Monday 19 March 2018

Metroidvania sequel has loads more to offer


GUACAMELEE! probably should retain the distinction of having the greatest name in gaming.

Unfortunately it's hard to objectively compare names so we'll just stick with reviewing the game itself here. Guacamelee! remains just as amazing as it did in early 2013 when it could only be played on the PlayStation 3, Vita, or PC.

The 'Super Turbo Championship Edition' not only beefs up the visuals and adds a few tweaks here and there, it actually feels like more of a 1.5ish iteration of the game, giving you plenty of reasons to go back for more.

With some new tweaks, the inclusion of all its DLC, and an unexpectedly large chunk of all-new content, Juan's Metroidvania-style platforming adventure maintains that goofy undead luchadore heart and soul a bit longer.

Little changes, like life bars above enemies and the inclusion of silver coins that allow you to buy costumes in-game, are barely noticeable in the grand scheme of things. What's important are whole new areas of the map to explore, some never-before-seen enemies to fight, and even a new boss that works his way into cutscenes the overall story.

Guacamelee! definitely gets the nuts-and-bolts design mechanics that make games like Wario and Metroid work. The game world is expansive and interconnected, with obvious points in each early area that demand revisiting once you've gained new skills that allow for more extensive exploration.

And, as in Metroid, accessing deeper portions of the game doesn't revolve around finding widgets or key cards; there are no inventory items to juggle outside of a handful of sidequest-specific pickups. Instead, you gain entry to the game's later areas (and to secrets hidden within those early sections) by powering up your character. Each core ability protagonists Juan and Tostada gain allows them to break through different barriers or simply grants them the agility necessary to alight on out-of-reach areas.

With insane diffficulty levels sometimes becoming a little bit of an issue with Guacamelee, one key addition does make this iteration easier than the plain-old original. The Intenso ability, activated via its own gauge and by pressing both analogue sticks, is rather like the B.A.T. mode in Batman: Arkham City Armoured Edition, in that it makes you even more powerful for a short burst of time. It proves invaluable later in the game when combined with some other upgrades, and undoubtedly takes the edge off some punishing encounters. Purists can easily pretend it isn't there, but it does boost everyone's chances of seeing the end credits roll.

As fun in this beefed-up incarnation as in its original release, Guacamelee Super Turbo Champion Edition offers one of the best-designed and most original takes on the well-worn metroidvania phenomenon you'll ever find.

Enniscorthy Guardian