Working out as a luchador includes a lot of full-body motions.
You've gotta lift things up over your head, remain extremely flexible, and generally jump around in skimpy underpants. It's not an easy thing to do. Luchador wrestlers train for years and the sport has certainly influenced other styles of wrestling around the world. Thankfully, Drinkbox Studios have prepared a simulation for aspiring luchadores to see if they would enjoy that lifestyle.
Guacamelee! is all about Juan, a regular joe who's pretty down on himself. Joe sulks around the town running errands until suddenly, El Presidente's daughter is kidnapped! When Juan gives pursuit, the big bad Skeleton guy uses his magic powers to kill Juan. In death, Juan puts on a magical luchador mask, where he gains the ability to flip back and forth between the land of the living and the land of the dead. And as silly as that premise sounds, it's actually an excellent game.
Drinkbox Studios' Vita launch title, Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack, encouraged the kind of feverishly addictive gameplay that makes you thank Raptor Jesus for portable video games. Guacamelee! features that same indie charm and fast action, but shows the studio can deliver mechanics with depth.
Guacamelee! is more in the vein of Metroid and Castlevania than your average platformer. There's frequent combat, platforming, and puzzle solving. Juan performs "whip chattering" (no, Juan never picks up a whip) which allows him to throw aggressive skeletons at each other. Punch and kick opponents enough and the triangle button will appear above their head, alerting you that you can grab and throw them in any direction. You'll mostly want to use this to toss baddies into the ceiling or into the ground, but the secret is throwing them into each other.
This bouncing-ball style of combat becomes furiously addicting in a very short amount of time. Your combo counter will soar quite early, but as new abilities (like body slams and "Rooster Uppercuts") and new enemy types come into the fold, skill becomes a big player. You can always rely on throws, but Guacamelee! makes flashy moves and combos extremely rewarding.
It creates a real sense of progressive combat, and money collected from enemies, chests, and piñatas go towards new moves or increased health and stamina. Hidden rooms and bonus objectives in the overworld map offer further rewards so exploration is a must. Regardless, the writing on the wall would be reason enough to check every nook and cranny.
Like Mutant Blobs Attack, Guacamelee! plasters buildings, billboards, and anything that makes sense contextually and uses it for video game and nerd culture puns. "Casa Crashers", anyone? That humor pervades the dialogue and narrative too. The goat-elder you learn new moves from always complains that you just broke his Choozo statue and soon he'll have none left.
The attention and love for gamers shines in Guacamelee! and immediately endears the player to Juan and his plight. Your enemies will lament their station or… slur their words because they're drunk. Guacamelee! is a Vita game I couldn't put down. I finished it in one sitting.
And that's my only problem with the game. It's a little short, but it's so tasty, it'll be easy to play again. Obviously seeking out every single hidden heart piece will extend your play time, but I wanted more!
The combat is addicting, the animations are beautiful, and the narrative is entertaining. What more could you want? As another cross-buy from the PlayStation Network, you'll get both Vita and PS3 versions of the game making this kind of a no-brainer. If you have the chance, wrestle this one to the ground today.
Code provided by publisher. Review based on PSN version on Vita. Also available on PS3.