Guacamelee! was released last year to a lot of fanfare. The mix of “Metroid-vania” game play, old school beat-em-up sensibilities, and vibrant visuals was everything a downloadable title should be in my mind. I never once thought that it was missing anything. It seems Drinkbox Studios felt differently, because Guacamelee! STCE is packed with everything I never knew I wanted.
For those who have never played the original, I’ll give you a quick primer. Vets can skip ahead 2 paragraphs. It is your typical damsel in distress story. Sort of. El Presidente’s daughter gets kidnapped by Calaca, ruler of the undead. Juan (a farmer) sets out to save her, and of course Juan…..gets killed? Yeah, the hero dies within 5 minutes. However, we all know death cannot defeat love. So with the help of a special mask, and a female luchador named Tostada, he sets out after her anyway. Along the way you’ll meet a pretty funny cast of villains, but the funniest is a completely new addition. Please pay attention to the dialogue, there are some gems. The story is cliche, but the dialogue really makes it feel fresh.
Speaking of fresh, let’s clap for color! This game has a whole lot of it, and it’s better for it. Everything pops off of the screen, and it makes you wonder why some bigger franchises seem to be allergic to the full color palette. The art style is perfect for the mood of the game, and it really FEELS Mexican. Even the music feels right at home. Speaking of which, the main song you hear throughout the game is super addictive. None of that would matter if the design were flawed, but Drinkbox nailed it. There is a perfect blend of fighting and platforming, and the team expertly integrated your fighting moves into the platforming. You can’t just jump your way through the entire game. There are definitely some controller chucking moments in this game. You have been warned.
Those who played the original may wonder what’s new with this release? Glad you asked. Let’s start with the new locales. Canal de las Flores is the home of Tostada. You must make your way through to reach the desert this time around. She speaks about her home at different points in the area, and it’s nice to learn a little more about her. She no longer feels like a simple costume change. Pico de Gallo is the other new locale, and you use this area to reach the Sierra. This is the home of a new boss, El Trio de la Muerte. This was my favorite boss battle of them all, although it was nowhere near the hardest.
Juan has some new tricks up his sleeve this time around. He packs Pollo bombs now, as well as a Shadow Swap ability that makes it easier to deal with foes in the opposite world. INTENSO is the one that matters though. There is now a meter that fills as you execute combos. When it fills to a certain point, you can press both sticks to initiate INTENSO mode. This mode will set your costume on fire, and enable you to wreck everyone in sight with ease. The more you combo while it’s activated, the longer it will last. It’s really handy in a pinch. Some of those closed arenas get pretty populated, but INTENSO will clear a room quick. Sort of like a fart. He’ll need these moves to deal with the new Dark Skeletons. These foes are alternate versions of their normal counterparts. They can teleport at any time, and pop up ready to strike. They can be a handful if you’re not alert.
Besides those new additions, Drinkbox tweaked a few other things. The throw mechanics work a whole lot better than they previously did, which is a blessing. You can now earn silver that you use to unlock the costumes. So now your money is strictly used to improve your character. I like this system better personally. You can have 3 save files now, which is always helpful. Especially if you plan to shoot the top of the speed run leaderboard. My only gripe is local co-op doesn’t allow both players to earn trophies. I’m not sure if it’s the same on XBox platforms. That’s just a minor hiccup though.
All in all, I feel there is more than enough here to warrant a replay. The original Guacamelee! was a very enjoyable game, and this version is the definitive version. The 2 new areas are very fun to play through (especially Pico de Gallo) and the new attacks let you wreak even more havoc. The DLC from the original version is included too. This is no simple cash grab, oh no. Drinkbox could have settled for a double, but they decided to go for the home run. This is how a remake should be done.