After releasing a couple previous games, Guacamelee! catapulted DrinkBox Studios to the top echelon of indie developers. Just over five years since its release, we finally have a long-awaited sequel so how does it compare to the fantastic original?
Seven years have passed since the events in the original Guacamelee! and our luchador hero Juan and his lovely wife Lupita have since started a family together. Juan is now rocking a certified dad bod and living a calm and pleasant life with his wife and kids but that doesn't last long as menacing dark rifts start to appear in the skies across Pueblucho and nearby areas. So, Juan once again dons his luchador mask and sets out to save the world.
Guacamelee! 2 has a decidedly sci-fi feel to its storyline complete with time rifts, alternate timelines, and much more. The majority of Juan's adventure is spent in the darkest timeline where catastrophic events are happening. The influence of Mexican folklore is still alive and well even in these dark timelines which provides a familiar yet wonderful backdrop that players of the original game fell in love with. Several characters from the original are back as well, many in different roles. It was great interacting with these characters again but I was a little disappointed with many of the new characters, especially the bad guys. None of them felt nearly as memorable as Javier Jaguar or X'tabay and the main villain Salvador is certainly no Carlos Calaca.
Guacamelee! 2's off-the-wall sense of humor is still present and good for a few laughs. Due to negative fan feedback, most of the in-game memes have been removed although you'll still come across a few as you explore the game world. There are quite a few odd characters and even odder conversations that are bolstered by the multiple universes and some characters having multiple versions of themselves. By far the most humorous parts are the specific alternate universe portals that are scattered across the Mexiverse. I won't spoil any of them here because they're way more fun to find and experience for yourself so make sure to search them out.
When it comes to gameplay, the original Guacamelee! excelled in three particular areas: Metroidvania-influenced exploration, platforming, and combat. DrinkBox Studios made a few small changes to the core formulas but each of these three aspects are still the central focus of Guacamelee! 2. However, I was a little disappointed with the amount of exploration in Guacamelee! 2 as a lot of the campaign is very linear and while there are still plenty of long winding paths filled with challenging enemies and hazards, there aren't a ton that encourage exploration. While acquiring new abilities will unlock access to new areas, you'll still be progressing linearly for the most part and only need to head back to previously completed areas if you want to search out collectibles and treasures. While this was great to cut down on backtracking, it did result in the campaign feeling less like a Metroidvania than the original.
One fantastic thing about the gameplay in both Guacamelee! and this sequel is how Juan's combat moves (like the dash-punch and uppercut) also serve as tools for platforming. Many ledges cannot be reached without both jumping and stringing together attacks to maximize height and distance. Many gamers found the platforming in Guacamelee! to be too difficult but I thoroughly enjoyed it and the same can be said for Guacamelee! 2. A lot of late-game platforming sections as well as several challenge rooms will thoroughly test your platforming prowess but with quick restarts and forgiving checkpoints, they're all conquerable with a bit a persistence.
The best aspect of Guacamelee! 2 is its combat. The fast-paced 2D action from the original returns and it's just as enjoyable as before as you string together combos, launch powerful special moves, and dodge out of the way of enemy attacks at the last second. The combat system is nuanced and exciting and while Juan doesn't learn many new moves, there is one major addition: chicken combat! Transforming into a chicken in Guacamelee! 2 is used for a lot more than just navigating narrow passages. Chicken Juan has the ability to attack and even learns a couple special moves to help him pound foes. Several segments force you to play in chicken form so you'll spend a good amount of time learning and mastering chicken combat. You'll also regularly need to transform back and forth between Juan and chicken during normal combat as many enemies are equipped with color shields that only the chicken can break through.
While Guacamelee! 2's combat is fantastic, I must say that the combat segments in the campaign felt way too easy. This is due to a couple factors. First, the upgrade systems allow you to power-up your special moves and throws fairly early on so Juan can become a powerful juggernaut quite quickly. Second, Guacamelee! 2 doesn't give players the option to start on hard difficulty. Considering there are plenty of Guacamelee! veterans who played through the original game multiple times and on multiple platforms (myself included), there was a minimal learning curve to the combat and I found myself annihilating foes with very little effort.
Guacamelee! 2 sticks closely to the core formula that made the original a massive success. While it isn't quite as memorable or groundbreaking as its predecessor, it still makes for an excellent and visually stunning adventure.
- + Wonderful Mexican folklore visuals
- + Great sense of humor, especially in the alternate universes
- + Excellently refined combat and platforming
- - Combat segments are too easy
- - New characters and bosses aren't very memorable