Metroidvanias are my favorite type platformers, but I never expect them to be original and are already satisfied when they get the basics right and provide an overall fun experience. Guacamelee managed to surpass those expectations with ease, offering a perfect example of a metroidvania (the Choozo statues are the best hint to its inspiration) with a unique setting and a mix of gameplay elements I’ve never seen before.
Guacamelee sports an infusion of beat’em up elements, that go from initially simple kicks and throws to evermore complex combos. This required a bit of rethinking how to approach this kind of game, but once I’ve mastered the basics, this became second nature and I really enjoyed the combat. It’s different from the usual in that kind of game, but not different enough to feel completely alien (and not as complex as pure beat’em ups can get). Later on you also get the usual assortment of skills, from wall-jumping to double-jump and so on, to make up for the departure in battle mechanics.
Setting-wise, Guacamelee provides a pop-culture version of Mexico with the hero a mexican style wrestler and the enemy a skeleton garbed in mexican style clothes. I don’t remember having seen this kind of setting in any other game and it’s both a fun diversion as well as it’s neat to see something different than the usual western fantasy or space fare.
Difficulty-wise, the game can be hard if you don’t grok the whole beat’em up infused gameplay, but overall it’s pretty easy and not all that demanding. That said, the game has two endings (the good and the bad) and you can only get the good one by finding various mask pieces, with two of them particularly hard to get.
I did manage to climb the tree level, but the disappearing platforms in the Sierra Morena completely stumped me. Overall though, it’s a great game and every fan of metroidvanias should have played it at least once.