Dia de los Guacamelee! Review

 Platform: PlayStation 3/PS Vita
Developer: Drinkbox Studios
Publisher: Drinkbox Studios
Rating: 12 (PEGI) / E (ESRB)

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Let’s get a few things answered right now. Do pretty graphics interest you? What about humor? Pulling off combos? Exploration? Boss battles? How do you feel about chickens? Does the term “MetroidVania” pique your interest? Do you have a PS3 and/or a Vita? If you answered yes to any of those questions (minus the chicken one), go ahead and do your PSN library right by stocking a fresh copy of Guacamelee! Note: the ! is part of the title, but don’t worry – it fits. Watch: I will think right now about jumping into the air to uppercut a fire-breathing dragon and follow into a piledriver, and Guacamelee! Or, maybe I’ll leap from a wall and change over to the world of the dead to then slam down on top of a poncho-wearing skeleton and…! OK, you get the point. This game is a treat.

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You’re Juan, an agave farmer, who dons a luchador mask and becomes Guacamelee! There’s a story that is enough to compel you to want to push further, and the characters within the story bring some witty dialogue. As with a game that is paying homage to games like Metroid and Castlevania, a lot of entertainment is derived from exploration and character advancement. What’s a luchador wrestler going to bring to the ring to make such a game compelling, you ask? Well, worry not! You know the game’s doing it right when you seek out a fight with an enemy you could have left alone, just for the fun of it. Characters from other games might have stayed at a safe distance. I’m going to get in close and rack up a sweet combo. Maybe I’ll throw in a headbutt.

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The visuals are top-notch for what this game is delivering to your face. Stuff just pops, but it all fittingly stays within the confines of a cage match of color. Nothing seems out of place, and this isn’t just in the graphics department. It all comes together to present a solid package that is complemented by the sounds and style. What you’ll hear while running about are lively sound effects and quality Mexican-themed music. Now the sound effects, comprised of such sounds as assaulted chickens, battered barrels, and other fun sounds are good, but they aren’t stealing the spotlight in your ear. The music is where it’s at. Hearing the game just adds to the atmosphere it sets, and sometimes it works so well I don’t even notice. Why am I not noticing? Because I’m paying attention to some clever inside joke seen on a poster, or stated by a someone. I say “stated”, because there’s no vocals. It’s all captions, which is fine. It’s clear that the developer took some time out of their days to focus on the writing, which makes it worth the conversations with townspeople and bad guys alike.

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The game is available both for the PS3 and the Vita. They’re nearly identical, with the Vita having a couple touch screen options both in menu navigation and in game. You can cross-save by uploading and downloading your progress between versions, and even play with a friend through the cross-controller feature or go alone using the Vita as your controller. Although, this isn’t the exact cross-controller function within the remote play function of the Vita, so let me note out a few steps. 1. reassign the DualShock to anything other than the first slot. 2. Start Guacamelee! on the PS3 (I was able to swap out steps 1 and 2 and still proceed). Step 3. Start the Remote Play feature on the Vita (don’t try Cross-Controller!). Step 4. The Vita screen is now black, so hit start to correspond with the “Press Start” prompt on the PS3. If you want to play with another person, simply have them start at step 3. Yes, this all sounds like a slight hassle, but the benefit when playing alone is that you can just glance down at the map. Also, I happen to prefer the Vita for controlling the game.

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The game might not be long enough for some, but to those I say: side quests, and hard mode, and…speed run in the leaderboards. Guacamelee! is a fine tribute to previous games which many will appreciate, and a fresh new release that can be enjoyed for plenty of other reasons. This is a solid entry whether you’re looking for a great new PS3 or Vita game, and definitely get the cross-buy bundle if you have both systems.

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