Set to launch on PlayStation Network next week, Drinkbox Studios’ Guacamelee! aims to fill a hole in the PlayStation brand’s line-up. A platform-adventure videogame that wears it’s inspiration on its sleeve, Guacamelee! takes the classic Metroid template and coats it with a luchador thematic, cartoon style visual and deep love of everything that makes the videogames industry such an interesting piece of modern culture. It’s a heady mix, and one that aims to make the most of the unique features of the PlayStation formats.
Entering the shoes of Juan, the players quickly finds themselves embroiled in a tale of underworld demons, skeleton warriors, luchador heroes and chicken throwing. Electronic Theatre states ‘players’ as Guacamelee! can be played co-operatively; once having met Tostada shortly after beginning the videogame a second player is able to jump straight in simply by pressing the start button. Both players can then work their way through the world, beating enemies with combo attacks and completing quests, collecting coins and gaining new abilities.
As players move through the world of Guacamelee! they will frequently notice routes that are inaccessible: high ledges, knee-high pathways and different coloured blocks preventing them from passing. In typical Metroid tradition you will gain the abilities to access these routes later in the videogame and will either be allowed to return, or made to should an important quest lay beyond. It’s a well worn mechanic that only manages to engage when the level design is handled with care and thankfully it seems that Guacamelee! does provide that prerequisite, at least during it’s earliest stages.
The map appears to be fairly sizeable, judging by the small amount of gameplay Electronic Theatre witnessed. Not quite near the staggering length of Metroid Fusion but likely in excess of the original Metroid title. Where the real strength of Guacamelee!’s environment design resides however, is in that of it’s visual quality. Making extensive use of parallax scrolling with brightly coloured foregrounds sitting boldly against pastel shaded distances, Guacamelee! is a cartoon styled feast for the eyes. The character design is undeniably influenced by many of Cartoon Network’s turn of the century success stories, as is the humour, and the animation is fluid enough to support such a bold visual style. Furthermore, Guacamelee!’s own character is complimented by a huge variety of winks and nods to familiar and treasured moments from gaming’s history: a brickwork rendition of the original Mario Bros. Mario sprite, a quest to round-up a bunch of chickens and return them to their pen, and a poster advertising ‘Bash-It Bill’? These are moments designed specifically for that core audience who can claim years of involvement with videogames as a hobby.
It’s hard to judge just how big the complete experience will be, but in terms of value for money Guacamelee! is most definitely offering a package that’s hard to resist. Cross-Buy entitlement will allow a player to download Guacamelee! to their PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita or both, and the handheld console can also be used as a second controller when playing in the co-operative gameplay mode. Save data can also be transferred between the two, allowing the player to continue playing when leaving the house or arriving home. The versatility of the software is to be commended, making good use of the PlayStation hardware family that Guacamelee! finds itself becoming intimately involved with.
Perfectly compliment its host formats, Guacamelee! is no less than an enticing prospect. It presents a style of gameplay that is underrepresented on both PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 3, and with the release date of creeping very close indeed it won’t be long until gamers get to experience Drinkbox Studios’ PlayStation exclusive release for themselves. In that same regard, Electronic Theatre is excited to see whether or not the videogame manages to live up to its huge potential, which in itself is enough to suggest that Guacamelee! could be something very special.