Following on from 2013’s critically acclaimed Gaucamelee!, Gaucamelee! 2 sees Juan return to once again save the Mexiverse in this sublimely designed Metroidvania from developers Drinkbox Studios.
Following a recap of the first game’s conclusion, in which you breeze through the final fight with the evil Calaca, we join a retired Juan seven years later. Having fetched some avocados from the local chapel (as you do), you find your hometown plagued by black voids and overrun by skeletons from another dimension. This opening sets a familiar tone for returning players, whilst welcoming newcomers by providing context for the adventure to come.
With it being almost exactly four years since I played the original, I was impressed how natural it felt to jump back into Juan’s luchador boots. The game’s bright and bold art style instantly drew me back in, while the perfectly attuned feel of every jump, dodge and punch threw me back into the eb and flow of platforming and combat with gratifying familiarity.
Considering the minimal exposition, Jaun’s adventure evolves into a clever exploration of the established world and characters and manages to deliver some emotionally impactful moments, which add a layer of investment into Juan’s journey and the game’s rich world.
Guacamelee! 2 may be one of the best paced games I’ve played. The rate at which new abilities are introduced and gold is earned to unlock new skills makes every action feel rewarding, constantly reaffirming your sense of progression.
The game’s Metroidvania structure is beautifully designed, teasing you with as yet inaccessible areas whilst providing level design which constantly guides you forward. Equally, the world map is complex enough to conceal secrets but simple enough to make backtracking clear and rewarding.
Instant restarts and conveniently placed checkpoints also prevent your momentum from diminishing, minimising frustration without detracting from either challenge or accomplishment. Juan’s “pollo powers”, which allow him to transform into a chicken, further deepen the platforming and combat, whilst providing plenty of comedic material. Additionally, an array of enemy types and variants add a tactical element to combat, making the order and manner in which you tackle a group of enemies a puzzle in of itself.
Over the course of Juan’s adventure you unlock an extensive range of ablities. Switching between falcon boosts, pollo glides and rooster uppercuts all while shifting realms and changing form between human and chicken rarely feels messy thanks to tight controls and a steady pace to new abilities being introduced. All of these mechanics work harmoniously, striking a perfectly balanced rhythm which allows every elements its own room to breath.
Perhaps my 11 hour journey to the game’s credits flew by due to such constant variety. Every new screen challenges you with new foes, level design, or way of utilising your abilities which keep you engaged, preventing complacency. This challenge usually feels relative to both Juan’s skills and your ability as a player, and the game does a great job of making you feel powerful and skillful, especially in its latter half.
However, some platforming section can be overly precise, seeming to require pixel precise skill or just pure luck. As I work through the endgame, mopping up trophies and striving for 100% completion, I’ve encountered a handful of platforming sections, some of which I’ve attempted at least a hundred times, that are seemingly impossible even with all skills unlocked. Despite this, the endgame provides several more hours of worthwhile content.
Much like the first game, Gaucamelee! 2 is packed with hidden areas and references to other games while maintaining its own very distinct identity. These easter eggs range from humorous nods, to fully realised levels with unique mechanics.
Influences from classics like Street Fighter and Final Fantasy to indie peers like Limbo and The Unfinished Swan, to name but a few, inspire some of the game’s most memorable moments. Unlike the first game, the humour and references this time round feels more contextual and substantial, an even its most absurd moments feel cohesive.
Other highlights come in the form of the game’s boss battles. Although relatively sparse, each multistage showdown feels unique and creatively constructed, challenging you to utilise your full range of platforming and combat skills.
The game also features local coop, allowing you to play the entire campaign with up to three other players. This is a great addition in theory, however practically you will need partners who are fully in tune with one another, especially during platforming sections, otherwise they may prove more of a hindrance than a help.
Guacamelee! 2 is a masterfully crafted Metroidvania game which improves upon every aspect of its predecessor. Gorgeous visual design and a ridiculous, self-aware sense of humour imbue this rich world with personality and the satisfying combat and challenging, varied platforming offer a constant sense of reward, making this a sublime experience which celebrates the pure fun and escapism of video games.
Guacamelee! 2 PS4 Review
Overall - Must Buy - 9.5/10
Guacamelee! 2 is a masterfully crafted Metroidvania game which improves upon every aspect of its predecessor. Gorgeous visual design and a ridiculous, self-aware sense of humour imbue this rich world with personality and the satisfying combat and challenging, varied platforming offer a constant sense of reward.
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Reviewed using base PS4.
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