MeekinOnMoviesOnGames On…..Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition

Game: Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition
Platform: XBox One, PS4, X360 and WiiU – Currently FREE on Xbox One with Xbox Live Gold
Did I pay for it: No.

“Wrestling is ballet with violence.”  – Jesse Ventura
If the United States of America is the world’s melting pot, Canada is its creativity blender. Between Barenaked Ladies, Rush, Alanis Morrisette, Jim Carey, William
Shatner,  Chris Jericho, and Bret Hart, it seems
whatever they put in the water up there results in creative people doing
familiar things in a special way. No one really sounds like Barenaked Ladies or Rush, there aren’t actors
who do it quite the same way as Shatner or Jim Carey, and lets face it –
if a pro wrestler comes out of Canada you expect something unique.

So, of course leave it to Canadian developers DrinkBox Studios to
bestow upon the world Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition, which blends together the best of Super Metroid and Double Dragon with authentic Mexican flair and Lucha Libre goodness, and feels completely fresh at the same time.

Largely played for laughs, Guacamelee’s story feels sort of like a kid-friendly, Mexican-infused version of ‘The Crow’, with a bit of Disney Flair. You are Juan, a shy farmer, who through a series of circumstances is killed, has his love interest  kidnapped, and is resurrected as a Luchadore superhero known as Guacamelee. It’s up to you to stop the man responsible, Carlos, rid the world of evil, and save your girlfriend via the awesome power of professional wrestling and your ability to leap between the world of the living and the world of the dead.  
The plot isn’t the main draw, but NPCs spout dialog that ranges from silly to informative to even a little risque in that “for all ages” kind of way that will keep adults entertained and kids in the dark about the second meaning of a given entendre.You run into zany folks who make Goat puns, a vixen who seems to puncuiate every pun with a swing of her hips and a bat of an eyelash, a man who needs you to find and secure all his chickens, and so on. If you’re a fan of zany with a side of ribald, you may enjoy the game’s story more than you’d expect.

Of course it’s easy to like everything about this game considering the wonderful first impression it makes. Guacamelee is bright and colorful, where the Latin influence is omnipresent in the design of the towns, characters, buildings, culture, and music. Especially the music, which is consistently enthusiastic and never dull. 

The entirety of the A/V presentation has a vibe that feels like a Carlos Santana song brought to life. The soundtrack making the experience a carnival that’s gone off the rails, and the visuals treating your eyeballs to colors to vibrant you’ll never look at somber indie games like Braid, or ‘realistic’ first person shooters the same way again.

The animation is precise and crisp, looking a lot like a late 90s cartoon, especially Disney’s Hercules and
The Emperor’s New Groove, where movements are lightning fast, faces are
exaggerated, and literally anything was possible if it resulted in a
good laugh. It also seems to be borrowing a page out of Family Guy’s handbook in that it’ll often skip a frame or two of animation during a punch, kick, throw, or emote to give the action a real impact.

Speaking of impact, unlike *real* pro wrestlers, Guacamelee is actually hitting people,  and combat is a real treat; combining traditional combo-mechanics with
wrestling style grapples and the ability to throw enemies into each
other. X serves as your punch button, Y provides your grapple, and B is
your special ability which varies depending on what your current
situation is. Combining these three buttons results in suplexes, tosses,
power bombs, and other assorted throws. There’s nothing like heading
into a room full of bad guys, getting a hold of one, stunning them,
grappling them, then chucking them at the bad guys just waiting for
their turn to tussle.

To have success at combat,
you’ll need to be aware of when to dodge enemies attacks, how to damage
them enough to grapple, and have the presence of mind to jump between
the light and dark worlds at the right time, as some enemies will be
bathed in shadow and impossible to hit unless you jump into a portal
that brings them into the light. It’s a real
blast, as dealing good combos isn’t too hard, but dealing a great one is
wonderfully rewarding and something you’ll strive to achieve every
time. When you toss in the wrestling-related grapples and details, it’s a
whole lot of fun, and you’ll cackle with glee every time you pull off some combination of moves and attacks that leaves your enemies dead quicker than you thought possible.

But you’ll stop laughing as you ascend the turnbuckle that is Guacamelee’s escalating difficulty. The game starts you off easy, as you learn basic combos and moves like a fire punch and combat roll that lets you get through thorny vines and dodge enemy attacks, but once you best the game’s first boss, prepare for a game that challenges your platforming strategy in the best kind of frustrating way. It’s not uncommon for a given puzzle to involve jumping from one pillar
to another, dropping down in a specific way to hit a special switch that
alternates what platforms are visible, then while free-falling, using
your dragon-punch-uppercut-thingy to make it onto the next ledge.
Thankfully, the game is forgiving in this regard, and you’ll rarely need
to re-do old areas to reach the one you screwed up on.

Aside from the punishing platforming, the over-all design of the game has its heart in Zelda II or Castlevania: Symphony of The Night. Guacamelee combines 2D action with RPG elements, NPC villages, ability upgrades, and interconnected paths. Progressing through the game unlocks special uppercuts, headbutts, wrestling moves, and other assorted abilities that help you sleigh your enemies, but also allow you explore more of the world.

It’s not unlike how in Super Mario World you’d stomp on that big yellow “!” block, and suddenly all the levels you previously visited had new and interesting paths to explore. Here, unlocking a headbutt means you can get past specific boulders, and a wall jump allows you to scale narrow walls without the need for platforms. You’ll do a lot of this path opening after beating a boss, and it’s a great feeling to return to town, smashing and breaking all the road blocks that were once in your way in order to secure all kinds of sweet loot that includes health upgrades, ability upgrades, and silver you can use to purchase new outfits with special bonuses.

If you have fond memories of Double Dragon, or Metroid, or Zelda II, or Castlevania, or Ultimate Muscle for some reason, Guacamelee is the ultimate homage to what made those games special, with a few direct references for garnish. Playing through this game is exciting, fun, frustrating, and most importantly, exciting. It’s a real roller coaster of fighting, platforming, exploration, and Mariachi. While we’ve seen countless 2D games with RPG and open world elements, very few are this stark and this confident and this pleasant to behold.

I blame Canada.

—— The “Super Turbo Championship Edition” of this game features a longer storyline, new enemies, and is clearly the best version of the game to get.——-