I feel validated in using a potentially uninspired “Mexican” analogy to start my review, since DrinkBox Studios does so much of it in Guacamelee 2.
Picture yourself in a Mexican restaurant, ordering nachos with friends. When they arrive at your table, there is magic all around. The multi-colored chips come adorned with guacamole, salsa, jalapeños, and more goodness. However, as you get past the amazing surface, the incredible first layer gives way to soggy chips with way too much cheese.
Guacamelee 2 is that plate of nachos – a game filled with wonderful ideas and presentational trappings on the surface, but ultimately poor execution.
If you have played the original Guacamelee, the feeling described above should be familiar. The sequel takes the combat-focused metroid-vania concepts of the original and merely expands on them.
A few years ago, protagonist Juan’s moveset would be novel but here is either repeated or borrowed.
All moves from the original return, totally unchanged. The visuals and soundtrack feel very similar. The universe-shift mechanic also returns. None of this inherently bad, just uninspired. Guacamelee 2 feels very “1.5” to me.
If you enjoyed the original and wanted more of that, Guacamelee 2 provides 10 hours more of the original game, with some small additions.
Those minor additions include additions to the movement in the game.
What’s new, Guacamelee 2?
Guacamelee 2 adds “pull stars” and “refresh orbs” to the game (my terms for the new additions). The former allow the user grapple points in mid-air, to fling themselves forward, akin to Ori and the Blind Forest. The latter “refresh orbs” function similarly to the diamonds in Celeste, where power moves are refreshed to be used again in mid-air.
The ability to transform as a chicken has also been expanded, to the point that you could viably play most of the non-Juan specific parts of the game as a Chicken and probably have a good time.
It should be noted that there is a 4-player multiplayer option for the entire game. I did not try this mode, which may invalidate the review for some. My review strictly relates to the single-player component, and I honestly cannot fathom how some of this game could be enjoyed with a group.
The new additions and extra length of Guacamelee 2 unfortunately serve to expose the issues with the game’s controls.
The layout and numbered of different required buttons to execute various moves make the more difficult traversal scenarios an exercise in frustrating muscle-memory and trial and error.
Hit boxes feel wonky at times, and I had numerous occurrences of dropped inputs, where pressing a button didn’t work. This was especially apparent while switching to and from chicken form and to and from the dead world during platforming.
Combat also sees its share of issues as it moves from too easy to unfairly difficult in the span of couple of battles near the middle of the game. Towards the end of the game, it was more advantageous to close my eyes and mash buttons than to actually try to process and react to onscreen cues of the enemies.
There are a few VERY difficult platforming and combat scenarios that manifest themselves as end-game content, where I had to fight with these control issues far too much. They ultimately were not worth completing.
The other thing that becomes a bit tiring over 10 hours of runtime is the game’s trademark meta humor. I found that there were too many gaming non-sequitors sprinkled into the story, though I have to admit they were quite funny while they weren’t overstaying their welcome.
In particular, the commentary on loot boxes and Kaepora Gaebora (the owl from Ocarina of Time) was particularly funny.
Your enjoyment of Guacamelee 2 will be roughly equivalent to your enjoyment of the original. If you haven’t played the original and want to give this a try, it is still recommended if you are looking for something to play and like platformers.
There are a lot of issues with the game in my opinion. While I cannot recommend completing the game 100% in the metroid-vania spirit of it all, I can recommend fast-tracking through the main quest to experience a fun if flawed adventure.