Guacamelee! 2 (Xbox One) Review

By Gabriel Jones 13.02.2019

Review for Guacamelee! 2 on Xbox One

It's been seven years since Juan Aguacate donned the all-powerful mask, and rescued Lupita from the vile Calaca. Though happily married with two children, the former luchador can't help but recall his past heroics. As he stares longingly at posters depicting those glory days, his wife asks him to head down to the village for a few avocados. This typical errand takes a cataclysmic turn when Uay Chivo arrives through a portal in time. The old man warns of a threat that could destroy the entire "Mexiverse." In another timeline, a luchador known as Salvador defeated Calaca and saved the village. Unfortunately, he's now seeking relics that could shatter the time space continuum, wiping out all existence. It's up to Juan to come out of retirement and crack some more skulls in Guacamelee! 2.

For the sequel to their smash-hit Guacamelee!, Drinkbox Studios went all out with numerous changes and additions. It introduced a bunch of RPG mechanics, created a massive open-world filled with landmarks, and even threw in a few rare-drops. To top it all off, there's a 64-player Battle Royale mode where… oh yeah. None of that actually happened did it? Yes, instead of drastically overhauling everything, the developer knew that it already had a winning formula. All it really had to do was refine it, and this critic couldn't be happier with the results.

To put it bluntly, Guacamelee! 2 is a more polished and enjoyable game than its predecessor. Juan's new skills are seamlessly weaved into the action; despite the larger game-world, the pacing is as smooth and efficient as ever; "Intenso," the only ability that really didn't work, has been completely excised. All in all, it showcases a level of care and confidence that is rarely seen in Metroidvanias. This is all accomplished without straying away from the exhilarating fights and tough platforming that made the first entry so beloved.

Screenshot for Guacamelee! 2 on Xbox One

To really get an understanding of why this sequel is so good, one has to start with the revamped chicken powers. This aspect had to have been the riskiest to properly utilize. Originally, when Juan transformed into a chicken, its usage was limited to running through small crevices. That's not a terribly exciting power is it? Why, one could have just as easily dropped it entirely, and it wouldn't have made a difference. The developer of this game decided against that. They even went so far as to expand the chicken's abilities, making the bird a fierce fighter with his own skillset. That was a huge risk, and yet they pulled it off in stunning fashion.

What makes playing as chicken Juan so much fun is its seamless integration. The new moves "Pollo shot" and "Pollo slide" offer additional versatility, without affecting the luchador's regular arsenal. Transformations are instantaneous, so going from one move to the next is just an extra button press away. The level-design is also very smart. Anytime there's a narrow passage, it's a sign that the next room will require chicken powers to solve. The player has an idea of what to expect, so they can make the necessary adjustments to their fighting or platforming strategy.

Just like in the previous entry, enemies make use of colour-coded shields to protect themselves from damage. Naturally, Juan must use the right special move in order to break through. It definitely feels like some fine-tuning was done here. Encounters feel more natural and cohesive than before. The average fight strikes just the right balance between brawling and puzzle-solving. Players can't simply button-mash through foes, but it never gets to the point where fighting feels arbitrary, which is very rare in games that utilize shielding mechanics. Then there are new enemies, which add a touch of uniqueness to every bout. They inject just the right amount of variety, so fights never get repetitive or nonsensical.

Screenshot for Guacamelee! 2 on Xbox One

It's also worth noting that, with the addition of the chicken-specific moves, there are now six flavours of shields to deal with. Surprisingly, this doesn't negatively affect the action. Perhaps this is all the more reason to praise the encounter design and controls. Enemies are arranged in such a manner that one can effortlessly transition between all of Juan's skills. Though this does tend to use shields as a guiding hand, there's enough freedom to utilize the entire move-set. Swiftly eliminating adversaries imbues the player with a real sense of strength. They don't rely on a single overpowered move to destroy everything, which makes victory that much sweeter.

Platforming has also become very technical. Granted, the first game had its moments, particularly when it came to dimension-swapping between platforms. This entry goes even further, thanks to some truly dastardly challenge rooms. With the additional chicken powers, there are more movement options to consider. Some rooms even require Juan to shift between forms in mid-air, with little dimension-swapping sprinkled in. That's a lot of button-presses to juggle. Insta-kill traps such as lava and projectiles are also more prominent than before. At least checkpoints are as generous as ever. Also, this isn't Celeste. Even in the worst cases, the hero isn't going to die thousands of times.

Screenshot for Guacamelee! 2 on Xbox One

Still, some of the optional platforming sections can be a real headache. Anyone interested in getting the good ending will have to hunt down five keys, and they're hidden behind flat-out evil challenge rooms. One of the standouts is located at the bottom of the Jade Temple. There's a giant pool of lava, with the only respite being a rapidly-moving pocket dimension. Juan has to stay in that pocket while navigating treacherous conveyor belts and other obstacles. Admittedly, the ordeal nearly drove this critic to forgo the good ending entirely. Thankfully, after a short break and a refreshing drink, completing that brutally difficult room became an effortless affair.

On the whole, platforming in this game is incredibly satisfying. A lot of dexterity is required to master the later areas, which means constant button presses and well-timed special move usage. Everything clicks into place quite wonderfully. In a way, it feels like levelling up, but without the +1s and +2s to meaningless stats. Rather, it occurs within the player. They become more capable of handling greater challenges, and the more demanding scenarios become easier to comprehend and solve.

The world of Guacamelee! 2 is pretty large. It never reaches the point of absurdity, but fairly lengthy detours are commonplace. A couple temples also feature "The Rule of Three." This is where progress is locked behind three tasks, three switches, or three of something else. In the action-adventure genre, The Rule of Three tends to be really mind-numbing, but not here. Again, it's all in the pacing. The chances of spending more than a minute in a room are very low. Each area is also varied to the point that boredom doesn't have a chance to creep in. The player always has something fresh and fun to look forward to. Shortcuts and warp points are generously placed, so going for 100% completion isn't too much of a hassle.

Screenshot for Guacamelee! 2 on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

For Xbox One owners, Guacamelee 2! is a required pick-up. The Metroidvania genre has enjoyed a number of certified classics over the past few years, and this one of them. Above all else, this title maintains a clear sense of direction. While there are new abilities to account for, none of them are detrimental to the game's focus. Instead, they help shape its core identity, offering players a refined experience that they're unlikely to get anywhere else. The incredible soundtrack and gorgeous vistas provide the always-welcome icing on this cake.

Developer

DrinkBox

Publisher

DrinkBox

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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