Guacamelee! 2 is an action adventure platformer available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. DrinkBox Studios was founded in April 2008 by several members of the development team from the closed Pseudo Interactive who had developed Cel Damage, Crash and Full Auto; after the company unfortunately had to close despite having three projects in development. DrinkBox Studios was formed to develop unique gaming experiences which resulted in the creation of their first game Tales From Space: About A Blob released on PS3 in February 2011 followed by a sequel titled Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack which released on Vita in February 2012 and still to this day remains one of the highest rated Vita games of all time, while Guacamelee! was DrinkBox’s third game which released on Vita and PS3 in April 2013 followed by an enhanced version for PS4 in July 2014 titled Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition. DrinkBox Studios’ fourth game arrived in 2016 in the form of a timed exclusive on Vita titled Severed that was later ported to a variety of platforms. Can Guacamelee! 2 improve upon the superb Guacamelee! and Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition?

The story begins with a brief recap of the events that occurred in Guacamelee! Seven years after the finale of Guacamelee!, everything is peaceful for Juan and his family until a new hostile enemy arrives that threatens the very fabric of time in itself in the form of Salvador who wants to eat the Sacred Guacamole to give him powers, although the recipe is hidden in three magical relics that have been scattered throughout the Mexiverse.

Character design is just as amazing as the prequel with such characters as the heroic luchador Juan and his family and friends, Tostada and their mentor Uay Chivo who is capable of transforming into a goat or human form to teach Juan and Tostada new moves and skills. There are numerous enemies to encounter during environments and lucha battles such as small and large skeletons that vary in their attack patterns, smaller enemies that are not skeletons, but are fast in their movement, dragons and many more besides with all of the enemies looking completely unique from one another; showing great strength in enemy design.

Environment design is unbelievably as good as the first game, despite that having set a high bar of quality. Environments are partially Mexican themed in areas, but are far more diverse in themes in comparison to the prequel such as Aztec themes that really differentiate the environments. As previously seen in Guacamelee!; there are vast amounts of areas that have particular colour co-ordinated objects that prevent Juan from progressing in that general direction for the time being until a specific punch or special move is learned such as a powerful uppercut to breakthrough red objects. Dimension swapping plays a big part in platforming gameplay as portals are utilised to swap between dimensions before learning the ability to do so at will later on as certain areas require Juan and his allies to switch from one dimension were a platform does not exist to the other dimension were it does exist and then back again and so on until you have reached the peak of your vertical climb towards the next area. There are other environments such as the lucha battles were Juan will be attacked by multiple enemies simultaneously with some of the enemies only capable of being damaged and repelled from one dimension and the rest of the enemies in the other dimension.

Abilities essentially elevate the gameplay to another level in comparison to the majority of platformers. Juan can learn abilities by destroying ancient statues that produces another Uay Chivo mentor to teach Juan how to perform a different special move or technique. For instance, the player needs to obtain the eagle boost ability for higher jumps in order to reach each platform on the ascent towards the Jade Temple that is otherwise impossible to climb. Elsewhere, learning the wall jump ability is the only method to overcome a significant height without a platform as it allows the player to jump from one wall onto the other whilst simultaneously progressing up a vertical space. However, there is also an in-game skills store in which five characters will teach Juan half a dozen or so abilities each in return for a certain quantity of gold and attaining particular objectives. For instance, the first ability that is capable of being purchased is an increase in health by a full heart at a price of 2,000 gold, while further abilities include an increase in stamina costs 3,500 gold, although a more powerful 3 hit combo attack will cost 3,750 gold and the objective of using a 3 hit combo on 150 enemies must be achieved. Gold is the form of in-game currency that is earned through defeating enemies, destroying piñatas after successfully completing lucha battles and opening treasure chests.

DrinkBox Studios’ trademark humour previously seen in Tales from Space: About A Blob, Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack and Guacamelee! makes a welcome return from very early on when Juan walks past a poster in one of the rooms in his house that depicts a large sized mutant blob. Even the first objective is to find avocados to complete his families’ taco meal as Juan has eaten too many. When travelling to the darkest timeline; Juan finds himself in the baddest timeline comprising of retro stylised backgrounds and billboards such as Triple Dragon, a play on words of the title of popular retro beat ‘em up Double Dragon.

It is disappointing to not see a Vita release for Guacamelee! 2, especially given that the first Guacamelee! is of a genuinely high quality on Vita, while it is also DrinkBox’s first game to not be released on Vita, although remote play is somewhat of a small consolation in comparison to a Vita native port. Guacamelee! 2’s remote play performance is excellent in some places and good in others as the graphics, audio and general performance maintains the quality of the PS4 version. However, the essential remote play control optimisation is non-existent as the often required dodge of certain enemies is mapped to the top left of the touch screen; making for an uncomfortable remote play control scheme that usually sees the player rolling past an enemy, but not being able to perform the next action fluently as surely a better remote play control optimisation would have been for such an important part of the control scheme to be mapped to L. Therefore, Guacamelee! 2’s remote play experience is only at its best when your character does not need to dodge an enemy’s attack and those occasions are only few and far between; disappointing from a Vita perspective when considering the developer made their name on the back of exceptional Vita games.

