Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Console Corner: Review of Guacamelee!

Zap! Pow! Bang! With mariachis—and luchadores!! Guacamelee Super Turbo Championship Edition! by DrinkBox is one of those game that is fun of the purest variety. It embodies the spirit of video games in every way—the sprites, the glorious colors, the sense of fun, and all button mashing you can imagine in this highly recommended 2D action platformer.

An ordinary man working in the agave fields, players take on the role of Juan in Guacamelee. But he oh so quickly finds himself in the position of rescuing the beautiful president’s daughter from the evil Calaca, a demon who has emerged just before the Day of the Dead to find a sacrifice. With the assistance of goat man (as well as chicken magic), Juan punches, headbutts, and suplexes his way through our world, into another dimension, and back again to defeat the evil Calaca and rescue the president’s daughter. Not precisely Pulitzer quality writing, but certainly fun.

In my own classification of games, Guacamelee is a gamer’s game, i.e. a game for people who enjoy constant, unending pattern resolution via hand-eye coordination. Narrative and character a minimum, players will spend all of their time bashing baddies, pushing the right combo of buttons to traverse the landscape, and learning bosses’ patterns to defeat them. Satisfaction is primarily derived from overcoming those obstacles (and the wonderful manner in which Drinkbox have designed combat, movement, etc.), rather than something more substantive. It’s a wonderfully easy game to pick up and put down—zap! pow! bang! just a loading screen away.

I have been to Mexico, and one of the deepest memories I have (besides the amazing food and delicious fruit juices) is the colors—not only in nature, but likewise in art. Like comic books/graphic novels, Guacamelee captures this essence amazingly. The colors, oh, the colors. And not just rainbow bursts, the scenes have all been set with palettes that enhance and complement the game’s various settings, all while being wholly Mexican in flavor.

A game conscious of its heritage, Guacamelee gives tribute on several occasions to its precedents, including Metroid, Castlevania, and Super Mario Brothers (I’m thinking of a particular scene where players need to defeat a dragon-esque baddie, turn a key on the other side of a bridge, and are rewarded with a princess). Nothing resembling imitation, Guacamelee simply gives respect where its due in its own way.

In the end, Guacamelee is the perfect reason why video games can be so fun and engaging. The bright graphics and animation, the carefully escalated gameplay and upgrades, the sense of fun (chicken man!!), and the speed and consistency of combat, it’s Metroidvania of the best quality. Players looking for fun in that area will find little to complain about.

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