Guacamelee! Hands-On Preview

Battling enemies in two different dimensions.

This metroidvania-style action-platformer stars a down-on-his-luck Mexican trying to save the world with nothing but spandex tights, a luchador mask, and his own fists and feet. Oh, and there’s also his ability to switch between dimensions at will. Guacamelee! stands out among the other indie titles shown at PAX East 2012, and is something that indie lovers may want to keep an eye on.

During my hands-on time with Guacamelee!, it quickly became apparent just how important switching dimensions will be, even though I only had access to one alternative in the Xbox 360 demo. Certain dimensions have platforms and walls that don’t exist in the others, forcing skillful use of dimensional shifts in order to traverse each map. Not all enemies are found in the same realm either, and although you can’t hurt them while their silhouettes signify immunity, they can still hurt you.

Switching dimensions isn’t the only way that combat and platforming intermingle in Guacamelee!, as certain areas of the game can only be accessed through the use of special attacks. In an interesting level design decision, to keep players from being left in the dark at these moments, button commands can be found etched into the floors, walls, and ceilings for whatever maneuvers must be performed to achieve success. When not using the special moves for those purposes, attacks can be unleash to do serious harm to opponents, launching them into the air for big combos or slamming them hard into the ground to show them who’s boss.

Using special attacks to reach platforms.

Despite using the old “save the world” theme, the game knows when to keep things lighthearted and comical. Guacamelee! is filled with colorful characters, notable even in my short demo. A grumpy old temple guardian who can transform himself into a goat, a giant rude chicken that scoffs at your discovery of his secret hiding spot, and the level’s villain: a flame-headed gunman who at one point gets so excited to fight the hero, Juan Aguacate, that he empties his six-shooters into the ground while taunting him.

The game’s art direction presents each dimension in a unique style that jumps out at the player with vibrancy and liveliness. The modern Aztec/Mexican culture bleeds through the hues, shades, architecture, and environments found throughout every level. It’s clear that developer Drinkbox Studios wants to pay homage to the game’s setting and inspiration, and so far it looks like they’re achieving that goal.

Juan doesn’t have to save the world alone. Two-player, same-screen co-op allows a friend to jump into the fray and help defeat the forces of evil. However, having a partner also means being able to coordinate and properly time both platforming and dimensional shifts. Jump the gun before a partner is ready, and one or both players will end up all the way back to the beginning of the platforming segment, but if the two players can find a rhythm, bashing apart skeletal hoards and big baddies will be that much easier.

Guacamelee! is coming together to be a unique and entertaining entrant into the 2D sidescroller genre. Drinkbox hopes to see a release by the end of the year.


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Author: Mike Murphy View all posts by
Mike has been playing games for over two decades. His earliest memories are of shooting ducks and stomping goombas on NES, and over the years, the hobby became one of his biggest passions. Mike has worked with GamerNode as a writer and editor since 2009, giving you news, reviews, previews, a voice on the VS Node Podcast, and much more.

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