GUACAMELEE! 2, by Drinkbox Studios, is a Metroidvania-style brawler that is out now for PS4 and PC. The 2013 original is one of my favorite games of the genre, so GUACAMELEE! 2 has some big boots to fill. Now that the game is out, and I’ve been lucky enough to play it early for this review, just how does it compare?

GUACAMELEE! 2’s Story:

Before we get started, I have to spoil the ending of the first game in order to explain the story of GUACAMELEE! 2, so feel free to skip this section.

In both GUACAMELEE! games, players take control of the the luchador Juan. In the first game, Juan must save his girlfriend, Lupita, from being sacrificed by the evil skeleton, Carlos Calaca. Defeating Calaca while failing to collect all of the game’s hardest collectables results in Lupita’s death, leaving Juan alone to mourn over his bittersweet victory.

Conversely, GUACAMELEE! 2 starts right after the original’s good ending, complete with a toned down fight against the original’s final boss.

guacamelee intro
GUACAMELEE! 2 starts with a fight against the original’s final boss. What an intro!

In this timeline, Juan defeats Calaca and manages to save Lupita, resulting in seven years of peace for the Mexiverse. During this time, Juan starts a family and, visibly, loses all of his prowess as a luchador. While running an errand to grab some avocados for dinner, some strange, interdimensional portals open up all over Mexico.

This is where the timelines come back into play. In the original game’s darkest timeline, both Juan and Lupita die at the hands of Calaca. Calaca is then defeated by Salvador, another Luchador. Now, Salvador wants to attain infinite power and total control of the Mexiverse! Will our Juan, the hero of the best timeline, be able to defeat the hero of the darkest?

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GUACAMELEE! 2’s Presentation:

Graphically, GUACAMELEE! 2 is very similar to its predecessor. The game is a 2D side scroller, comprised of flat, vibrant colors. That being said, GUACAMELEE! 2 adds a whole layer of polish to the already great visuals. Enemies and environments are much more detailed than before, and the variety of settings, both in number and theme, far outnumber the original game.

guacamelee 2 setting
Juan must use the blood of his enemies in order to paint his surroundings.

Next, GUACAMELEE! 2 is very funny; a lot of the game’s dialogue caused me to laugh out loud. On top of this, every nook and cranny contains a pop culture reference — I am all for it. When exploring a new town, I would take my time trying to decipher each and every poster in the background.

guacamelee sonic
GUACAMELEE! 2’s play on Sonic’s “Gotta Go Fast” is one of my favorite jokes in the game.

Lastly, let’s talk about the music. Boy, is it fantastic. Each area’s soundtrack is made up of Mexican themed sounds and instruments, such as guitars and trumpets, and fit said area’s theming perfectly. I do not have nearly enough of a background on music to go into detail, but there were times when I would stop playing just to take in the music.

Overall, GUACAMELEE! 2’s presentation succeeds in improving on everything the original did. That’s saying something, as the original also looks and sounds fantastic.

GUACAMELEE! 2’s Gameplay:

As I stated earlier, GUACAMELEE! 2 is a metroidvania. This term is derived from the METROID and CASTLEVANIA game series, indicating that a game contains a large world for players to explore, complete with sequential power-ups needed for progression. These power-ups can then lead to backtracking to find secrets that were previously inaccessible.

I personally love this genre — it lends to such a strong sense of character progression! GUACAMELEE! 2 absolutely nails the metroidvania formula. Juan’s moves do not differ much from the original game. He has all forms of wrestling moves, like supercharged punches, kicks, and headbutts, as well as the ability to swap dimensions to avoid obstacles. All of these are very useful in combat and out of combat.

While fighting, some enemies require a special move in order to take damage. That, and Juan can chain all of his moves together in order to rack up some ridiculously huge combos. Out of fights, Juan must use all of his skills to complete platforming challenges, which admittedly get very difficult by the end of the game.

