Guacamelee preview

By Steve Watts, Apr 13, 2012 2:15pm PDT

Guacamelee is difficult to describe; it's not so much a singular, vital concept as it is a pastiche of various gameplay mechanics and influences. This approach could easily make for a hot mess, but a brief look at the game shows plenty of potential in the ideas coalescing into a whole game that is both fun and funny.

The plot focuses on Juan Aguacate, a luchador who sets out to save the daughter of El Presidente from the evil El Charro. The focus on Mexican wrestling means it's often a melee brawler in the style of classic beat-em-ups. Slathered on top of that like a fine 7-layer dip is the so-called "Metroidvania" elements. My time with the game at PAX East 2012 was a fairly straight-forward set of introductory areas, but I was assured that the full game will feature a larger map with more emphasis on exploration and opening new pathways.

"Luchador meets Metroid" is a novel enough concept, but the game isn't finished mixing in disparate elements just yet. Beating enemies grants XP for upgrades. At the moment, that manifests itself as health boosts, but Drinkbox is considering purchasable upgrade paths. The game features 2-player offline co-op, and XP is shared among the players so one isn't left behind if they join the drop-in play midway through.

Finally, Juan and his co-op partner can switch between dimensions -- an enemy might be an invincible white shadow in one plane, but vulnerable in the other. When enemies from more than one plane appear at once, the game becomes more complex as the player is forced to dodge both enemies while swapping between the two dimensions to deal damage.

What may be most impressive about this hodge-podge of concepts is how Guacamelee feels like it owns them all. It's openly borrowing from various sources, but it puts its own stamp on the proceedings so well that it doesn't ever feel derivative or forced. The writing was genuinely funny, the cheeky references were well-placed, and the combat system is easy to pick up and intuitive. Drinkbox hasn't given release details yet, but it's certainly one wrestling match to watch.

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