Let’s Talk Guacamelee
I bought a lot of things in the holiday sales. Did you? Most of it was for other people, but I got some stuff for myself, as well. One of them was the Guacamelee Gold Edition. (I have no idea how that differs from the normal version.)
Now… instead of one of my usual almost-reviews, I rather wanted to talk about my impressions, my feelings, as I was playing though it. As a short introduction, Guacamelee is a luchador Metroidvania by Drinkbox Studios: the same guys what did Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack. And I quite liked that game.
Upon reflection, this format might be a little closer to what my friend Jarenth tends to do. Warning now, there will be SPOILERS for the early part of the game.
So yeah… I had heard good things about this, and I am generally positive when it comes to Metroidvanias. I like finding all the things, exploring all the areas, becoming this badass with lots of cool abilities. So why wasn’t Guacamelee an insta-buy when it launched? I… can’t really answer that.
Right out the gate I find myself in the home of an eternally grumpy-looking chump called Juan. He will apparently be our protagonist.
I walked around the village a bit, talked to the people, went to the church, said hi to the monk, got a basic punching tutorial, and then I met the first ‘named’ woman.
They really couldn’t have spelled her out as “love interest” any more than they do. I mean, it takes her like three sentences to compliment you on how grown-up you’re looking now while trying to smooth out and dust off her dress for you. You used to be childhood friends, you see. Well, okay, to be fair, that might actually be a reasonable reaction. But then less than a minute later…
I mean, I was honestly icked out by such a blatant trope-enforcement right off the bat. It didn’t exactly help that this followed right after:
Yes, that is indeed a bandage-wrapped zombie woman with bouncy boobs. At this point I was like “oh come on!” But sure, gimme the mask, let’s see what Luchadoring is like.
This is where things started to turn around for me. As I actually got to play the game, I found the combat to be fun and interesting. Your only weapon is your body, and you use a variety of wrestling moves to beat down your enemies, and as you earn more, you can use them to access new areas! I was enjoying this.
It’s also where some of the Zelda-ish aspects came in. The towns to explore with people to talk to. People who might need some help with a thing. Heart pieces to collect. And of course all the chickens.
And I forgot to mention I started finding these:
I found out I was able to switch character there, as well as purchase things. See, you can play this co-op, though only locally. But I was able to swap over to bandage lady instead. Though it’s only a costume. Everyone in the game still treats you as if you’re Juan.
That’s of little consequence though, really. I was having fun. Running around, doing stuff, beating up and throwing baddies, defeating bosses, and of course unlocking new abilities. And the jokes and references were often as cute as they were silly.
The amount of homages, or rip-offs if you prefer, in this game is off the scale. But I’m okay with that so long as it’s in good fun.
However, as I got into the final third of the game or so, things started shifting again. I made an effort for a while to always go back and try for every collectible and optional challenge to get collectibles, but that tapered off. I was… no longer feeling it, I think is the best of describing it. The game lost my interest.
The slow escalation of the difficulty up to the level of Bullshit probably had something to do with that. See, they keep introducing new elements into combat. After you gain the ability to shift between the world of the living and the world of the dead at will, there will be enemies that you can only hit while in one of those worlds. They can still hit you if you’re in the other. There’s also a variety of power-shields that can only be broken by a certain power-move, or the multi-layered one which requires a certain amount of strikes within a short amount of time.
I was playing with a controller, and still it felt tricky to make sure I pulled off the right power-move at the right time, especially the headbutt that requires you to not have the control-stick tilted in any direction whatsoever. Mix that in with enemies in two separate worlds attacking at the same time, slip a few quick enemies in there, and a few that can pull off attacks that ignore your dodge roll, and you have a recipe for true NES-era difficulty.
And a lot of the final collectibles were locked behind awful combat gauntlets, or challenge rooms that often had quite unreasonable demands for giving you a gold medal. I just… I decided I’d had enough. I’d gotten a lot of stuff. I’d just push through to the end boss and see what the ending was like. Considering how I’ve often 100%-ed quite tricky Metroidvanias in the past, it was not a good sign that I was feeling like this.
After getting through the long slog of the final temple/dungeon/whatever-you-wanna-call-it I faced off against the final boss, and…
I gave up. Plain and simple. I attempted him 3-4 times before I figured that nope, I don’t feel like learning how to beat this one. I refuse. You’ve worn out your welcome, Guacamelee, and I don’t care. I looked it up on Youtube to see if there was something I was missing. Some trick. But no, I just didn’t have the skill, or the patience to acquire it. The ending was actually kinda sweet. Both of them. Yes, there’s two. Just like how many forms the final boss has.
I was done. Simple as that. Nothing is gonna make me go back to get the rest.
It is not a bad game. After a sketchy opening, there’s actually quite a few hours of fun to be had. Maybe throughout the rest of the game if you like that kind of difficulty bullshit. I know there are people who do. I’m just not one of them. So for me the game just fell apart towards the end.
If this sounds like a thing you’d like, go nuts. I just needed to vent my thoughts on this via the medium of text.