The synchronisation available between PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita is yet to be fully exploited. While the likes of MotorStorm RC have offered an impressive use of the Cross Buy feature and Dead or Alive 5 Plus has shown juts how versatile the platforms can be for expanding the availability of PlayStation gaming, there’s much more that the pairing systems can do together. This isn’t just using your handheld as a rearview mirror, this pushing the envelope in new and exciting directions.
Of course, you may have guessed by now that Guacamelee! uses the unique features of the PlayStation console pairing in some commendable ways. Effectively doing what Microsoft Studios promised Windows Phone would be able to do before they managed to deliver on it (though several months after it was initially due) players can transfer their save data from PlayStation 3 to PlayStation Vita via a reliable internet connection. We say ‘reliable’ as we did find this process to be a little hit-and-miss, with occasional synchronisation failures proving frustrating, but there’s no making that cloud save omelette without breaking a few extra wi-fi eggs. This is relatively new technology after all – at least in the console space – and so Electronic Theatre is willing to overlook a few teething problems in favour of that ultimate goal: gaming anywhere, on any device.
And this adaptability proves doubly impressive when you take into account the second PlayStation pairing featuring that Guacamelee! offers. The videogame itself plays like an adventure platform title akin to Metroid or Castlevania, with the player exploring the Mexico themed luchador world one puzzle or dexterity challenge at a time, returning to earlier areas to access new paths and find greater rewards. Where Guacamelee! innovates within this template is in that of the co-operative gameplay: once accessed (within about fifteen minutes of play) a second character’s shoes become available for a player to jump into simply by pressing the start button on a DualShock 3 pad. However, players are also able to use the PlayStation Vita as a second controller, with the map offered on the handheld’s touchscreen; a simple but entirely welcome addition.
Whether playing co-operatively or alone (only single-player is available when playing on the PlayStation Vita directly) Guacamelee! proves to be an entertaining gameplay experience. Anyone familiar with the genre will welcome the knowledge that the player starts without any real ability and slowly builds a repertoire that would make any real wrestler jealous, playing into the formula of rapid exploration and reward comfortably. Guacamelee! is constantly pushing new things upon the player, maintaining the desire to continue playing and see what’s around the next corner, or in the next tunnel, or the reward for completing that side mission.
All of the usual genre tropes are present – life piece collecting, upgrading abilities, re-treading familiar ground etc. – and they are complimented by literally dozens of in-jokes. Commonly referred to as ‘Easter eggs’ in modern times, the winks and nods to various gaming classics are frequent and never fail to raise a smile. From the wrestler El Linko using the tri-force as his brand to the brickwork in the shape of an 8-bit Mario, the Los Casa Crashers billboard to the Chozo statues, these jokes are certainly welcome given the light-hearted theme and visual design of Guacamelee!, and the acknowledgment that the videogame’s target audience will have a working knowledge of all of the videogames paid homage to.
Accompanying the exploration gameplay is an enjoyable combat system. As a luchador you are fairly capable of handling yourself, and as luck would have it the range of scenarios including dozens of skeletons, plant life and the occasional boss fight will put this to the test. A basic combo is executable with three presses of the Square button, with jump attacks and throws as compliments. Dodge manoeuvres and aerial combat also play a part, and as you progress through the videogame more special attacks will become available. It’s a simple system yet one which has significantly more depth than Super Metroid’s shooting gallery and Castlevania’s simple whip strikes.
Guacamelee! coats all of this familiar gameplay with a unique visual design; an angular cartoon aesthetic reminiscent of turn of the century Cartoon Network franchises such as Dextor’s Laboratory and Johnny Bravo. As stated above, this is also coupled with a knowing design littered with in-jokes. Guacamelee! knows that it’s essentially a taste of two bigger franchises, and it knows that the majority of those who play it will acknowledge this within minutes. As such, it boldly remarks on many of those titles which have inspired its development team, from posters on walls to occasional challenges and even character names, Guacamelee! is it beset with winks and nudges that will raise a smile from any core gamer worth their salt.
As an experience which mimics two well established franchises Guacamelee! does a good job of appearing unique. It’s an enjoyable and addictive experience that works as well on the handheld format as it does on the home console, in single-player or as a co-operative experience, and that kind of versatility shouldn’t be taken for granted. Guacamelee! is a wholly enjoyable adventure videogame that comes to the PlayStation Store with the confidence that it offers plenty of reasons for players to invest, and it’s certainly right to do so.