Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition
System(s): PS4 (Also Available for Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Wii U)
Release Date: July 1, 2014
Publisher (Developer): Drinkbox Studios (Drinkbox Studios)
ESRB Rating: “Everyone 10+” for Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Suggestive Themes, and Use of Alcohol
Guacamelee was one of my favorite games of 2013. With buttery-smooth combat, winding passages reminiscent of classics like Super Metroid, and a cheeky sense of humor that’s actually funny, Guacamelee didn’t have to work very hard to worm its way right into my heart. It was at once an homage to the 16-bit classics of yesteryear and a shining example of taking those concepts and bringing them into the modern era. It was tough without being unfair, it was accessible without holding your hand, and Guacamelee in its original form was damn near perfect.
It was also very short. I’m not one to knock a game for being as long as it needs to be, but Guacamelee was so good that I longed for an excuse to spend more time plumbing the depths of its secrets, wringing every drop of delicious content out of it that I could. Additional DLC helped, but outside a handful of new costumes and some challenge arenas, it wasn’t enough. Luckily, Drinkbox Studios has heard my gluttonous pleas for more, more, more, because they’ve delivered in a way that goes above and beyond your typical re-release. Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition is even spicier than you remember.
Guacamelee follows the plight of agave farmer Juan Aguacate. An evil skeleton known as Calaca has stolen his crush (known only as “El Presidente’s Daughter”) and left him for dead. Luckily, a magical luchador mask has been left behind, granting Juan superpowers unheard of both in the land of the living and the land of the dead. His goal: stop Calaca’s evil plan to unite the two worlds, and beat up everyone along the way. Clearly, this is a story that aims to take itself seriously as little as possible.
As Juan pummels his way through deserts, volcanoes, forests, and the like, he will stumble upon all manner of video game references. A poster advertising “Los Casa Crashers,” a QR code puzzle that makes a not-so-subtle jab at Fez, ability-granting statues that look eerily similar to those found in Super Metroid, and more are strewn about Guacamelee’s landscape, each reference bringing a smirk to my face. A lot of these jokes would fall flat if it wasn’t so self-assured and cheeky, and Guacamelee’s humor triumphs because of this.
It also helps that Guacamelee is dripping with style to spare. Each color pops off the screen in an explosion of vibrancy, each animation seamlessly flows from one frame to the next, and Drinkbox’s take on the art inspired by the Mexican Dia de los Muertos celebration is both familiar and unique. It was already a gorgeous game when it first came out on the PlayStation 3; somehow, it looks even better, even more alive (or dead) on the next-gen consoles. The soundtrack is also fantastic, filled with upbeat electronic takes on various Hispanic musical themes – and the music transforms instantly as you transport between the land of the living and the dead. Guacamelee must be seen and heard to be believed.
Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition isn’t just a simple rehash of last year’s game, though all of the original’s content and additional DLC has been brought forward. A whole slew of new features have been added for fans to sink their teeth into. Perhaps most obvious is the new Intenso mode – a super powered meter that charges as you beat each enemy to smithereens and grants you super strength when you unleash it. It seems like a superfluous addition, until you realize that new elite enemies have been added, making your quest that much harder.
Intenso adds a new set of wrinkles to Guacamelee’s compelling melee combat. Fighting consists of simplistic but satisfying combos and grapple moves, and each of these can be fluidly chained along with every special attack you learn along the way. Every single trick in Juan’s repertoire is constantly being summoned, whether you’re changing up tactics to fight different enemies, or using different moves to break the colored gates that block your passage to lucrative health extensions.
There are also two additional areas to explore, conveniently slotted in to gel with the original storyline – the Canal of Flowers and a volcano. These sections add even more challenging platforming sections and hidden items to a game already full of them. And while these new locations don’t add a whole lot of new variety to the game, they’re certainly up to the high standard of quality of the rest of the game, filled with the same bright colors and unique characters Guacamelee is known for. They feel a bit like padding, but when the combat and platforming trials are so fluidly entertaining, a bit of padding is certainly welcome.
Perhaps the only complaint I can levy against Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition is hardly a complaint at all: it’s difficult. Certain sections can be trying, especially when you near its endgame as you hunt down the final secret items – these platforming puzzles require an almost godlike sense of timing and precision on par with the likes of Super Meat Boy. Luckily, checkpoints are plentiful, and failing will usually set you back right at the beginning of the most recent set of obstacles. It’s certainly not impossible – but your mettle will be put to the test.
Also, pausing takes an absurd amount of time on the PlayStation 4 version – at least a full second or two. This delay doesn’t exist on the Xbox One version. It’s an odd blemish on an otherwise masterful port.
Drinkbox Studios somehow managed the impossible – they took a game that was damn near perfect and made it even better. Rarely have I ever finished a game then plunged right back into it on a different platform just to earn all the achievements all over again, but Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition is just that good.
It was one of the finest games of 2013, and it’ll likely be one of the finest games of this year, as it can hold its head up high with the likes of Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. This is one hearty dish I could tuck into time and time again.