Review: Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition

Will an evil undead musician bring together the worlds of the living and the dead in some sort of eternal nightmare? Only you can stop him in Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition!

By Iain Farrell. Posted 07/28/2014 13:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Creating an amazing world; great controls; a really challenging gameplay loop; references to some of the greatest games ever made.
Poison Mushroom for...
There are moments towards the end where the difficulty curve is slightly too steep.

I first played Guacamelee last year on my PS Vita. I was keen to get my hands on a game which had some of the characteristics of Metroid and Castlevania but with all the creature comforts of modern gaming. Unfortunately, I struggled to get into it and I think the issue was the platform. The Vita is an odd shaped thing to hold for a long time and the combat felt fiddly on the portable system.

Fast forward to now and the Super Turbo Championship Edition is a breath of fresh air. Playing Guacamelee on a TV, or even the GamePad thanks to seamless Off-TV Play, gives this beautiful world more room to breathe. Guacamelee wants you to know it was made by a group that loves games and gaming, which might explain the title of this enhanced edition. From an opening which very clearly references Ocarina of Time and the wealth of posters in the background, to sections of the game that actually use the combat and movement to mimic the mechanics of other games, Guacamelee nods to its brethren. The game makes extensive use of a mechanic reminiscent of the best 2D Zelda titles and familiar sounding riffs feature in the music from time to time. It’s pleasing, and a significant achievement then, that none of this is at the expense of Guacamelee’s own identity.

Co-op play

Guacamelee has a story to tell, moves to teach you, a hero’s shoes for you to fill, and a big baddie for you to overcome so it gets the pleasantries out of the way efficiently to make way for playing the game proper. Once you’re up and running that momentum propels you forward through a game that’s always taking you to new places and teaching you new techniques. You’re rarely stopped from moving for long if you don’t want to be. Even when the game presents you with a situation that seems impassable there’s a solution staring at you or you can usefully backtrack and fill in a side quest or two. At its most challenging you can almost feel the development team testing you. Come on, Neo. Try and hit me! For the most part they achieve a balance; you feel just the right amount of powerful, in control of the new abilities you’re learning and like you’re making progress.

The combat is fun to pick up but deep enough that as you progress to taking out rooms of complex enemies rather than the odd one or two, you do feel like you’re achieving a level of mastery. You can just button-mash your way through the game if you like but take the time to use your special abilities for more than simply smashing blocks and you start to realise you can dispatch certain enemies more easily if you use certain types of attack. This becomes crucial later in the game as some enemies overtly protect themselves with coloured shields that require you use a certain type of attack before you can do them any damage. That’s where the rapid respawn is a key part of Guacamelee’s success. When random enemy encounters become chambers where enemies spawn at you in a certain order, a failure usually results in you figuring out how you need to beat this particular section of the game, and getting back in quickly means you don’t tire in search of a solution. It keeps you in the game and reminded me of the way that Halo made what would have been a monster closet in a less imaginative title into part puzzle, part action game. It’s very satisfying. Speaking of satisfying, the act of moving is this game is a joy. The physics of jumping, the way your character feels interacting with the world, fighting and performing pixel perfect jumps, it just feels spot on. And with the newly added powered up Intenso mode it’s even more important that your moves feel like they’re being executed properly because when you’re powered up everything’s even faster.

On your colourful journey you’re treated to a cast of engaging characters, some really funny dialogue, statues to smash, and a difficulty curve which for me only really stepped too far in the final hour or so of my first play through. Better yet, you can bring a friend. In an age where couch co-op play is in dangerous decline, Guacamelee reminded me of some of the great all time screen sharing games. In a way that’s more Double Dragon than Donkey Kong Country. The final cherry on the cake are creature comforts I talked about earlier. Silky smooth framerate, stunning parallax scrolling visuals, nippy load times, and helpful pointers on the game map to stop you getting lost. And while there were elements of the combat and difficulty that felt a bit random, I had a brilliant time with it. Were it a $60 boxed game, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. The fact that it’s available to you instantly and for less than half that, well, I don’t need to finish that sentence, because you’re not reading anymore.

Feel powerful in the world of Guacamelee

Please do show this game some support on your Wii U. Aside from it being a cracking investment, and a game that pays homage to our hobby without losing itself in the references, you’ll also be showing Nintendo and independent studios like Drinkbox that we want these sorts of games on our system. Everyone’s a winner.

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