When Guacamelee released in 2013, the 2D Metroidvania dazzled with its fantastic combat and colorful artstyle. Guacamelee 2, which was announced at Sony’s Paris Games Week event, follows in the same footsteps as its predecessor while turning up the volume on all its features.
The original Guacamelee wore its influences on its sleeves, to the point where characters were getting weapon upgrades from Chozo statues, which were named the legally distinct Chorizo statues instead. It makes sense, then, that Guacamelee 2 so closely hews to what the original game was. You are interacting with the game in the exact same manner, through tough platforming challenges and melee fighting, but the game feels comfortable in its similarity.
While the original game supported two-player local co-op, the sequel doubles that number with four distinct characters, including the first game’s protagonist Juan. This might be a scenario where less is more, as the screen gets chaotic with sprites flying all over the place with four players, but the option is there for those who want it. Multiplayer is again local-only, as Drinkbox explained that online multiplayer requires resources that would have to be pulled away from other parts of the project.
The demo we played has the protagonists chasing after one of the game’s new cadre of villains, a lonely masked magician with an army of chickens and a strong desire to be best friends with the lead villain. You meet him a few times from a distance as he barks orders at chickens and generally chews the scenery with equal self-imposed drama to the first game’s bad guys.
Each area of the game has a different environmental quirk it focuses on, with the demo area popping up traps from the ground if you stop on certain spots for a long enough time. The roll out of these traps is smartly designed, positioning them as things that should be avoided at first and eventually as things that can be utilized for your benefit. Luring enemies onto the traps hurts them and, crucially, also blocks attacks that are otherwise unavoidable.
The demo area also had small hooks floating in the air, which function similarly to the jumping off points from 2015’s Ori and the Blind Forest. Jumping to one and hitting Triangle shoots you off in the angle you jumped at, which is of course used as a mechanism for increasingly more difficult platforming challenges.
In the original Guacamelee, dimension switching was used for puzzle solving and platforming challenges and the idea was brought back in this demo with a new twist. Now, scrolling quarters of the screen will switch dimensions, which means you can be hitting an enemy and they will suddenly become incorporeal during your combo. In some rooms, the alternate dimension erases the platform you are standing on or is actually just a lava dimension, which forces speed and urgency on to you.
About halfway through the demo, we met with the Chicken Pope, papal poultry that grants you the ability to transform into a chicken once again. Unlike the first game, however, the chicken has full combat abilities and can hold their own in a fight, as well as their own unique abilities beyond just being small. Additionally, grabbing a temporary power up enlarged the chickens to monstrous sizes, like a Mega Mushroom in New Super Mario Bros., and let us stomp around and destroy enemies in a pollo-driven rage.
The demo ended with a boss fight with the masked magician, which incorporated everything you learned so far in the level leading up to him. His boss room contained two traps, spike towers that shoot up if you stand on their floor placement too long, which are key in blocking some of the boss’ attacks and hitting him when he’s up in the air. He would occasionally take breaks to shoot chickens at you in bullet hell-style patterns that you could glide and jump around in your chicken form.
Guacamelee 2’s demo was fun and comforting and certainly does not reinvent the wheel. It does not need to, however, as the game remains fairly unique in its genre blending and still feels as good to play as ever.
Guacamelee 2 is scheduled to release in 2018 on the PlayStation 4.