I know this game came out last year but Drinkbox Studios recently released the new Guacamelee! Bundle Fantástico on to the PSN Store a couple weeks ago. Since I have a newly acquired PS Vita, I figured it’s about time I actually play this game, considering all the hype and awards it garnered. It was one of the top digital games of 2013 so there must be a reason for that.
Guacamelee! is labeled as a Metroid-vania style action-platformer-brawler. This in itself interests me much as I grew up playing games like Metroid, Castlevania, and Mega Man. Each required hours and hours of exploration and each had tons of secrets buried inside. These were games that required lots of thought and strategy as well as being able to navigate yourself around huge 2D worlds without getting lost. On current gen platforms, there aren’t really games like this anymore from the big named publishers and it’s usually the indie developers who fill this void. Thank goodness for them because some of the best games I’ve played over the past few years have been indie games.
This review is based on the me playing on the PS Vita, but when you purchase the game on the PSN Store, it is a cross-buy game which means that you also get a version for PS3. The games are exactly the same except that the PS3 version allows for local co-op play. The game even features cross-play and allows you to sync your game saves between consoles.
The story is about your average Mexican agave farmer, Juan Aguacate, turned hero who must use his newly acquired powers and skill of a luchador to save the world and mainly El Presidente’s Daughter from the evil Carlos Calaca. You’ll have to explore different regions around a small village in Mexico while traversing between the world of the dead and the living. The overall plot is quite familiar for anyone who has been a fan of gaming while the use of Mexican culture and folklore is quite refreshing and unique. Basically, this is your story about a hero who saves the “princess” in a “castle” from an evil “monster.” I highly suggest reading all the dialog though and not to skip over them as they can be quite hilarious and I also love the way they drop in little homages to older retro games in the process.
The first thing you’ll really notice about the game is just how awesome everything is. The graphics are simply amazing with a very unique style to it. It’s a very colorful game, that’s for sure and I want to say that the art in this game is one of the best I’ve seen on any indie developed game. Everything is influenced by Mexican culture here, from the environmental backdrops, the character designs, and little details here and there that really draw you into the atmosphere of the game. There wasn’t any part of the game graphically where I was like, “man, this sucks” or “they could have done better here.” Instead, most of my experience consisted of, “wow, this looks so gorgeous. What an amazing looking game this is.” There were parts where I would just stop and simply marvel at how awesome this game looked. Again, stop every now and then and look around. You’ll be surprised by all the little Easter eggs and game references.
What’s even more amazing is the soundtrack. There are many games out there where after a few minutes, you literally want to go into the settings and just turn off the music completely. This isn’t one of those games. Again, the music here is very Mexican oriented. The music never feels like it gets in the way of enjoyment and instead, it enhances it and makes an already impressive game even more impressive. It could probably be argued as to which is better, the music or the art and that might be why the Guacamelee! Bundle Fantástico also includes the complete soundtrack to the game for those who just want to enjoy the music. You’ll however have to download this on the PS3 though as it won’t download onto the PS Vita.
Guacamelee! is very Metroid-vania like. It’s a 2D world that you’ll need to explore and unlike side scrollers, this platformer requires that you explore in all 4 directions, up, down, left, and right. You’ll have to make use of everything in your arsenal of moves in order to finish this game because it is a very challenging game, even on normal difficulty. If you ever played the original Metroid or Castlevania games, you know how challenging, difficult, and head pounding those games could be. This is no different. My advice, be patient, think out a strategy, and above all know all your moves and combinations. Without this, you won’t get very far.
On the PS Vita, Guacamelee! will make use of every button, including the bumpers and front touch screen. Controls are fairly straightforward, though I do suggest reading all the dialog between your character and others because they will give you advice on how to better use your moves. You move around using either the directional pad or thumbstick, I suggest thumbstick. The X button is used for jumping, the square is to attack, the triangle button is used later for grabbing onto walls, and the circle button is used in conjunction with the left thumbstick to perform 1 of 6 special moves. The left bumper is used for dodging hits and the right bumper is used later to move between the land of the dead and living. The touchscreen will be used later on as well for activating “pollo power.”
One thing I can say about this game is that it will seriously test your skills as a gamer. The controls are straightforward, but trying to combine them all together is easier said than done, especially in the later levels. This game has some of the most difficult platforming sections I’ve ever played on any game, but when you do complete them, you get a real sense of accomplishment because you have to learn these controls and combinations. You can’t just sit there and button mash.
Guacamelee! is a platformer with plenty of action, exploration, even quite a bit of puzzle solving. I’ll have to say, this is one of the best games of this type I have played in a long time and honestly, I could not stop playing it until I absolutely did everything I could to beat it and 100% each part of the game. According to my stats, it took me about 15 hours of gameplay to complete the entire story while also exploring every inch of the game to its fullest. Fifteen hours may not seem like a lot, but I think it’s perfect for a game of this type. Sometimes if a game goes on for too long, it drags on and I lose interest.
What’s great is that the Guacamelee! Bundle Fantástico also includes El Diablo’s Domain DLC, which is a series of challenges which will test your abilities. Completing these challenges will yield new costumes that you can use in the main game. This easily adds hours and hours of additional gameplay. Other bonuses included in the bundle are extra themes for the PS3, avatars for your profile, a costume pack, and of course the official soundtrack. That’s a lot of value for $19.99, considering the original game on its own was only $5 less. Also, lets not forget that this is a cross-buy so you’ll get both the PS3 and PS Vita versions of the game.
Look for Guacamelee! Bundle Fantástico out now in the PlayStation Network Store. Just remember, some of the bonus items will only apply to the PlayStation 3.