More respected than El Santo, and more influential than Mil Máscaras, Juan is the greatest luchador in professional wrestling history. Not concerned with runsheets, house show loops, or backstage politics, Juan is a family man that’s only interested in the well-being of his nearest and dearest. After dying, being resurrected, obtaining superpowers, becoming a chicken, and essentially saving the world in his first outing – it was a busy day – Juan has put his feet up in the Aguacate family home, reflecting on past glories at the beginning of Guacamelee 2. Cue goat man Uay Chivo, from the first game, to tell you that the Mexiverse is under threat from rudo grappler Salvador who’s after the sacred guacamole. Naturally enough, it’s your job to save the day in this exploratory platformer-cum-brawler sequel.
The story merely acts as a guide on where you should go next in this large open map, rather than keeping you perched on the edge of your seat in anticipation of the next beat. Sticking on your luchador mask once more, you must go between the land of the living and the dead, and put an end to Salvador’s evil plot of tasting the hallowed avocado-based dip. The writing isn’t overly funny, barring a handful of smile-inducing moments, and is retreading old ground a lot of the time. However, there is one bit that shows Wonderwall can still be a device for comedy and I thought those days were gone, so fair play for that.
Like the original, the most delightful aspect of Guacamelee 2 is how developer DrinkBox Studios marries combat and traversal. Before long, on top of spamming the square button to lay a hurting on skeletal baddies, you have a multitude of special maneuvers that aid you on your quest: an uppercut, a dash punch, a downward splash, and a headbutt. And while these are wonderful when it comes to disposing of your increasingly difficult adversaries – like a hoover with multiple attachments being sold on ITV in the early hours after one of those call-in gameshow things that makes you question humanity – they’re vital for getting to those hard to reach places.
When a double jump won’t do, use your uppercut to launch yourself skyward and reach that platform overhead. If you need the slightest of pushes to plant your feet in that inviting gap to your right, you can employ your super dash punch, making it a cinch. These powers, colour-coded as they are, also unlock areas in the open world that were previously inaccessible – your headbutt blowing through yellow barricades, and frog splash demolishing green manhole-like barriers. Probing Juan’s environment, while fun, doesn’t always feel necessary, or rewarding. You'll often double back on yourself, but many of the optional, less-travelled paths don't yield large enough rewards – especially considering the steeper challenges they present. The chicken dungeons, however, do. Yep. Chicken dungeons.
Like a shit Optimus Prime, you could transform into a chicken in the original Guacamelee in order to pass through smaller areas, but now you can peck away at your attackers to your little feathered heart’s content with your own poultry-powered special moves. Throughout Guac 2, there are these challenge rooms that, when complete, see you build up your arsenal of moves for your fowl form. Whilst the burly wrestler’s special moves see you darting up-down-left-right, these chicken moves allow you to propel yourself diagonally at enemies and passageways, or roll towards the feet of your foes like the bawking bowling ball you’ve always known you could be. Seeing as it’s more fleshed-out than before, it makes sense that an emphasis would be put on the chicken portions, but the thing is that it’s not as complete an experience as when you’re in control of Juan. It’s a nice distraction from time-to-time, but I want to be in control of the beefy brawler more; the platforming is more precise, and the action more varied when you’re switching between realms while donning the adult-sized hood.
The beautiful world of Guacamelee 2 also has two forms you can freely switch between: the living realm, and the spirit realm. Certain platforms and pathways are only available in one or the other, forcing you to shift between both; many of the platforming puzzles depend on you swapping in quick succession, too, resulting in some inhuman displays of dexterity that are so gratifying when executed well.
You’re a celebrated wrestler, though, so while your special moves can be utilised to get around the map, they’re also imperative for when you want to lay the smack down on a whole host of boney, candy asses. The colourful characters that aim to halt your progress range from easily dispatched fodder, to shielded badasses that require a bit more skill. Like the locked passageways, a pulsating orange outline shelters them from attacks until you roll towards their metatarsals in your alternative form, and they won’t take any damage until you break their glowing blue aura with a dash punch right in their exposed skull. When their health is low enough, you can perform some more traditional wrestling moves like a suplex or piledriver and make them wish their bones, their bones had more calcium, because that’s a natural law. Like the dance that happens in the squared circle, it’s tremendous when it all comes together.
Possibly the most disappointing thing about Guacamelee 2 is how familiar it all is. Granted, the combat sings when you’re rolling, and platforming is satisfying when working in your superpowers, but the added importance put on your chicken form doesn’t match what you can do as Juan, and could do in the original. Look, it’s more Guacamelee and while there are new additions to the formula – a grappling hook, a new skill tree, drop-in drop-out four-player co-op – these things don't have much of an effect on the formula. But hey, even if it doesn’t have the same explosive punch it did when first unleashed upon the world, it’s more Guacamelee and that’s a very good thing.
Developer: DrinkBox Studios
Publisher: DrinkBox Studios
Available on: PlayStation 4 [reviewed on], PC
Release Date: August 21, 2018
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