I’d recommend over this one. But if you want a unique genre hybrid that oozes with style, this is well worth playing. Act accordingly.