I do not hide it from you. For some years now, the writer has been increasingly fascinated by the independent videogame world. In an industry where even triple A productions are increasingly struggling to stay afloat or get noticed by the masses increasingly oriented towards the usual suspects, something had to change. I don't really define it as a change, but the more appropriate term in my opinion is coexistence. The evolution of a truly passionate gamer resides in my opinion precisely in this term. The main and mainstream road is the one taken by the big manufacturers who, being able to afford to invest large sums of money in their productions, will continue to offer us titles capable of using all the latest technologies that the market will make available to them. The other way is instead represented by all those minor studios, sometimes even composed of a single person who obviously do not have the economic availability of the big producers. This avenue is represented by indie developers. This now large independent video game market, thanks to digital download, has offered the right opportunities to get noticed by all these small developers and not infrequently we found ourselves in front of small great pearls of style and playability, capable of entertaining and thrilling us. like the great titles with a disproportionate economic budget. At E3 2012 one of the indie titles that managed to grab my attention was Guacamelee!, video game developed by Drinkbox Studios, authors of the good 2D platformer with environmental puzzles Tales from Space: About a Blob, of which the sequel has also been made. Guacamelee !, thanks to its two-dimensional graphic-artistic style and its classic action-platform gameplay with beat'em up elements, immediately managed to count my attention. Today, with Guacamelee! finally available exclusively on the PSN I finally managed to get rid of this terrible curiosity that had been gripping me for almost a year now! Was the wait worth it? Little big pearl of the independent market or a product that has been crushed by its ambition? Let's find out!
Version tested: PlayStation Vita
Once upon a time in Mexico ...
Mexico. Terra caliente, land of siesta, muchachite, tequila but above all land of lucha libre! In Guacamelee! our adventure will begin in Pueblucho, a small town in the middle of the hot Mexican desert that is supported by agriculture and simple traditions. We will play the role of Juan, a big boy of two meters, a farmer who lives in a modest and small house with melancholy painted on his face. His melancholy expression certainly does not go unnoticed, a symbol of a sadly abandoned desire. The small community of Pueblucho is in turmoil and preparations for an important anniversary are in full swing. This anniversary is "Los dias de los muertos" or the feast of the dead. Summoned to help by the priest, Juan goes to the church of the city to carry out some tasks that have been assigned to him and thus learns that for this important anniversary El Presidente with his beautiful daughter have also returned to the country. Daughter that Juan seems to know very well as childhood friends. Unfortunately, what video game would it be if it were all pink and flowers? During the preparations for the party, the terrible villain of Guacamelee will enter! accompanied by his terrible as funny gang of villains: Carlos Calaca, the lord of the realm of the dead. With a “truly original” idea, this scoundrel will destroy El Presidente's villa and kidnap his beloved daughter. Without showing delay, Juan will rush into the ruins of the villa to try to rescue the beautiful muchachite, but the only thing he will find there is her death at the hands of Carlos Calacas. Game over? Obviously not. Awaken us in the kingdom of the dead the mysterious luchador with the fuchsia mask Tosada will give us a great blue mask that, in addition to making us come back to life in the world of the living, will give us all the courage and all the strength of which the fearless heart is capable. of a great Mexican luchador and the tattoo on Juan's large chest that we will show off throughout the course of the adventure will always keep this in mind. The world of the living has now been invaded by the armies of the kingdom of the dead and Carlos Calaca is now on the run intent on gaining dominion over the kingdom of the living and to succeed in his task what he needs is a sacrificial virgin. It will then be up to us throw ourselves into the fun enterprise of rescuing El Presidente's beautiful daughter and thwarting Calaca's evil plans.
The plot, even if it does not shine for originality, is developed in a really fun and ironic way thanks to nice protagonists who wink at some characters from comics and the world of cartoons and thanks to often irreverent, hilarious and full of quotes. less evident from the world of video games and films (impossible not to think of Rocky when dealing with hens and chickens, ed). Even going around the game world you will often come across advertising billboards filled with clear quotes that will often make us smile. Let's not waste any more time, let's go save the beautiful muchachita!
