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If the goofy portmanteau of a title—plus the sight of a masked wrestler pummeling demonic creatures—didn't make it clear, then let us assure you: Guacamelee! is indeed a very odd, offbeat game. Styled after Metroid and the modern Castlevania games, this side-scrolling adventure finds you accruing various powers and abilities as you explore its interconnected stages. However, it does so with a ton of humor and panache, and the end result is an entertaining and challenging game that succeeds in part by not taking itself too seriously.
Rather than a rote sci-fi or fantasy theme, Guacamelee! puts you into the spandex tights and boots of Juan, a farmer who is quickly killed while trying to save his childhood crush. However, instead of fading away into the underworld, he's magically revived as a bulked-up luchador with powerful moves, all of which he'll use to survive the treacherous platform challenges and bash the myriad foes that block his path.
Like the classics it pulls strong inspiration from, Guacamelee! starts you off with limited skills, but as you access more terrain and progress through the storyline, you'll unlock additional abilities that make it easier to explore the world. Matching the theme, those abilities come primarily in the form of wrestling-inspired moves, such as a blazing uppercut (which can also help you access hard-to-reach places) or a crushing downward smash. By the time the later areas open up, you'll be zipping straight up walls, dashing through barriers, and even transforming into a chicken to access tight spaces.
Guacamelee! feels a lot more streamlined than its spiritual predecessors, however, with the campaign running just a few hours and offering less of a hook to go back and explore the stages once you've mastered various powers. Furthermore, the piling on of abilities—including swapping between the lands of the living and the dead—makes movement feel over-complex at times later on, with some of the more elaborate platform trials proving utterly exhausting.
Luckily, DrinkBox's adventure is brimming with personality, which helps blunt the occasional mechanical frustrations. Lively dialogue, vivid environments and characters, and playful references to other games (especially Metroid) do a wonderful job of pulling you into the action, and the atypical aesthetic and setting make this familiar gameplay design feel solidly fresh.
The bottom line. Guacamelee! wrestles with some irritating challenges later on, but otherwise lands a winning blow with its eccentric style and approach.
Mac OS X 10.7 or later, 2.0Ghz processor, 512MB RAM, 256MB VRAM
Wonderfully offbeat and silly take on the classic Metroid side-scrolling design. Vibrant aesthetic, great humor, and atypical setting make for a winning combination. Local co-op play.
Doesn't have the same hook to explore every nook and cranny like its inspirations. Stacking game mechanics make some later platform challenges feel overly arduous.