Guacamelee! is a revelation. It’s like watching a band that genuinely enjoy playing their music: you get the impression that developers Drinkbox had a hoot at pretty much every stage of development, and it oozes from every crevice.
Protagonist Juan—a likeable luchadore—fights his way through a reasonably large play area, in order to rescue El President’s daughter, and in doing so reveals a world of perfectly executed videogame tropes and in-jokes for those in the know. Ranging from out and out ‘homage’ (you will smile as you dispatch with the horned beast pictured above), to the subtle nod—keep an eye on the posters in the background—
the unnamed Méxican area ends up being as big a star of the game as Juan himself.
The game itself takes a Metroidvania approach, whilst adding its own spin with the—sometimes annoying—kill rooms full of spooky beasties and the such. Combat in these areas quickly escalates into an onslaught of carefully timed combos and straight up headbutts, but never feels unfair. Your mistakes are your own, and you can pay dearly for them.
The platforming feels quite precise (another nod to videogames of yore) and, as such, benefits from the PSVita’s superior d-pad; whichever version you play, though, will yield a fantastic experience that feels as fresh as it is funny.
By Hal Walker