New Game Review

Review – Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition (Switch)

Get out your bag of chips, because this batch is fresh.

Guacamelee initially released back in 2014 and as huge as I am on platformers, I never got around to playing it. I might have been in my annual “Beat all the Final Fantasy games in no particular order” phase, but for whatever reason, I simply didn’t get to it. So when Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition, the updated version of the original (more enemies/worlds/abilities) was announced for the Switch, I made sure to jump on the opportunity as quickly as possible. Let me just say, I was unquestionably missing out on a complete gem all this time.

guacstare
If you smeeeeelllll, what the Guac, is cookin!

Whether it be from a 2D or 3D perspective, platforming is simply getting from point A to point B by any means necessary. This allows an limitless creative palate on the game designer’s side. One of the best examples is Super Mario Bros. on the NES. The game starts off simple yet fun; used more like an introduction to the game to get the player comfortable. As the levels and worlds progress, the platforming and enemy placement requires the average player to be more patient and take their time. The remarkable thing about Super Mario Bros. is the game only has two power-ups: the fire-flower and the star. Oddly enough, these power-ups have no effect on the game’s platforming and are only means of clearing enemies at more ease. Later Mario installments would swiftly catch on and implement more power-ups and more thought-provoking platforming puzzles.

There are two styles of gameplay in Guacamelee: beat-em up and platforming. Regrettably, the two are only at certain times combined. Both styles are immensely enjoyable, but only one progressively gets better as you conclude the game, while the other just kind of stays the same throughout. As you progress through the story, you unlock more abilities: uppercut, head-bash, body-slam, and dash-punch (as well as wall running, double jumping and flying, but those pertain to the platforming aspect). These abilities are color coded and are needed to break specifically colored blocks to unlock areas and to break the colored shields of enemies before they take damage. Note that if an enemy is silhouetted, it cannot be damaged unless you transverse into the undead world. It’s a very interesting take, unfortunately what I just mentioned is all there is to it to the beat-em-up aspect. You can mess around with different combos, but its more merely for enjoyment; it all does the same damage.

guackitty
Innuendo, puns, humor. It has it all.

The platforming is what makes Guacamelee as fun as it is. It starts out simple yet fun, but when you unlock the aforementioned abilities, the game’s difficulty amps up and requires patience and planning out. It sounds like I went into more detail into the fighting than I did the platforming, but make no mistake, it’s not easy to put the difficulty into visual perspective. Some of the late game platforming took me a while to crack, but I felt great having done so.

With a title like Guacamelee, you primarily worry that this game might be poking fun at Mexican culture, but very early on you are reassured that it absolutely respects it by making the entire game revolve around it. Had they done references here and there, they could have been perceived as a racial stereotype. But because it is the complete focus, it’s a cultural appreciation and celebration. I know little to nothing about the culture, but I know enough to understand it isn’t blown out of proportion. You play as Juan, the silent Agave farmer turned beefy (yet still silent) Luchador as you set out to rescue your true love, having been apprehended by Carlos Calaca, an evil skeleton that plans to sacrifice her so that he can rule the soon united worlds of the living and undead. Being a metroidvania style platformer, you’ll venture through a large interconnected world map and backtrack to certain areas that are unlocked with learned abilities. You also transform into a chicken, I’ll just…leave that there.

For a 2D game, Guacamelee is a visual spectacle to observe. The art style replicates exquisitely hand drawn visuals with stand-out combinations of crisp pulsating colors that make every screen and world explode with character and life. Don’t get me wrong, 3D graphics today are unreal (Red Dead Redemption 2 is just ridiculous in its attention to detail), but when a 2D game looks as good as this, its hits more nostalgically.  As far as the music and sound effects go: it’s simply phenomenal. Numerous classical Mexican culture soundtracks with techno beats mixed in periodically, your entire journey is a harmonious pleasure to play through because the tracks are just that exceptionally good.

guacability
How could I ever a forget a move name like that?

I really regret not playing Guacamelee when it first released, but from what I understand, the Super Turbo Championship Edition is a massive improvement of an already fantastic game. You can spend hidden silver coins and purchase new outfits that have different effects to give you a different experience (whether easier or more difficult), though I went through the entire game standard. The excellent platforming overwhelmingly overshadows the combat, but the total package is an outright joy to play. Taking me seven hours to beat the game (incompletely), it is on the short side, but the amount of fun you’ll have plus the $14.99 price tag will make it well worth picking up.

 

Graphics: 9.5

Crisp color combinations and beautifully hand-drawn, it really stands out for a 2D game.

Gameplay: 8.5

Abilities focused on one button + direction and responsiveness make it approachable for all.

Sound: 10

Combat sounds are pleasant to the ear, but what stands out is the excellent soundtrack that really hits the environment perfectly.

Fun Factor: 9.0

Combat is fun, but is limited to a certain number of combos. Platforming is one of the best I’ve seen in a while.

Final Verdict: 9.0

Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition is available now on Switch, Xbox One, PS4, and PC.

A copy of Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition was provided by the publisher.

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