It has been seven years since the events of the first Guacamelee. A washed-up Juan is called back into action when three sacred relics threaten the “Mexiverse". His ensuing journey involves some old faces and a few new ones. Guacamelee 2 treads some new ground but also a lot of familiar ground--even the opening scene is a comical homage to the ending of the first game--which ends up being a very fitting way of setting up this largely iterative sequel.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Guacamelee was a solid action-platformer with Metroidvania inspirations. Guacamelee 2 is more of the same with a few new ideas. The combo-based beat-em-up combat is just as weighty and satisfying, and the platforming is just as tight, responsive and challenging. The bright and colorful art style that made the first game so visually appealing is the same, only slightly sharper. All the while, the soundtrack is just as jaunty and infectious as ever. Even the game’s tongue-in-cheek tone and occasionally groan-worthy comedy is more prevalent this time around. There’s just not a great deal in the way of innovative or groundbreaking new ideas.
I expected not to like this sequel as soon as I realized it was a rehash. I thought I would hate dragging my way through this game that I basically already played a couple of years ago, but I didn’t. In fact, I found myself getting quite into it, getting drawn in despite my preconceptions. The sequel’s writing is still very hit-or-miss (mostly miss, in my experience), but there were certainly parts that gave me a chuckle or moments that I had to admit were pretty clever. There’s just an undeniable charm to Guacamelee 2 that you can’t help but love, even when some of the jokes fall flat or it feels like the writers are trying a bit too hard.
The writing of Guacamelee 2 still focuses heavily on its low-hanging fruit take on comedy. For some, the humor might be a big draw but for me, it was mostly just there. I didn’t hate it, but I felt largely apathetic towards most of it. There’s a greater focus on references to other games and breaking the fourth wall, which I always find is a difficult thing to get right. Most of these references actually work pretty well, and, without getting into spoilers, are handled in a smart manner.
The thing that really drew me in, however, was the gameplay. The combat is solid, impactful and fun, operating on a combo-based system that has you punching, kicking and grappling enemies. Grappling an enemy allows you to throw them, which is endlessly satisfying. You chain combos together, attaining a hit combo that climbs blazingly fast as you pound every skeleton in sight. You acquire super moves, such as a powerful ground slam and a fierce jumping uppercut. These allow you to unleash devastating combos if you can be nimble enough not to get hit.
The structure of the combat scenarios can get a little repetitive. The formula of having a “Lucha”, essentially a brief combat challenge, once every three or four rooms can become a little predictable and occasionally tiresome. Guacamelee 2 does get creative with some of these encounters, which keeps things interesting from time to time. Occasionally you’ll come across a fight that’s more like a puzzle. It might require you to perform a skillful and deliberate combination of moves to survive.
For example, one encounter where I had to drop down from a platform and perform the right move to break the shield of the enemies hovering below before quickly uppercutting my way back to safety. The enemies were hovering above a pit of lethal lava and were in alternating worlds so I had to manage switching between worlds and avoiding my impending death. Unfortunately, these unique encounters are few and far between in the grand scheme of the game, and the majority of the encounters are fairly generic waves of enemies.
Thankfully, the combat has a great feel to it. The punches are weighty and the grapples are strong and powerful. The dodge roll has a very smooth and satisfying feel. This consistent solidness is what keeps Guacamelee 2 from becoming tedious and derivative. If you enjoy its basic mechanics then there’s enough variety in the enemies and bosses to keep it fun. If not, then there isn’t much here for you.
The world-switching, which has you hopping between the World of the Living and the World of the Dead, makes a return. It's essentially the same mechanic, but it's still pretty neat. Constantly switching between these two worlds is an important part of traversing the environment of Guacamelee 2. Certain platforms may only appear in one world so you'll have to be in the right one to continue. These sorts of challenges end up being some of the most difficult and tense moments. Tricky platforming scenarios where you need to focus on precise platforming and switching.
The platforming is similarly tight. Every jump, wall-jump, and mid-air uppercut is smooth and responsive, making the huge variety of platforming puzzles a blast to solve. Each new challenge grows increasingly complex as the game goes on. The platforming actually gets pretty tricky. Not frustratingly so, but it can take a real degree of focus and skill to get through some of the non-combat challenges.
The tightness of the controls is an essential part of Guacamelee 2 that the developers got just right. If there was a latency to the controls or a floatiness to the jump, the whole game would fall apart. It’s this responsive excellence that makes Guacamelee 2 so fun and compelling, even when some of the combat scenarios get a little repetitive and you get the nagging feeling that you've done this all before elsewhere.
That isn’t to say that Guacamelee 2 is all rehashed mechanics and tired concepts. There are certainly some new ideas and a few smart improvements here and there. A new skill tree has replaced the old upgrade system, where you dump the gold you earn from beating the pulp out of enemies into various abilities and bonuses. As you progress, you’ll meet trainers that will help you to specialize in certain areas. These can include combo-based combat or the use of super moves. It’s a more satisfying way to build a powerful and focused character, and the required goals on the way to new skills give you a fun thing to focus on in fights.
Furthermore, Guacamelee 2 puts a greater focus on your chicken form. In Guacamelee, your chicken form was essentially just your Metroid morph ball: it allowed you to get into tight spaces and not much else. Here, however, it’s more fleshed-out and used to much greater effect. Completing the new Pollo challenge dungeons grants you with new abilities and there are far more opportunities to use them. The dungeons are a cool addition and offer a nice change of pace and some unique challenges.
The more complex and diverse chicken form also offers a more gratifying experience. Constantly switching between your human form and your chicken form can be a fun way to play. It also gets its own branch in the skill tree, making it more capable and more viable in combat. You could probably even win most fights as a chicken if you so wished.
The game also features local co-op that supports up to four players. It uses a simple and intuitive drop-in/drop-out system that allows your friends or family to just hop in and jump around for a brief period with no real commitment. It’s a neat idea, and there’s certainly some fun to be had there, but Guacamelee 2 can be a tricky game that requires a lot of focus and the precise nature of the platforming seems like a poor fit for co-op. It’s there if you want it, though.
Ultimately, Guacamelee 2 is more of the same. It’s tight, intuitive and challenging platforming with fun, weighty combat wrapped in a stylish shell of colorful art, sweet music, and a sense that it’s trying just a bit too hard to be funny most of the time. Simply put, it’s a fun and occasionally demanding Metroidvania. If you’re looking for something new or vastly shaken-up from the original, look elsewhere.
Our Guacamelee 2 review was conducted on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the publisher. Guacamelee! 2 is also available on PlayStation 4.
Guacamelee 2 is a very safe sequel that does little to innovate or surprise, but it's still a solid action-platformer with satisfying combat, tight controls, and an undeniable charm.
- Tight, challenging platforming
- Weighty, satisfying combat
- Fun and irresistible charm
- Jaunty and infectious soundtrack
- Not a whole lot of new ideas or innovation
- Humor is very hit-or-miss