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Nelson Schneider's Video Game Reviews (384)

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Ittle Dew 2 4.5/5
Luigi's Mansion 3 4/5
Xuan-Yuan Sword: The Ga... 3/5
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Guacamelee! 2   PC (Steam) 

Mas Con Amigos    4/5 stars

After farting around for 5 years, releasing various remasters of “Guacamelee” and ports of their older ‘Tales from Space’ games, as well as one new multi-platform title, “Severed,” Canadian Indie developer, DrinkBox Games, finally got around to releasing a sequel in 2018 to their hilarious Mexican parody game in “Guacamelee 2.” Promising more of the same Metroidvania-Meets-Brawling gameplay as its predecessor, but now with 4-player cooperative play instead of 2-player, I was excited about the possibility of playing this sequel with the MJ Crew after playing the original by myself. And I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

“Guacamelee 2” looks exactly like the original “Guacamelee, and reuses a majority of the original game’s art assets, animations, and engine. But as a true sequel, there’s really nothing wrong with that, especially since the original “Guacamelee” did such a fantastic job of capturing the almost-garish nature of traditional Mexican art.

Sound is likewise nearly identical to the first game, with plenty of catchy mariachi tunes in the soundtrack, as well as other thematically appropriate backdrops. There’s still nothing in the way of voiceover, aside from the reused grunts and groans of the player characters in combat.

Technically, “Guacamelee 2” doesn’t have any real problems. Though in the time since the original “Guacamelee” released, the Xbox 360 controller has become obsolete, with the Xbox One controller succeeding it. “Guacamelee 2” still employs X360 controller prompts, and I found myself frequently frustrated by unresponsive controls when using an X360 controller. I know this has nothing to do with the game’s quality, so it won’t incur a score penalty, but it’s something that needs to be said: Don’t play this game with an X360 controller and its horrid, unresponsive, inaccurate d-pad! Use an XBONE controller and save yourself a lot of suffering!

“Guacamelee 2” opens with a watered-down version of the final boss battle from “Guacamelee,” in which our hero, Juan – an agave farmer turned luchador - defeats the undead tyrant Calaca, who wishes to merge the world of the living with the world of the dead and rule with an iron fist. Seven years later, Juan is living a peaceful life, having grown old and out-of-shape, and now married to El Presidente’s daughter with two young kids.

Juan’s idyllic life is suddenly shattered when Uay Chivo, the strange Goat Shaman who provided guidance to Juan during his exploits against Calaca, shows up with the female luchador, Tostada, in tow, and whisks Juan away on another adventure, this time in a struggle against an unstoppable force that threatens the entire Mexiverse (yes, the multiverse is actually shaped like Mexico).

Riffing heavily on the overused “alternate timelines” shtick that has become so prevalent in comic books in recent years, “Guacamelee 2” takes Juan and the player on a dimension-hopping romp filled with memes, stupidity, corny references, and good-natured racism in an attempt to stop the ultimate villain from crafting the Sacred Guacamole and attaining unlimited power.

In general, “Guacamelee 2’s” story is even sillier than the first game’s, but also significantly larger in scope. Character development is non-existent for the returning characters, though the new villains all have plenty of personality and well-developed (if ridiculous) motives.

A first-time blind run through the game with a group of friends in coop took almost exactly 20 hours. Of course, we opted to do all the optional content too and received the Good Ending as a result.

From a gameplay perspective, “Guacamelee 2” is almost identical to its predecessor. Juan (and friends) must still explore a large, interconnected (Metroidvania-style) 2D world whilst gathering power-ups that increase their repertoire of brawling skills and their ability to navigate through spatial platforming puzzles.

Brawling is straight forward, with a generic combo and throws combined with color-coded special attacks for each d-pad direction. The up special is a red uppercut, the side special is a blue lunge, the down special is a green bellyflop, and the neutral special is a yellow headbutt. Not only do these specials deal more damage than the normal combo, but they can break color-coded shields that enemies sometimes have, and can break color-coded blocks that obstruct pathways, unlocking secrets, shortcuts, or just the way forward.

The simple HUD is back, with just a life bar and stamina bubbles. Each special move consumes a stamina bubble, which regenerate automatically when the player doesn’t use a special move for a few seconds. One new feature in “Guacamelee 2” is the ability to unlock a healing skill, which allows Juan and friends to crouch in place to restore their health bar. This new trick is situational at best, as the game still features liberal save points that fully restore Juan’s health, and during the times the player will most need to heal, the enemies won’t relent long enough to actually do it.

In addition to the new healing skill, Juan’s pollo mode is significantly improved in the sequel. In the original “Guacamelee,” turning into a chicken was just a way to navigate small passages that a big, burly luchador couldn’t squeeze through. In “Guacamelee 2,” though, the Mexican love of cockfighting comes through loud and clear, as Chicken Juan can perform combat combos and has access to two exclusive special moves, an upward-diagonal purple chicken lunge and a downward-diagonal brown chicken slide. Juan’s pollo form also gains the ability to glide/slow-fall, which complements human-Juan’s acquired ability to double-jump.

As in the first game, the player will eventually find Juan swapping between the world of the living and the world of the dead, and will gain full control of this function. In multi-player, instead of swapping the whole world (which can really screw up the other players who didn’t initiate the swap), it’s possible for individual players to swap in and out of the dead world, turning into pitch-black shadows in the process.

“Guacamelee 2” builds on the borderline-frustration-platformer qualities of the original game by adding a significant amount of technical challenge. In the first “Guacamelee,” I got annoyed by about 3 platforming challenges, with only one of them filling me with complete rage. “Guacamelee 2,” however, has half a dozen rage-inducing sections, and the whole game requires an overall higher level of platforming prowess to clear its basic, non-optional sections. I was very glad to be able to take a group of friends along for this outing, as, while the checkpoints are still liberal and the game is nowhere near ‘Nintendo-Hard’ from the perspective of having to repeat difficult, annoying things in order to try a really difficult, really annoying thing again, the ability to use extra players as soft-checkpoints eases the burden a bit. Still, “Guacamelee 2” is full of platforming challenges that will raise your heart rate and flood your body with adrenaline. I personally hate the way that makes me feel physically, but I know there are plenty of self-abusers out there who will still think “Guacamelee 2” is 2EZ.

“Guacamelee 2” is essentially identical to the original “Guacamelee,” except with all of the dials turned up to 11. It’s funnier, it’s bigger, and it’s more difficult, but it’s also much better with friends. Anyone who enjoyed the first “Guacamelee” or who enjoys Metroidvania games in general should definitely give this sequel a look, provided they have 2-3 friends to bring along for the ride.

Presentation: 4.5/5
Story: 4/5
Gameplay: 4/5
Overall (not an average): 4/5



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