Drinkbox Studios has been one of the more consistent indie game developers cranking out hit after hit. The Mutant Blob games were fun but it was when they released Guacamelee! on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita several years ago that they really grabbed my attention. Severed was their next game for the Vita and it too was a very high quality game (check my review out). Now after years of waiting, Drinkbox has finally delivered to Guacamelee! 2 to us. Surely this is yet another high quality game right?
Guacamelee! 2 opens with you taking down the final boss from the first game once again. We then fast forward seven years into the future to find a out of shape Juan living with his wife and two kids now. A simple request from the wife to fetch some ingredients from town quickly turns into another crazy journey as the fate of the Mexiverse is threatened by a new group of foes. Juan must travel across different timelines to prevent any harm from befalling the Mexiverse. We learn that Juan is the only living Juan left across any timeline and so it is up to you to don your luchador mask once again and lay the smackdown on some skeletons. For the most part you’ll be fine to jump into this game even if you didn’t play the first one. Sure there are characters and references that will mean more if you did but new players shouldn’t worry about being lost.
For those who aren’t aware, Guacamelee! 2 is a 2D, side-scrolling, Metroidvania, platformer, brawler and one of the best at that. The world in this one is much bigger than the first with lots of interesting locations to explore. Like any good game in this genre your first time through many areas will have places you can’t go until you earn some new abilities later in the game. Red blocks can only be destroyed by the Rooster Uppercut while Blue blocks require another ability. Returning to areas later on is easy too thanks to the return of the giant stone faces that let you fast travel.
In addition, these abilities are required for use in combat as well as some enemies have color coded shields that can only be broken by certain special attacks. All the enemies from the first game return along with quite a few new ones so you’ll never get tired of fighting the same ones over and over. The combat is still as fun and challenging as the first game was so don’t expect a cake walk here. Some people may not be able to deal with the challenge as later encounters really dial it up. You have a health and stamina meter that goes down as you take hits and use your special abilities. Your stamina will recharge on its own and health can be regained from both defeating enemies and breaking chests open. Both your health and stamina can be increased by finding chests with hearts and masks. Gather three of each and you’ll get a total increase.
One of the more expanded abilities in this sequel is Juan’s Pollo form. In the first game, Pollo form allowed Juan to turn into a chicken and was mainly used to enter small places that Juan couldn’t fit into. In this game you still use it to enter small places but you can actually fight as a chicken and you have your own moveset. Just like Juan, there are certain obstacles that Pollo form can break and fighting enemies as a chicken is surprisingly fun. I may have had more fun playing as a chicken in fact which is not something I would’ve expected at all. Switching between Juan and Pollo form in combat to break different enemy shields kept me on my toes and gave me a real sense of satisfaction.
Juan can become stronger in this game thanks to the inclusion of five total trainers in the world. Each one you meet unlocks a new skill tree in the menu that you can use gold that you gather from defeated enemies or chests to unlock. You’ll have to perform certain feats as well in order to gain access to buying a certain perk. Some of these increase the gold you get from defeating enemies while another allows you to take more hits before having your combo meter get reset. That combo meter one was one of the first ones I bought as there is nothing more satisfying than moving from enemy to enemy and chaining attacks to build up 50 to 100+ hit combos. It’s one of the most fun combat systems in a game like this that I’ve played.
Getting back to the world of Guacamelee! 2 I had a lot of fun exploring and seeing all that it had to offer. Some locations you’ll just do basic platforming but others will test you in other ways. You’ll have to switch back and forth between the world of the living and the world of the dead in order to make some platforms appear that aren’t there in the other. Some areas have wave like barriers that move across the screen that might turn lava into a safe road in the area that they cover requiring you to move along with it in order to keep safe. You’ll probably be like me and fail at quite a lot of these platforming tests but the game is just so fun that you go right back to it to try again.
I’m not really touching on much of the story for spoiler reasons but Guacamelee! 2 has outstanding writing and lots of humor. The game is full of puns that make fun of the player and other things. Some of the timelines you enter even reference other video games which always put a smile on my face. The game has a new group of boss fights as well and all of them were fun to fight. Much like any boss fight they all have a pattern that you’ll have to learn in order to triumph over them. And don’t worry there is no cheap Jaguar boss fight in this one that will want to make you throw your controller at the screen. The game will take you awhile to beat as well as my first playthrough took me around 10 hours. It will probably take me a few more to fully clean everything up.
Visually this game looks so much better than the original thanks to the addition of normal mapping that adds so much more detail to the world. It runs in 4K on the PS4 Pro too which really made the colors stand out. Every place in the game is just so colorful and beautiful and I kept saying to myself that this game is gorgeous pretty much every time I entered a new area. The music is once again fantastic with both returning tracks and some new ones as well. It fits the Mexican world here perfectly. The game supports up to four players locally as well and it runs just as smooth with that many. It’s a great game to sit down with some friends and play but I do wish it had online co-op. Leaderboards once again return letting you compare your fastest speed runs against others around the world. The game has a great trophy list as well that will task you with killing so many enemies to fully completing every area in the game. This is one Platinum trophy that I will be adding to my cabinet.
Guacamelee! 2 continues Drinkbox Studios streak of outstanding high quality games. It’s not only one of the most fun games I’ve played this year but also the most funniest. It still offers that challenge I enjoyed about the first game and even when I failed over and over at parts I never found myself mad at it. The presentation here far exceeded my expectations and the bigger world was a joy to explore both by myself and in co-op. When the end of the year gets here, Guacamelee! 2 will be on my Game of the Year nominee list for sure.
*Guacamelee! 2 is out now on PlayStation 4 and PC. Reviewed on a PS4 Pro. Review copy provided by Drinkbox Studios and we thank them for it.