The canonical ending of 2013’s Guacamelee delivered a cheerful conclusion, with protagonist Juan Aguacate using his lucha libre skills to beat Carlos Calaca- a rodeo rider who traded his soul to the devil to mend his broken arm. In the easier to obtain finale, Juan doesn’t save his love interest, but the two are reunited in the afterlife, extending a bittersweet coda. But players who stove for the actual conclusion saw the lovers trading vows as the credits rolled.
But happiness in popular video games can be notoriously short-lived. The recent PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC release of Guacamelee 2 begins in domestic contentment, with the game revisiting Juan, Lupita, and their two children after a seven-year stretch. Tranquility seems to have ebbed away at Juan’s vigor, with a bulging stomach indicating he’s been clearing plates rather than cleaning clocks. Without antagonism around, his arsenal has gradually deteriorated away, too.
Fortunately for players hoping to test their platforming and pugilistic skills, harmony is short-lived. In the Mexiverse’s Darkest Timeline, Juan didn’t defeat Calaca, leading to a defeat by a luchador named Salvador. Victory seems to have undone the rival, and Salvador has broken open El Otromundo, threatening the existence of the entire multi-dimensional Mexiverse, and forcing the only living Juan to save the day.
Beyond satirizing the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Guacamelee 2, like its predecessor, revels in referential humor. The game’s recap of the showdown between Juan and Calaca mocks the exchange and subsequent fight between Alucard and Dracula from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Later, sections pay homage to beat-em-ups and turn-based role-playing games, while marquees in one of the alternate lampoon classic coin-ops. Then there’s Metroid’s Chozo statues impishly renamed Chorizo statues.
Like its predecessor, Guacamelee 2 tosses a constant string of gags while dialog incorporates bits of Spanish to solidify the Mexican context. For some, the constant stream of jokes will be appreciated. But others might fault Drinkbox Studios for not letting the sporadic moments of tenderness linger a bit longer. All too often, its seems that the developers were afraid of coming across too sentimental. As such, it becomes hard to invest in the game’s attempts to elicit emotion since a punchline almost always follows.
Save for that issue and an expositional dump to explain the motivations of Salvador, Guacamelee 2 otherwise excels. Platforming is often neglected in the Metroidvania sub-genre. But here, there are plenty of required and optional sections to test your navigational skills. Throughout the game, Juan gradually regains his abilities, with the sequel adding to the chicken-transforming faculties of the first game. With each new addition, areas compel mastery, with players need to fluidity incorporate each new move. It’s always intentionally difficult and you’ll die often. But once you master combos that merge elements like delivering Rooster Uppercuts, slingshotting from Eagle statues, and dimensional shifting you’ll definitely feel a twinge of accomplishment.
Pleasingly, that gracefulness also shows up when attacking enemies. Early on, you’ll be suplexing weakened foes, throwing them into other adversaries to damage the entire lot. Add head-butts, body slams, and your newfound pollo-powers into the mix and Juan will be careening around the screen with persistent intensity, adding to the combo meter with each strike. A few times during the eight to ten-hour journey, Guacamelee 2 throws a few too many into a tight space, making it easy to lose track of what’s going on. But consistently, liberal checkpointing help to offset most of the frustration, especially if you don’t feel compelled to complete every optional task.
Guacamelee 2 supports cooperative play for up to four local participants. Occasionally, the assistance of allies can be helpful, especially if you have difficulty fusing all the commands in a combo. While the game scales up the difficulty to match the number of players, pummeling enemies can be easier with a few pals. But when it comes to platforming, coordinating movement as a cohesive unit is definitely difficult, but is poised to produce a few laughs.
With a lengthier campaign and an expanded arsenal of abilities, Guacamelee 2 is a proficient follow-up. What works best is Drinkbox’s emphasis on platforming challenges which functions as a gratifying complement to the combo-heavy combat. When coupled with the feeling of exploration, the title’s dividends are as sweet as a piñata’s prized innards.
Guacamelee 2 was played on the PC with review code provided by the publisher.