Capsule Review: Guacamelee! 2

Guacamelee! 2 isn’t so much a sequel as a continuity.

It assumes you’ve beaten the first game, and aside from a brief, expository introduction and refresher, you’re thrown into the thick of things fairly quickly. If you haven’t played the first Guacamelee!, you might want to do that. If you don’t, it’s fine; just know that the learning curve will feel quite steep.

The first game involved a nefarious plot to unite the land of the living and the land of the dead. The new game involves another apocalyptic scenario; this time dealing with space/time. You find out that the Mexiverse contains multiple, simultaneous timelines. In every other timeline, Juan died trying to save his family. Thus, you are the last surviving Juan and the last hope for saving the universe. This conceit creates some of the best jokes in the game; wherever you go, you are treated as a martyr; townspeople are shocked that you’re alive, since in their continuity, you’re already dead. You can even go to Juan’s house in a different timeline and visit your own grave.

As in the previous game, you can seamlessly switch between the land of the living and the land of the dead.

But I mentioned a steep learning curve. Guacamelee! 2 forces you to learn it by playing it. Whenever you receive a new gameplay mechanic, the only way to escape the current room is to use that mechanic (ex. your rooster uppercut can break red bricks). To escape the next room, you’ll have to use the same mechanic to achieve a different goal (ex. the rooster uppercut can also be used as a double jump to reach a higher platform). Thus, by the time you face a difficult challenge, such as using seven different moves in rapid sequence, you’ll know what to do, although you may lack the skill to pull it off successfully.

There are two noteworthy additions to the game’s combat. First, the upgrade system has been improved and expanded. The second major addition is the expansion of your “pollo powers,” used when Juan transforms himself into a tiny chicken. In the first game, the one-button chicken transformation was mostly functional; it let Juan squeeze into tiny passages and locked portions of the map for later in the game. But here, your chicken form has powerful, upgradeable attacks. For the mightiest bosses, you’ll find yourself switching between human form and chicken form to maximize your damage.              

The first Guacamelee! was criticized for its relatively short length. Guacamelee! 2 has no such problem. It’s a trove of variation and inventiveness, to the point that one wonders if there’s any tricks left. The game feels exhaustive, like the development team knew this was their last Guacamelee! game, so they decided to go for broke. Their resulting work comes highly recommended; we should all be so ambitious.

VERDICT

Yes, unless you’re afraid of skeletons.

Main takeaway: Taking the original game’s premise to its outer limits, Guacamelee! 2 is funny, creative, and never feels unfair.