Ever stop playing a game for a few days to jump onto something else, come back, and you haven’t got the first clue how anything works anymore? I had that with Guacamelee 2.
That’s probably not the most sensible opening line to go with when talking about a game you like. You’re probably thinking ‘It’s too complicated.” “Sounds too much.” Or more likely “This guy is an idiot and hasn’t got the first clue how to play games, why did he get this amazing game early?”
But there is a point to this. Because 2D / 2.5D platformers have become so ambitious over the last fifteen years you really can’t just ‘dip-in-and-out’ anymore. Gone are the days of a two-button genre, rather these are games with so much more substance that they deserve, nay command, your undivided attention.
And in a year which has seen the fantastic Tropical Freeze return, as well as the exquisite Celeste, phenomenal Dead Cells, and superb Hollow Knight, amazingly, Guacamelee 2 continues to show off one of gaming’s oldest genres in fresh and exciting ways.
Rock out with your Guac out
Guacamelee 2 isn’t massively different from its predecessor in terms of how the core experience plays out. It’s still a Metroidvania in that you need to unlock certain abilities to bypass certain areas. You also punch and suplex lots of things, celebrate Mexican culture and listen to chickens tell jokes.
Where you’ll notice the first big difference is in the graphics. Guacamelee 2 has a new rendering engine and offers a significant step up in quality as a result. Both in terms of its rich colour palette but also in the background detail and character models. The animations are smooth, the lighting flickers marvellously, and the attention to detail is, at times, staggering. Easily one of the brightest and most vibrant platformers on the market right now.
Guacamelee 2 just oozes personality and charisma, both in terms of its aesthetic, but also in its writing. Drinkbox have certainly found their voice with this sequel and the humour is absolutely on-point. In fact, the first twenty minutes reads like a who’s who of nods, references and winks to the games’ influences and pop culture in general. It’s hilarious.
It all starts with an out of shape Juan living his best life with family. He’s got two kids with El Presidente’s daughter now and has long retired the mask, thinking his fighting days are behind him. But when another Lucahdor threatens to tear the fabric of the Mexiverse, he’s back supplexing and dropkicking before you can say dia de los muertos.
And this feeds back into my original point about the controls because Juan has not only remembered his old moves but added a bunch of new ones as well. He can change form into a chicken at any point and even switch dimensions with a quick press of R2. When you’re pulling combos together, while trying to progress through the stages, Guacamelee 2 gets VERY busy and occasionally overwhelming because you end up with so many different combinations and possibilities to keep in your memory bank.
In that regard, it’s certainly towards the top of the pyramid of toughest platformers. Just when you think you’ve mastered it, Drinkbox throw another curveball your way. Whether it’s encountering one of the five masters who offer you new fighting abilities, or a new type of block for you to break through, or a tougher enemy, or meeting a familiar character. Guacamelee 2 absolutely thrives on disrupting your playthrough at every turn which makes it very difficult, not only to put down, but to keep up with the tempo.
Guacamelee 2 is also huge and absolutely chock-full of secrets and optional objectives. To the point where you’ll start passing them by because you just want to see the story unfold because it’s so well written. And because you’ll keep earning abilities deep into the game, naturally there’ll be lots to go back and revisit because you couldn’t do anything beforehand.
With the 4 player drop-in and drop-out co-op on top of that as well, Guacamelee 2 is just everything a sequel should be. It improves on the original in just about every conceivable way, puts you in some challenging, difficult situations, but is never overly unfair. Most importantly, it’s just damn good fun.
Guacamelee 2 is a stunning, slick platformer and a more than worthy successor to one of last-generation’s finest gems.
+ Absolutely stunning graphics through the new engine
+ Tight mechanics offer some creative sequences
+ Firm but fair difficulty
+ Full of content
+ Effortlessly entertaining and charismatic
+ Four player is crazy fun
– Tough challenge will be offputting for some
– Some lag and slowdown when alternating between dimensions
9 out of 10
Tested on PS4
Code provided by the publisher