Retirement isn't a common thing in pro wrestling and it certainly isn't common in lucha libre. So why should anyone expect Juan to go out in his prime? Drinkbox Studios is bringing Juan, Tostada, and a few new friends over for a second adventure in Guacamelee 2. First announced at Paris Games Week, the indie studio brought Juan's encore campaign to this year's PlayStation Experience and Shacknews had the opportunity to go hands-on.
Anyone who has played through the original Guacamelee should have an idea of what to expect. Guacamelee 2 is more of the cross between beat-'em-up action and Metroidvania platforming that made the original game such an enjoyable romp. Juan can earn new abilities that will help him access new areas, which will contain tough-as-nails platforming sequences or rooms filled with supernatural baddies.
Juan the luchador will come with many of his moves from the first game, but look for him to also focus on his grappling abilities. He can grab foes and chuck them into other enemies, which can cause heavy damage and also disrupt their attack patterns. But while Juan will have new wrestling moves, he'll also have a different set of moves that are more feathery in nature.
Guacamelee 2 will double down on the first game's chicken motif by allowing Juan to transform into a new poultry form at will. Transforming into a chicken lets Juan squeeze through smaller spaces, similar to Samus' Morph Ball form in the Metroid series. However, Juan's chicken form can also attack enemies and even perform combos. In fact, it's possible to progress through a majority of the game in Juan's chicken form. He'll later unlock an ability called Chicken Shot that allows Juan's chicken form to burst through purple blocks. (A sequence I mainly remember for being encouraged to be the "winner winner and not the chicken dinner.")
The platforming sequences promise to be as much of a challenge as the first game. Juan can swing across certain areas in luchador form, taking advantage of a new mechanic called Eagle Boost that launches him longer distances. But he also has to watch out for acid floors, spiky ceilings, and cross-dimensional hazards. The only issue I had here is that a lot of the hazards blend into the stage scenery. While the lighting engine is greatly improved, the new illuminated environments make it difficult to make out certain dangers. Drinkbox is looking to address this prior to the game's final release.
The off-the-wall humor from the first game is also on its game, especially in regards to the characters' quips and one-liners. The bad guys look to be just as fun and memorable, as I was introduced to El Muñeco, one of the main vlllain's lieutenants. He was described by Drinkbox's Chris McQuinn as "a sexy birthday magician," donning a mariachi outfit and an ancient Greek theatre mask. El Muñeco offers a taste of how tough Guacemelee 2's boss fights can get, as he tosses out projectiles in random patterns from different corners of the room, goes into a tornado form and spins across the room, and even sends killer chickens towards Juan. There's also some interesting level design incorporated here, as the boss chamber contains two spiky pillars that rise whenever Juan walks over those areas. The idea is to use these pillars to block incoming chicken attacks, but they can also be used to defeat minor enemies and briefly stun El Muñeco.
While I played through the Guacamelee 2 demo solo, this sequel will invite more players into the action. This time around, there's four-player local co-op, with new players able to drop in and out anytime. The game's difficulty will adjust for the number of active players, which should ensure a balanced experienced for solo players and four-player crews.
Guacamelee 2 feels like an extension of the original game and that's a great thing, given how much fun that first game was. The final version of the game isn't far off, either. Guacamelee 2 is scheduled to arrive in Spring 2018 as a PlayStation 4 exclusive… for now. If the first game is any indication, I wouldn't expect it to stay exclusive forever.