There’s a notion in gaming that if a sequel is too much like the original and doesn’t reinvent the wheel, that it is lazy and should therefore be looked down on because of it. Guacamelee! 2 doesn’t bat an eye to this idea, delivering a sequel that feels like more of the same, but in the best way possible. You can’t argue with more of the same when the original was universally praised, and despite borrowing plenty from the original title, Guacamelee! 2 builds upon the groundwork, laying down new and interesting foundations of its own.
The start of the game gives you a quick refresher of the ending of the original Guacamelee!. Juan, the masked Luchador saves El Presidente’s Daughter and the world from the villainous skeleton Calaca, who plans to sacrifice her in order to merge the worlds of the living and dead. What’s awesome about this little reminder of how the first game ended is the fact that it is all playable, serving as an epic tutorial to understand the basic controls of the game. For fans of the original, you immediately feel a sense of familiarity, while newcomers become aware of the various attacks that Juan had at his disposal. I say had, because times have changed.
The throwback to the ending of the first game is a nice touch
Guacamelee! 2 is set seven years after Juan defeated Calaca. He’s a family man now, married to El Presidente’s Daughter Lupita, and a father of two children. He even has an enviable dad bod. It’s fair to say that Juan isn’t in the same shape he was back when he beat Calaca, something that is startlingly evident in his moveset. All of Juan’s abilities from his past are long gone, from his rooster uppercut, to his nimble dodge rolls. It’s only when his village comes under attack from an unknown force that Juan realises he must again be the masked Luchador to save mankind, and indeed the entire Mexiverse (yep, that’s what they’re calling it).
Juan has an admirable beer gut
The story of Guacamelee! 2 is absolutely crazy, and that’s probably what makes the narrative so enjoyable. The insanity of Guacamelee! 2 is also perfectly expressed through the characters, with the dialogue being some of the most humorous chatter I have ever witnessed in a video game. This is due in part to brilliant fourth wall-breaking quips, as well numerous references to other games, pop culture and memes that hit a lot harder than the dated memes did in the first game. For example, a guy you meet in Pueblucho remarks “I can never thank you enough for saving us in the last game!”, while El Muñeco, one of Salvador’s henchmen choreographs a dance for his troupe of chickens. There’s a lady that does the “anyways, here’s wonderwall” meme and there are even periods where you stumble into timelines resembling and referencing other games, which are hysterically amusing, but I won’t spoil them here.
This is too damn good
Silly narrative and charming characters aside, the gameplay of Guacamelee! 2 is by far its strongest asset. Guacamelee! 2 is exactly what you’d expect from a metroidvania game. You make your way through various locales, beating up enemies and finding new upgrades that allow you to access areas that you previously could not. Guacamelee! 2 succeeds in drip feeding you upgrades, making it always feel like you have a new move to use, both to unlock access to new areas, and to fight your foes. The game cleverly inhibits you from getting too comfortable in the form of coloured shields that sometimes encase enemies. These shields keep them impervious to any attack until the shield is broken, which can be brought down by the move which corresponds to the colour of the shield. This design choice is brilliant, as it outwardly forces you to make use of all your abilities as you acquire them.
Combat in Guacamelee! 2 is extremely enjoyable
The upgrades throughout the game are just as useful to traverse the world as they are to fight the poncho-wearing skeletons that inhabit it. Juan is an absolute joy to control, both in human and chicken mode, with both modes often being required on the fly. The chicken in the first game was pretty barebones in regard to attacks and upgrades, but Guacamelee! 2 adds new pollo mechanics that manage to make playing as a chicken far more viable than it was in the original. I still opted to play as Juan over Pollo Juan, but it’s nice that the chicken mode feels a little less like a joke upgrade than it did in the first game. Another improvement over the first game is the addition of skill trees in the form of different trainers you find throughout the game. Each of the five skill sets centre on a specific upgrade type, meaning it’s easy for you to upgrade to best suit your playstyle. Not a fan of the wrestling moves? Spend your money on the special moves, or maybe you’d prefer to spend them on adding a bit more oomph to your pollo powers. The strength of Guacamelee! 2’s gameplay simply cannot be questioned, with the perfect feeling platforming and surprisingly deep combat sure to have you enthralled as you make your way towards taking down Salvador.
YOU CAN PLAY AS A DAMN CHICKEN!
There’s no doubt that Guacamelee! 2 does plenty of things right, however it does have a few issues. The biggest problem I had with the game was the lack of any real difficulty in its combat. While the game manages to provide difficult platforming segments that require the chaining of Juan’s various moves as well as his dimension shifting, the same can’t be said for the combat sections. Yes, there are shields that require specific moves to break as well enemies that can insta-kill if you don’t kill them in an allotted time, but somehow you still feel far too powerful, mowing enemies down almost effortlessly.
This inherent lack of difficulty sticks out like a sore thumb in boss battles, and was especially the case in the final boss battle. The narrative leads into the final boss battle perfectly, creating a brilliant atmosphere, only for the relative ease of the penultimate fight to leave you feeling like it was all a bit too easy. There is a hard mode that makes the journey a bit more difficult, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that the normal mode is too easy. I was also disappointed by the overall length of the game, rounding out at about 12-15 hours to 100% complete. This may just stem from the fact that the game is so enjoyable that I felt the need for more, but I do believe a couple more dungeons to beef out the game would’ve been preferable.
More dungeons to explore would’ve been nice
Guacamelee! 2 feels like a more refined rendition of the original, managing to capture the successes of its combat, platforming and loveable cast of characters, whilst adding more mechanics to play with, a deeper upgrade system, and a bunch more zany and wacky friends and foes. The Mexican-inspired world is a beauty to behold, the fourth wall-breaking humour and pop culture references hit hard, and the story is utterly nonsensical and hilarious, yet somehow surprisingly emotional in its conclusion. Guacamelee! 2 is a perfect game for veterans of the metroidvania genre and newcomers alike, and I can’t help but recommend it.
Reviewed on PS4 Pro | Review code supplied by publisher