Most reviews of this game will probably throw in some sort of cheap puns, but you won’t get that here at Punk and Lizard, no way Hombre. Dammit.
Drinkbox Studios brings us the Mexican themed Guacamelee! – a cross buy, 2D platforming brawler which leaps between genres.
You play as Juan who sadly gets murdered, but is raised from the dead. He becomes a bad ass Luchador and fights to save El Presidente’s kidnapped daughter from an evil skeleton called Calaca.
The game lets you know from the get go that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are many in jokes and references (one joke about listening to an Adele song over and over made me laugh out loud). You will have conversations with goats. You will be able to turn yourself into a chicken. Guacamelee! is having a party in cuckoo land and you’re all invited.
As you progress through the game you’ll unlock new attack techniques such as the Frog Slam and the Rooster Uppercut. Firstly these will help you dispatch of enemies quicker than Rey Mysterio, but they’ll also help you get to new areas on the map by smashing through obstructing coloured blocks too. There are many chests to smash and side quests to find as well, all giving you coins to spend to prolong your stamina and health.
You can also change between the land of the living and land of the dead using the right trigger button. This will enable you to get through sections that look impossible by moving walls. At times, you’ll have to flip between the two whilst jumping on to new platforms. It’s a lot harder than it sounds. If you get stuck you can hit select and view the map, which will highlight your current objective and if there is another way of getting to where you need to be. Remember when I said earlier that you can turn into a chicken? That wasn’t a typo. This actually becomes essential and will help you to exploit small cracks when your Luchador frame won’t let you. Simply tapas the touchscreen to activate. Sorry I mean tap.
The most fun in Guacamelee! though is the brawling. You’ll come up against all sorts of enemies: skeletons, dragons, flowers (no, really) and it is awesome. A few punches here and there and a triangle will show up, letting you know you can throw your enemy into a big group of attackers or into the nearest wall. At some points you’ll have so many different types of enemies trying to hurt you that you’ll have to be super quick eliminating them. If you’re successful, you’ll slowly start to realise that Guacamelee is one of the best Vita releases this year. It’s ludicrously addictive, challenging and most of all fun.
Reviews for Guacamelee! have been universally brilliant, and rightly so. The only criticism I’ve heard is that the game is too short. Here’s why that doesn’t matter. At times Guacamelee! is brutally difficult, and certain sections will literally take you hours to get past. You’ll want to turn your PS Vita into a PS Piñata, hanging it from the ceiling while you and your blindfolded friends take swipes at it with a stick shouting “For Guac’s Sake!!!“. However, if you can get past these sections, it’s amazingly rewarding. Not forgetting all this is amidst some beautiful, Mexican culture inspired art and it’s only £9.99 for both the Vita and PS3 versions.
It may be a bold statement with heavyweights like Killzone and Tearaway arriving, but Guacamelee! is a surprise early contender for handheld game of the year.
Viva la Vita!
Punk rating – 9/10