One of the main additions to GUACAMELEE! 2 is the inclusion of skill trees. Juan can use his hard earned coins in order to enhance his various moves and combos.

guacamelee skill tree
GUACAMELEE! 2’s skill trees allow for a greater sense of progression than ever before.

That wraps it up for all of the changes to Juan, but he is not necessarily the only character that players control.

Pollo Form:

Early into GUACAMELEE! 2, Juan gets access to his “Pollo Form,” aka the ability to turn into a chicken. This chicken was also present in the original, but the sequel improves on it by leaps and bounds.

Juan’s Pollo moveset was limited in GUACAMELEE! He has the ability to peck, glide, and drop explosive eggs, so Pollo combat was not optimal, to say the least. Now, the Pollo form grants Juan an arsenal nearly as large as his human form.

Pollo Juan can combo enemies and grapple them, just like in his human form, but he can also perform an aggressive slide and darting aerial attacks. Just like before, Pollo Juan’s special moves are also used for a variety of platforming challenges.

guacamelee pollo
Juan’s Pollo form in action.

The changes to the Pollo form all feel great. Previously, playing as it felt like a handicap — the Pollo was definitely my least favorite part of the original GUACAMELEE! Now, the Pollo does not feel limited at all. The Pollo feels like a completely fleshed out second character that players can opt to control instead of human Juan; it is now a new type of gameplay as opposed to a chore.

Other Gameplay Changes:

On top of the crazy combat and platforming challenges, as well as the complete overhaul of Juan’s Pollo form, GUACAMELEE! 2 is not afraid to throw in different types of gameplay. Take this one challenge for instance: instead of fighting enemies in order to clear a room, Juan must wait for rising platforms to cross a large gap, all the while avoiding projectiles from enemy skeletons.

guacamelee 2 challenge
GUACAMELEE! 2 contains many unique challenge rooms like this one.

Also worth mentioning, GUACAMELEE! 2 supports up to four player co-op, as opposed to the original game’s two player. I have not tried it, however, so I will neglect to comment further.

Lastly, some of the game’s pop culture references seep into the gameplay. I am by no means going to spoil all of them here, but each reference brought a huge smile to my face.

guacamelee 2 bonus
Anyone who has played STREET FIGHTER knows the fate of this poor car.

That about does it for GUACAMELEE! 2’s gameplay (seriously, this time). As with the presentation, the gameplay improves on every little thing the first game already did so well. There seems to be a theme here.

GUACAMELEE! 2’s Post-Game and Lasting Appeal:

To me, a game’s post-game content is nearly as important as everything before the credits. As I mentioned, GUACAMELEE! 2’s world has a ton of exploration and backtracking to complete, though all of this can be done before the credits. Nothing changes in the game’s world after completing it, but players do unlock the game’s hard mode.

GUACAMELEE! 2’s hard mode is exactly what it sounds like. Enemies hit much harder and take more hits to kill, and I’m pretty sure that some of the platforming challenges are differ slightly (though I could be wrong on that one). There may or may not be some other little surprises thrown into hard mode, who knows.

GUACAMELEE! 2’s lasting appeal depends on the player. Those looking to just complete the game can finish it in a few hours and be done with it forever, but exploring everything on top of completing hard mode takes considerably longer. It all comes down to the player’s preference!

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The Verdict:

It should be clear as day that I absolutely adore GUACAMELEE! 2. The original game was already one of my favorites, but the sequel completely blows it out of the water. In fact, I had so much fun with GUACAMELEE! 2, that right after 100% completing my first playthrough, I jumped right back in and did it in hard mode.

guacamelee 2 leaderboard
I’m at the top of a leaderboard for a previously unreleased game. What an accomplishment!
Summary
GUACAMELEE! 2 is a standout entry in the metroidvania genre, and it is definitely one of my favorite games of 2018. If this review has sparked your interest at all, go out and buy it -- buy the first one while you’re at it, they’re both fantastic! You will not at all regret your purchase.
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