With such a stellar year for blockbuster releases beginning to wind down, DrinkBox’s spicy sequel lands on the Nintendo Switch. On a platform stuffed with “Metroidvania” titles, can Guacamelee 2! still stand apart as it’s predecessor did all the way back in 2013?
Picking up with a truncated version of the prior game’s final boss to set the scene, our hero Juan (the world-saving Luchadore) is now a father and a husband. He’s also showing some “ring rust” – reflecting on his past glories and eating his family’s avocado supplies. When a cataclysmic event draws together several parallel universes, Juan is tasked with saving the world – no, wait, The Mexiverse.
What follows is a perfectly measured journey across a bright and colourful world which maintains the original’s gorgeously vibrant and cartoony colour palette and over-the-top animation. With the series referencing such a wealth of Mexican culture, it’s impressive that it manages to avoid overplaying tropes and never strays into stereotype territory. There is reverence here for a culture not explored by many video games, and Guacamelee! 2 is much better for it.
Another area in which Guacamelee! 2 succeeds is in its humour. While the original was mired in meme-culture and often outdated gags which often dragged its otherwise excellent slapstick sensibilities down, its sequel sees the self-referential dial turned up to eleven. There are nods to other video games, music, and movies but it never feels gratuitous. Dialogue is just as whimsical as you’d imagine for a story that revolves around a masked pro-wrestler’s battle for a Guacamole recipe, and the soundtrack and sound design both complement this perfectly. The clucking of chickens, the clopping of hooves, and the clotheslining of skeletons all fit the tone, against a backdrop of acoustic guitars and maracas.
Of course, as good as Guacamelee! 2 looks, this genre’s gameplay is king. Thankfully, DrinkBox has transplanted everything that made the original and the other console versions of the sequel onto the Switch. Minor niggles aside (while it can be activated both ways, the dodge roll feels less accurate with the right stick than it does with the left trigger), every screen is a puzzle to solve. Chaining Juan’s punches, kicks, and throws with dodging a special moves feels like a side-scrolling dance – the key is often to keep moving, but in more chaotic battles, one wrong move can cause a world of hurt.
The sign of a great “Metroidvania” is that its abilities are just as much fun to use and explore within combat or in exploration, and Guacamelee! 2 fulfils this criterion. Take the Rooster Uppercut for instance: unlocked very early in the story, it allows you to break through the shields of stronger enemies and send them flying. This can be chained with a throw to send them hurtling into another enemy or an environmental hazard. It can also allow you to break through certain areas of the map to progress or find secrets, while also acting as a charged jump to reach higher ledges. That’s just one move, and even if it had half the utility it would still be just as satisfying to use.
Playing in portable mode on the Switch, Guacamelee! 2’s bright colours make it a breeze to navigate platforms, while on docked mode it looks glorious and essentially the same as it’s my high-powered console counterpart. That said, the Joy-Con’s smaller face buttons can make things a little dicey in high-pressure scenarios – it’s down to personal preference but I’d recommend playing with the Pro Controller if at all possible.
Whichever controller setup you choose, Guacamelee! 2 can be played with up for three friends in four player co-op. What follows is a chaotic flurry of luchadores getting in each other’s way, but it’s nice to have the option. Playing with just two players may be more viable if you’re looking to complete the eight to ten-hour campaign.
In a year of incredible games within it’s its genre, Guacamelee! 2 stands just as tall on Switch as it does anywhere else. The way it adds new mechanics is perfectly paced but always presents a challenge as to how best to use them. Alongside Dead Cells and Hollow Knight it moonsaults its way to the top of the “Must Play” list for 2019. Dig into a festive fiesta this December – you’ll luchadore it (sorry).
Please note – this review is for the Switch version of Guacamelee 2. You can find our review for PS4/Xbox One here.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*