Style and technique of a true luchador
The game world of Guacamelee! it is not very large. The locations we will visit will be a forest, a desert, a snowy sierra, two small towns and four dungeons consisting of a sacred tree and three temples. However, what is striking about the settings is certainly the artistic style with which they were made. The characters that move on the screen and the main contour elements blend well with the excellently designed backgrounds, which despite being very simple it is thanks to this characteristic that they give to Guacamelee! a unique and original artistic style which in some sections has managed to evoke in my mind the images of that pixel art masterpiece that is Sword & Sorcery. Always talking about the backgrounds, the feeling you get is that of being in front of brushes of pastel colored watercolors that go well with the more decisive colors of the various settings and the main ornamental figures such as statues of various kinds, trees, and ancient Mayan and Inca ruins that characterize even more the Mexican atmosphere. Another element capable of reminding us that our adventure is set in the torrid Mexican lands, are the hieroglyphs that we will find inside the various temples that recall the Aztec ones in style and also give the various dungeons a particular mystical aura.
During our journey we will also have the power to shift in real time between the world of the living and the world of the dead and every time we do it, our action will be underlined by the sudden change of tones with which the two worlds are represented. We will move from the warm colors of the world of the living, characterized by a greater use of reds, oranges, yellows and celestials, to decidedly colder shades of the world of the dead represented through a greater use of shades of purple and green. Even the block making of the various characters is spot on and successful and blends very well with the world of Guacamelee! Furthermore, in their simplicity these turn out to be well characterized and in such a small and apparently simple production it is also nice to find a certain care on the part of Drinkblox Studios poured into the ironic and funny dialogues. Our adventure in a small world so well characterized will not be easy and will put us in front of more and more difficult difficulties as we go forward to try to avert the terrible threat of Carlos Calaca. Guacamelee's 2d action-platforming structure! can easily fall under the term of metroidvania. While not boasting the structural complexity of the various levels of a two-dimensional Castlevania or a 2D Metroid, the key to success in Guacamelee! resides in the exploration of the various areas and dungeons, therefore backtracking phases will often be required to be able to obtain new physical enhancements such as health and stamina and new devastating techniques essential for the continuation in the main plot. If you are reluctant to relentless exploration, do not worry because we are not faced with the intricate structure of the aforementioned various Metroid or Castlevania. In Guacamelee! this feature has been considerably resized in favor of a decidedly more linear scaffolding and in fact we will never run the risk of getting lost and not knowing where to go. On the contrary, if you expect the complexity of the aforementioned titles you may be a little disappointed, but in any case both the system put up by Drinkbox Studios turns out to be cured and well studied, characteristics that make the title truly enjoyable by anyone. Some upgrades can instead be purchased in shops that we will find scattered throughout the various levels of the game and will also act as checkpoints. In this shop, after an outlay of money collected thanks to the killing of the various enemies, we will be able to buy both physical upgrades for health and resistance and devastating holds such as the classic Piledriver and Supplex, techniques that every self-respecting luchador must know how to master. What has been said therefore implies that in walking our arduous path as fearless warriors we will find ourselves facing hand-to-hand clashes. The hub of Guacamelee! it is in fact represented by the numerous fights with enemies, Calaca's minions and by the very successful stages of platforming. In Guacamelee! the hands are often beaten. If at the beginning of the game Juan will be able to throw only simple punches, by pressing the square button and to perform a simple jump by pressing x, continuing we will get more and more skills useful both for the purpose of the fight and the discovery of new reachable areas through backtracking, they will lead us to the conquest of hidden treasures and allow us to advance towards the end of the game. We will learn these techniques by breaking Choozo statues, a reference to Metroid. As soon as we disintegrate one of these sculptures, our great and irreverent master of embarrassing punishments will appear, first in the form of a goat and then a human, who, in addition to teaching us the new skill just discovered, will show a great interest in Juan's mother. These techniques are associated with a specific color and will come in handy when we encounter huge blocks of colored stone that will block our progress. Therefore, using the right technique of the respective color of the stone boulder we will be able to disintegrate it and proceed where the passage was previously obstructed. Obviously, these blows will not only serve this, but will also serve to defeat the various types of enemies that we will encounter on our way.