The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with a control scheme consisting of pressing X to jump between platforms, holding X for a longer jump or tapping X for a smaller jump; pressing square to attack; pressing O to perform a special move; pressing triangle to utilise eagle boost or start a conversation with someone via speech bubbles and pressing X to cycle through the speech bubbles; pressing L2 to dodge enemy attacks by rolling; pressing L1 to perform a pollo power; pressing R2 to swap dimension; pressing R1 to shadow swap; changing the direction of the left analogue stick or the directional pad to move your character; holding the left analogue stick in an upwards direction or pressing up on the directional pad to enter buildings; holding the left analogue stick in a downwards direction or pressing down on the directional pad while pressing X to drop to a lower platform; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. Tapping the touch pad displays a map of the surrounding area, a world map and an overview of purchased and available skill abilities, while light bar support produces a variety of colours to celebrate learning a new ability, alongside vibration occurs when an enemy hits Juan.

Graphically, Guacamelee! 2 is even better than Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition as everything looks more detailed and better animated in 1080p with more particle, lighting and shadow effects than before, while PS4 Pro support enhances it to another level of graphical fidelity as it includes native 4K resolution and high dynamic range (HDR).

The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the title menu, main menu, options menu, online leaderboards and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. Menu backgrounds focus on peaceful surroundings from Juan’s home town after he had previously saved the day, while the title logo is adorned in the top centre of the picturesque scenery.

There are no character voice-overs, although as was previously the case in the prequel; their communication is displayed via speech bubbles, while propelling the rather appropriate Mexican and environmental themed music to the forefront which helps to tie the themes situated in character and environment design together. Sound effects include Juan’s jumping, rolling, punching, throwing and special moves, reactions from enemies in accordance with being hit by Juan’s punches, throws or special moves, while ambient sound effects such as waterfalls, birds tweeting and chickens clucking. The DualShock 4 speaker produces a sound effect to inform the player of being dangerously low on health.

The trophy list includes 37 trophies with 22 bronze trophies, 9 silver trophies, 5 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the Re-resurrección bronze trophy for regaining the mask; the Talented Player bronze trophy for dodging 10 enemy attacks by rolling; and the I Was Told There’d Be Candy bronze trophy for defeating a Piñataface. Harder trophies include the El Técnico Táctico gold trophy for purchasing all upgrades; the Mr. Worldwide gold trophy for achieving 100% completion; and the Even Darkest-er gold trophy for beating the game on hard difficulty. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 15 to 20 hours to platinum the trophy list.

Guacamelee! 2 is just as hard as Guacamelee! in many areas due to more lucha battles and technical platforming. Rather unexpectedly, defeating a large enemy at times results in around a dozen small enemies surrounding the player with frantic attacks that have to be dodged more precisely due to their quantity, while there are sometimes multiple large enemies that simultaneously spawn within a lucha battle accompanied by an outer layer of armour that has to be destroyed before reducing the enemies’ health. Platforming is almost immediately more complex such as having to utilise a handful of eagle boosts at the perfect angle to reach the position of the next eagle boost until reaching the platform to explore an entire massive area, then there are circumstances in which the player must focus on timing a wall jump in relation to an endless quantity of incoming enemies that are consistently attacking that must be dodged whilst standing on a moving conveyor belt.

Drop-in/drop-out local co-operative multiplayer supports up to 4 players; double the amount of players in comparison to Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition in what is a positive step-up in gameplay. One possible improvement that has not been implemented since the prequel is no split-screen, so players are essentially confined to the same screen which causes a problem as if players has not moved as quickly as they should do so in order to keep up the pace of the other players, then those players will be automatically transported to the next screen without needing to complete the jumps or puzzles. However, there is no competitive multiplayer that could have followed the form of the lucha battles from the story with 2 to 4 players set opposite each other on multiple levels of platforms in arenas based upon environments from the story as 2 to 4 players do battle against each other using all manner of fighting manoeuvres and abilities that players would be familiar with from the story.

Online leaderboards focus on fastest times from each player’s speed run and 100% speed run of the entire game with each leaderboard containing each player’s rank; name (PSN ID); and the best time set by each player, while players can compare their positioning on the leaderboards with players globally, from your friends list and to immediately find and display your position within any given leaderboard. While the online leaderboards are pretty good as they are; it would have been better to have double the quantity of online leaderboards in order to differentiate single player speed run times from those that were achieved in co-operative multiplayer.

Guacamelee! 2’s replayability is as outstanding as the previous game due to a huge story comprising of many epic platforming challenges, primary objectives, side quests and lucha battles accompanied by local co-operative multiplayer for up to 4 players and competitive online leaderboards that will collectively keep players returning for quite some time.

 

 

Analysis

  • Title: Guacamelee! 2
  • Developer: DrinkBox Studios
  • Publisher: DrinkBox Studios
  • System: PS4
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross-Buy: No
  • Cross-Play: No
  • Players: 1-4 (Local Co-operative Multiplayer)/Online Leaderboards
  • Hard Drive Space Required: 1.92GB

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