The Mexiverse has never looked so good.
It's no secret that when it comes to metroidvanias, I’m generally not a big fan of the gameplay. The constant retreading usually leaves me feeling frustrated rather than excited to overcome a previously-blocked path. Couple that with getting lost and I rarely make it too deep into the adventure. However, that wasn’t the case with Guacamelee, which I was fortunate enough to play during its inclusion in the Humble Bundle. So naturally when it was announced that Guacamelee 2 was headed to the Switch, I was elated and with good reason: it builds upon an already fantastic foundation and adds more to love.
Guacamelee 2 takes place seven years after the events of the first title. Our hero Juan is now married with two children and clearly out of shape. However that will need to change fast as the Mexiverse is on the brink of extinction. Reunited with his mask, it is now Juan’s duty to prevent Salvador from reaching the Sacred Guacamole by traveling between different timelines within the Mexiverse. As you may have noticed, the story is completely over the top but sets a really fun vibe for the adventure. Dialogue and banter between characters was often funny and I found myself not wanting to pass up any opportunity to interact with anyone in this vibrant world.
When it comes to gameplay, Guacamelee 2 nails the feeling of seamlessly blending together a metroidvania and beat-em-up. It takes exploration elements of the former and tosses in rooms with a wide range of well-designed enemies to deal with before being able to move on. This helped to dampen the monotony I usually feel when revisiting areas by adding combat I genuinely looked forward to. While combat is insanely satisfying, the platforming gives it a run for its money. Obstacles start off relatively easy, but as you continue to unlock more movement options, the challenge increases. This becomes extremely apparent in optional hidden areas, which require a high level of play in order to reap the rewards. That said, what ties everything together so nicely is the map and always being shown where the next objective lies. It opens the door to exploring areas to your heart’s content, but closes the door on ever feeling completely lost.
The previously mentioned unlockable movement abilities also double as offensive skills in combat, when in reality it should be the other way around. These punches, dashes, buttslams, uppercuts, and headbutts all dish out big damage to enemies and additionally help you overcome those pesky platforms. Comboing these skills with the tight standard attacks and grabs results in a truly rewarding and fluid combat system. Seeing the combo meter skyrocket into triple digits became addicting and that feeling was only amplified with different unlockable skills. There are five different trainers you find on your travels, each with their own unique skill tree. By giving up your hard-earned coins, you can learn different skills to beef up Juan. Improving stamina, health, and power are options, but I found the combo skills more fun to work with. Being rewarded with more coins after reaching a certain combo threshold felt good, especially when it meant I could continue to unlock more options and deliver even more punishment.
Speaking of punishment, when you’re tired of punching and kicking your way to victory, you can now turn into a chicken and dish out a whole new level of brutality. That’s right, transforming into the chicken isn’t just for getting through small areas anymore; instead, it’s utilized a lot more thanks to the unique chicken abilities. These abilities help open new paths and are useful for getting to tough to reach areas, but they’re most enjoyable to use in combat, giving you two different fighting styles with the press of a single button. Switching becomes a necessary factor once enemies gain shields that can only be broken with a specific skill before you can damage these foes. Add in enemies that also require you to shift between the living and dead worlds to hurt them and plowing through enemies becomes a lot more difficult.
When it comes to world building, DrinkBox Studios once again does a fantastic job. Areas are visually stunning, making it fun to explore every nook and cranny to see what you might find. Towns are filled with interesting people to talk to and enemy design is both visually and mechanically well done. One of the most impressive aspects of each area is that there are two distinct looks when shifting between the living and dead worlds. I found myself shifting just to see how each area differed and was constantly amazed. Coupled with a superb soundtrack, it is easy to stop and look around in astonishment. There were a few instances of leaving a zoomed-out room to a much smaller room that was zoomed in, which felt a bit jarring, but really this is a small complaint in an otherwise great experience. In both handheld and docked modes Guacamelee 2 ran flawlessly in a single-player environment. Three friends can jump in for some local co-op play, but unfortunately I was unable to test how that worked.
When Guacamelee 2 does so many things right, from the wonderfully tight and responsible gameplay to the downright gorgeous look and feel of the Mexiverse, it’s hard to not talk about it without gushing. But it’s earned that right, delivering a top-tier experience across the board. It captures the essence of multiple genres and blends them brilliantly within a visually stunning world that’s equally as fun to explore as it is to stare at.