(DrinkBox Studios for PS Vita)
By Mike Delano
The tale of a luchador who must travel between the worlds of the living and the dead to rescue his true love, Guacamelee! is a huge leap forward for developer DrinkBox Studios, who also created the Tales from Space series. While the gameplay in the Tales games was impressively polished and easy to pick up, it felt a little limited, and, coupled with the modest visual presentation, one got the feeling that the developer wasn’t working at the peak of its powers. With Guacamelee!, though, the stars have aligned. First, the game is simply gorgeous; its incredibly vibrant colors and starkly angular character and enemy designs come to life through expressive animations. The music is similarly memorable. Traditional Mexican instrumentation like horns and acoustic guitars are mashed together with cool synths and given an electronic sheen, and the soundtrack as a whole is often beautifully sparse and knows the value of restraint. The 2D combat (charmingly seasoned with wrestling grapples) and slow introduction of your abilities is firmly in the Metroidvania style and is as fun as one would expect from an accomplished entry in that genre, and although the mechanics never do push much beyond the expected, the engaging exploration and is almost up to the high standards of similar titles from recent years like the enormous Shadow Complex or the innovative Outland. The game also brings a refreshing sense of humor to the genre, and its personality shines through with frequent nods to pop culture and its gaming inspirations. Most importantly, Guacamelee! is clearly the work of a studio that’s carving its own unique path in the industry, and now that all the pieces have come together, it should be a blast to see what else is bubbling inside these talented minds.