If the 2016 Deadpool movie taught us anything, it’s that self-referential humour sells. It also taught us a million other things that you can put in the comments below if so you wish, but the humour was definitely one of those things. Clean up the language, swap out the Marvel universe for Mexiverse and the merc with a mouth for an undead luchador who is also sometimes a chicken, and you have yourself Guacamelee! 2.
Guacamelee! 2 is an excellent game. It’s also the sequel to the 2013 hit Guacamelee!, which was, by most accounts, an excellent game. If the secret level ‘The Heart of Dankness’ is anything to go by, some found the humour too meme-y and self-referential, but Drinkbox dug deep, doubled down and released a possible contender for my favourite game of the year so far.
The game starts just before Guacamelee! ends — at the last boss fight. You play through that battle once more (on super-easy mode, obviously) as your introduction to the game, and then pick up seven years later as a family man. You, Juan, have grown a bit of a belly and hung up your mask to raise a family. You no longer have the ability to swap between the lands of the dead and the living, or turn into a chicken like you could back in 2013. It seems the recap you just experienced is Juan reminiscing about his glory days. But Juan is happy, as he heads out to pick up some avocados for his wife and kids.
All seems well until your old mentor arrives out of nowhere, explaining that the Mexiverse is under threat from these mysterious voids that are popping up across all of the different possible timelines. He explains that you are from ‘The Good Timeline’ and takes you to ‘The Darkest Timeline’, where you were swiftly killed before finishing the first game and someone else — Salvador — stepped up to beat the last boss. Salvador, once a hero, is now super evil and is threatening to destroy everything by eating the sacred guacamole. All of the other Juans are dead. You are the last Juan alive. You are the only Juan who can stop Salvador…
If your head is bursting at the laboured puns, walk away now. This is not the game you are you looking for. If you’re with me so far, strap in because I haven’t even started talking about the Chicken Illuminati yet. We’ll get onto that later.
So Juan embarks on his quest to save the Mexiverse, picking up all the powers he had before, and then some. These powers are mostly wrestling moves, as befitting your position as a luchador, and you use them to kill the hordes of undead that stand between you and saving the guacamole. You can then power up these skills by using them enough times and spending a tonne of in-game cash.
Guacamelee! 2 isn’t a particularly difficult game in terms of combat — your powers can become pretty over the top. Towards the end of the game, I turned myself into a giant invincible chicken and discovered that the hit counter caps out at 999 hits. What is difficult is using your powers to traverse the world. Since these powers allow you to double jump and then throw yourself in any direction you choose, inch by inch, Guacamelee! 2 becomes a metroidvania puzzle platformer when you’re not busy grappling with your enemies. You visit a string of dungeons and use your special moves to launch yourself across vast stretches of insta-kill spikes, chainsaws, lava pits etc. This part of the game requires a great level of skill and patience — but if Dark Souls taught us anything, it’s that we’re apparently gluttons for punishment. Some of these rooms are exceedingly difficult, and once I’ve submitted this review I’m going back and taking my team to beat them. It’s rare that I will make time for a game after reviewing it — there’s always the next game to review — but the fact that I want to go back and 100% this game is high praise indeed.
Moving past the gameplay, the game is a sensory wonder. The colours are bright and vivid, the music is pretty much what you would expect from a game with Guacamelee! in the title. Everything feels like a celebration, from breaking a piñata after winning a fight to breaking a Choozo statue — a reference to Metroid throughout the series, and one of about a million references to other games tucked away for those who love games as much as we do. Breaking these statues unlocks new powers, which is of course, cause for celebration — even the PS4’s controller gets involved, with the light bar flashing a range of colours to help you celebrate your level-up moment. This game is a genuine delight, start to finish.
Guacamelee! 2 doesn’t just rest on its laurels though — it has added a tonne of new rooster temples to power up your chicken powers, it has a chicken illuminati sub-story running which gives some extra content for those who really want to test their skill. There are also a bunch of hidden levels, like The Heart of Dankness, that I want to tell you all about. I wish I could tell you of the joy I had, gleefully calling my partner into the room to show her the timeline where you play a JRPG or do something else, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise — you can finish Guacamelee! 2 in about 12 hours, so I don’t want to give away anything else. This game supports up to 4 players too, so if you like couch co-op or be afraid to have a friend jump in if you think they can lend a hand. There are a whole host of costumes available, so discerning which Juan is which is pretty easy — unless one of you is a chicken darting across the screen of course, because that can be difficult to keep up with at the best of times.
If you like metroidvanias, skill-based games and games that are unashamed in their references, jokes and memes, you really need to play this game. It doesn’t take itself seriously, but it is genuinely challenging. The feeling you get when you finish a puzzle room that you’ve died 10 times trying to cross is fantastic, and the satisfaction of finishing a puzzle room without dying is just as real.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*
- Guacamelee! 2 is a lighthearted game you can easily dip in and out of
- The colours are bright, the music is fantastic, and even the controller gets in on the party vibe
- There is a genuine challenge here for anyone who wants on
- The challenge is real, so if you struggle with fast-paced puzzle platformers, you will likely struggle here too
- Some people hate puns, memes and referential humour — if that’s you, you will hate this game
- Some of the jokes do get a little tired towards the end of the game, but this is really just me just scraping the bottom of the avocado.