In Guacamelee !, in addition to a good care of the graphics sector, we will also be able to find fun in hand-to-hand clashes thanks to a range of enemies that, although not aesthetically very varied, will be able to give us a hard time thanks to the successful combat structure that we will face. In Guacamelee! our enemies will be skeletons, dragons that spit fireballs, carnivorous plants, stinging kacti, explosive puffers, skulls with sabers or huge hammers, shaman skulls and giant skulls with brute force capable of killing us with a single blow. The Guacamelee Combat System! turns out to be very simple and easy to learn: with the square button we will deliver normal blows, by pressing the triangle at the right moment we will enter the melee mode where we can perform, by pressing a precise direction and the circle button, a powerful projection. Also associated with the direction plus circle key command sequence are some of the special techniques that we will learn during the trip, while some, three to be precise, will be associated with the direction plus triangle command and double pressure of the x key. In addition to breaking the colored blocks, our special techniques will serve us to knock down the enemies covered by a colored aura that will shatter only if hit with the technique associated with the respective color of the barrier. A coordination between dodges, which can be performed via the left backbone or the right analogue button, and the right special techniques combined with normal attacks will become fundamental in the most chaotic situations where we will have to take down a multitude of enemies covered by protective barriers of different colors and it is precisely on these occasions that Guacamelee! it shows itself in all its fun. In addition to these abilities, unfortunately not numerous, the power to switch in real time from the world of the living to that of the dead and vice versa must also be added. This skill will be very useful for overcoming the excellent and sometimes evil level design of the game that enemies from the two different worlds. In fact, in many fights we will often have to change world as there will be enemies in both universes, but if, for example, while we can be hit by an attack launched by a monster that is in the opposite world to ours, we will not be able to do the same and we will therefore have to activate this power, by pressing the right backbone, in order to then kill the villain. Although the feasible combinations are few, as are the various techniques and skills that we will learn during the adventure, the great variety and dynamism of the situations set up by Drinkbox Studios will keep the involvement and above all the fun high for the whole adventure. There will also be the classic Boss fights of increasing difficulty and well calibrated where it will be necessary to learn the various attack patterns to be able to have the best. Applause for the characterization of the various bosses who will be able to be appreciated even with a few lines of dialogue thanks to a strong irony and self-irony and a good aesthetic characterization. To make life as luchadores complicated, a level design will come to the aid of Carlos Calaca that will become more and more complicated as the title progresses. To overcome the various increasingly difficult platform sections, the player will necessarily have to assimilate the various game commands very well as to overcome certain areas, maniacal coordination will be required to chain together the different special techniques of Juan. These techniques will allow us to overcome jumps and difficulties that at first glance will seem impossible, but that with the old practice of trial & error, can be surpassed by generating in the gamer that pleasant and satisfying feeling of satisfaction and power deriving from a healthy dose of challenge. Also in these cases the power to switch in real time from one world to another will be useful as the supports on which we will have to jump to overcome the various areas will be allocated a little in the world of the living and a little in the world of the dead. Combine this characteristic with the use of the various techniques of Juan in series and here is revealed why a fairly high brain-hand coordination will be necessary. However, do not be discouraged by the medium-high level of challenge of the title and by the trial & error terminology. In Guacamelee! we die enough, but the character's respawn will happen immediately in the zone causing our death or in the immediate vicinity. If on the one hand this gimmick avoids peaks of frustration thus averting the danger of performing a supplex to your beloved PS Vita, on the other hand it dampens the level of difficulty too much. This is certainly not a big flaw, on the contrary, but perhaps in the more advanced stages of the game a greater dose of "bastardiness" would not have hurt. In the later stages of the game then, again to overtake certain areas we will have to use portals that wink heavily at that masterpiece of playability that is Portal. The elements that characterize Guacamelee! They are certainly not innovative, but the perfect amalgamation between combat system and level design thanks to environmental challenges from extreme platforming and always various fights give the game a pleasant freshness and a high rate of fun that last for the entire duration of the adventure personally ended in six hours by finding all the upgrades, but only a part of the hidden treasures. Although the hours are relatively few, considering the 12,99 euros that are needed to buy the game, the value for money still seems good to me, especially also considering the fact that there are productions at a much higher price, but with the same duration.
