Most Intriguing Idea: Transforming into a chicken to save the world.
Best Design Decision: Enemies you can wrestle!
Worst Design Decision: Bosses you can’t wrestle.
To avoid the dreaded term “Metroidvania”, I’ll call Guacamelee! (really feels like it needs an inverted exclamation point in front) an “exploratory platformer” starring a tequila brewer turned Luchador named Juan. The game has many points of similarity with Metroid, with new combat powers serving to remove obstacles in addition to taking down enemies, and the chicken form mimicking some purposes of the morph ball. The world, however, is a loose web rather than a dense one, and most of its areas radiate off the Santa Luchita hub. Despite the Dualshock’s mushy triggers, the controls are generally tight and responsive, but the game puts such stringent demands on the player that things can still get pretty frustrating. This is particularly true in platforming segments that require the player to quickly switch back and forth between the world of the living and the world of the dead.
While I found the platforming brittle at times, my real disappointment came in the boss encounters, most of which did not allow me to use Juan’s throws or suplexes, and some of which did not even allow me to perform combos in any real way. Much of the game’s primary combat is combo focused, and tactical throwing is very important to many of the fights. To have almost none of that paid off in the boss battles felt like a letdown.
Verdict: Cautiously recommended