Game Review: Guacamelee! (PS Vita)

Guacamelee PS Vita

Guacamelee! is a platforming action adventure game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS Vita. Guacamelee! is brought to you by the developers of Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack and embraces Cross Buy, Cross Save and Cross Play.

Guacamelee! reminds me of Ubisoft’s Outland in regards to its main game mechanic of dimension swapping, but with added humour and a significant injection of fun throughout the gameplay. The game sees you taking on the role of the character Juan who is out for a stroll to help the townsfolk when suddenly upon the return of El Presidente’s Daughter, El Presidente’s mansion goes up in flames only for the bad guys to turn up out of nowhere when Juan rushes in to save the day. They send Juan to the underworld where along the way he is resurrected by a Luchador mask, which transforms Juan from a normal man with some strength into a Luchador with super strength and abilities to fight the leader of the underworld and his posse of bad guys from what is otherwise a very nice and tranquil place. The powers of the Luchador mask provide for some great characteristics from the abilities that it grants Juan, such as being able to swap dimensions. Beyond the unfolding story, there are also side quests with rather funny stories of their own including the Chicken Herding quest that involves a man who asks you for help after his chickens have escaped their pen. “Punch them! Throw them! It’s okay, my chickens are the toughest around!” exclaims the rather fond chicken loving man as he wears his nachos hat like a cowboy.

There is a store that allows you to purchase all manner of items, upgrades and abilities; providing that you have the appropriate amount of dollars, which are earned elsewhere in the game as rewards for completing missions and side quests. There are a number of different enemies to encounter, such as small and large skeletons, dragons, strange oversized animals and many more besides with all of the enemies looking completely different and unique from one another. The dimension swapping mechanic of the game really adds to its platforming routes as in certain areas you will need 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. There are other areas of the game were you will be attacked by multiple enemies at the 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. This means that the dimension swapping mechanic will see you regularly switching back and forth between the two dimensions, but it is used sparingly enough and at an appropriate pace that it never becomes a one trick pony of a gimmick, which is a rather positive design choice from the game developers.

The humour of the game is as you would anticipate from a DrinkBox game as they developed one of the PlayStation Vita’s best downloadable games and arguably one of the best of all in the form of Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack, so if you haven’t played it yet then don’t hesitate to download it immediately from the PlayStation Store! The billboards from Mutant Blobs Attack remain here with advertisements for alcohol and a wrestling match between “Business Cat vs. Bachelor Frog” and another between “La Mascara vs. Mega Hombre” with all of the characters including the cat and frog dressed in masks and Mexican wrestling attire. The humour is very evident particularly from the speech bubble driven conversations as you approach a woman only to have her tell you, “It’s true, I was a real mamacita in the old days. You better believe it!” In another conversation, Fray says, “Ohohoho… this is better than watching my telenovelas!” after watching a conversation between El Presidente’s Daughter and Juan.

The controls are well mapped and easy to learn, despite there being a lot of them particularly when you progress further into the game. The basic controls that you start out with see you pressing X to jump between platforms, square to attack, triangle to start a conversation with speech bubbles with X used to cycle through the speech bubbles, the left analogue stick or the directional pad to move your character, the left analogue stick held up or press the up button on the directional pad to enter buildings, press X with the left analogue stick held down or press the down button on the directional pad to drop to the lower platform, select to display the map of the local area with your current objectives and start to enter the pause menu. As you progress further into the game there are more basic controls and special moves to learn. The additional basic controls once you have found the Luchador mask include pressing the triangle button to grab while holding the left analogue stick or pressing the directional pad in the direction you want to throw the object or bad guy, using L or the right analogue stick to dodge with the later additions of using R to swap dimensions, O to perform special moves and swiping the touch screen for chicken magic. The moves list gradually grows as you progress through the game with the moves list being split into three categories including: special moves, movement and throws with eight special moves, three movements and four throws totalling to fifteen unlockable special moves. The moves include Luchador lift which is performed by holding the left analogue stick upwards while pressing square; downercut which is performed by holding the left analogue stick downwards while pressing square in the air and an aimed throw which is performed from a grapple by moving the left analogue stick in the direction you want to throw the object or enemy and pressing the triangle button.

Graphically, Guacamelee! excels brilliantly with its own take on cel shading, while still retaining a unique art style. There are beautiful lighting and shadow effects, well animated characters, a bright colour palette and stunning amounts of detail in general from the backdrops to the hilarious billboards that will have you stopping for a few seconds at a time to just look at everything and take it all in.

The presentation of the game is solid with a great touch screen based user interface that can also be navigated via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons across various menus such as the main menu, pause menu and store menu.

As the characters do not have voice overs their communication is displayed via speech bubbles, resulting in the audio consisting of Mexican music which does well to help tie the overall Mexican theme together and background noise, such as dogs barking, birds tweeting and chickens clucking as you chase after them.

The trophy list includes forty-eight trophies with thirty-nine bronze, five silvers, three golds and one platinum trophy. Despite being a cross buy game; Guacamelee! does not feature a double trophy list and instead opts for a shared trophy list between the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 3. This may sound like bad news to trophy hunters, but the positive side to that news is that it is rare to see any downloadable game receiving a platinum trophy and as Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack did not receive a platinum trophy, this is certainly a sign of additional input and effort from the development team at DrinkBox Studios to expand the potential replayability of the game through having a platinum trophy to show for your mastery and time well spent with the game. The trophy list starts out easy with trophies earned for entering the world of the dead, becoming a Luchador and saving Pueblucho. However, there are some naturally harder trophies, such as achieving a 300 hit combo, defeating the game on hard mode, collecting every chest in the game and accessing the alternative ending of the game by collecting all of the orbs. I would estimate that the platinum would take upwards of ten hours, although you are guaranteed to get some of the trophies shortly into your first play through of the game.

The game is the latest in Sony’s cross platform initiative incorporating Cross Buy, Cross Save and Cross Play functionality. Cross Buy means that whether you purchase Guacamelee! for the PlayStation Vita or the PlayStation 3; you will receive the other version of the game free of any additional charges. Cross Save allows you to start the game on the PS3 at night, upload your save to cloud saving (regardless of whether you are a PlayStation Plus subscriber), then continue the following morning on your PlayStation Vita during your train journey to work and even allows for you to progress towards that much coveted platinum trophy via a shared trophy list. Cross Play allows you to play the game co-operatively with another player, so you can be playing the game on your PlayStation Vita, while your friend is playing it on the PlayStation 3, but you are in the same game working together. The PS3 version also offers local co-op play with two players being able to play the game simultaneously on the PS3, although local co-op does not feature on the PS Vita version of the game; the Cross Play functionality of the game means that it is still technically multiplayer.

Guacamelee! has an amazing amount of replayability as it provides Cross Save and Cross Play functionality across many missions and side quests with easily over ten hours of gameplay with more coming from the PS3 version via Cross Buy, alongside the local co-op provided by the PS3 version and the Cross Play functionality between the PS3 and PS Vita.

Overall, Guacamelee! comes highly recommended with hours of fun and humorous gameplay across many missions and side quests, beautiful graphics produced via a unique art style approach to cel shading with Cross Save and Cross Play functionality at a Cross Buy price of just £9.99! Guacamelee! is like a Mexican Outland on steroids, so buy it now!

Jason Bonnar

At A Glance

  • Title: Guacamelee!
  • Publisher: DrinkBox Studios
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: Yes
  • Cross Play: Yes
  • Online Multiplayer: No
  • PlayStation TV Compatible: Yes
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 332Mb


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