Small details make the difference
Guacamelee! it certainly does not offer a great package in terms of content as this is entirely composed of the main adventure. But it is precisely the story mode that thanks to its freshness and the fun it gives us to let Guacamelee in! among the best independent productions of 2013. As initially said, the Mexican characterization of the setting is really successful and this is also due to an irresistible soundtrack that blends electronic bases with the classic sounds of Mexican instruments such as castanets, trumpets, and fanfare that make up the classic melodies of the land of tequila. . How the Mariachi represents one of the most famous and traditional symbols of Mexican culture, in Guacamelee! this role of absolute importance for the characterization of the setting is represented by the very nice soundtrack. Then add it to the curated setting and here the picture of a good production is almost complete. Another important detail is the total localization of the title which thus makes the title understandable in all its ironic verve truly essential. Always talking about technical realization, the game is always fluid and even in the most crowded and chaotic situations or in the platform sections where we will have to quickly chain special techniques and often switch from the world of the dead to that of the living and vice versa Guacamelee! he will never show uncertainty just as a true luchador would do when faced with his enemy. Even the collisions of the blows and with the various surfaces turn out to be precise, the sound effects of punches, various techniques, holds and consequent slams do their job well and the animations of both Juan and his enemies are fluid, excellently made and deliberately blatant. . After all, we know that an excellent luchador must also be able to guarantee a high level of spectacle to the public. Among the various skills of our hero then there is one that absolutely deserves all our attention as it is essential to advance in the game and find the various collectibles scattered here and there around the map: the transformation into chicken. This nice skill will allow us to pass through very narrow holes and therefore impossible to overcome in the human likeness of a luchador. On Guacamelee! I have told you almost everything. To complete the picture of this fun title there are also several features such as cross-buy, cross-save and cross-controller. Buying Guacamelee! from PSN we will be able to pass it from Ps3 to PS Vita or vice versa and thanks to the save function through the cloud system we will be able to resume our adventure from where we left off from both PlayStation3 and PS Vita. Also thanks to the cross-controller feature, playing on PlayStation3 we will be able to constantly view the map of the various levels of Guacamelee! on the PS Vita screen.Verdict 8/10 Metroid with the luchadores Comment Guacamelee! turns out to be a really nice and fresh title, cared for in every single aspect. From the very successful and refined graphic aspect to give originality and a soul of its own to the game world, passing through a variety of remarkable situations in which the player's skills will be tested, up to a funny soundtrack and ironic dialogues and sharp, everything is of remarkable workmanship. Obviously the title is not free from defects such as a real originality in the gameplay, a total duration that could be increased by at least another couple of hours and a somewhat limited combo list, but while in other titles these could be serious shortcomings, in Guacamelee !, thanks to Drinkbox Studios' skill in structuring the game itself, they turn out to be small smudges that reduce the final vote of the production to that of a good title, but not a masterpiece. Despite this, the 6 hours that the title offers us are of great quality and recommended to all lovers of 2d action-platform metroidvania style and not because you listen to me, being even if only for a little while a Mexican luchador is damn fun. Considering also the 12,99 euros necessary to purchase the title, then the palatability increases further. The cards on the table for a more original and long-lived sequel are all there and Drinkbox Studios has once again proved to be a small independent company of great talent so we are waiting for a real masterpiece with a capital C. Good lucha! Pros and cons ✓ Original and successful graphic style
✓ Excellent level design
✓ Varied gameplay ..... x Limited longevity
x Few combos available
x ... but not original