Friday, July 11, 2014

Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition (Multi) Review

We conclude this work week with a review for an enhanced version of a popular 2013 hit. Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition now arrives on all eighth generation home consoles, but is it worth double-dipping if you've already played the original?

You Got Some Metroid in My Guac...

In April of last year, the original Guacamelee! body slammed its way onto PlayStation platforms with much championing. It's over a year later and the team at DrinkBox Software are back at it again; this time with an expanded version of the game. Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition now finds itself on Wii U, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Xbox 360 with two new areas, all the downloadable content from the original PS3 and Vita release, and several new gameplay changes to make an incredible enhancement to an already incredible game.

In Pueblucho, a small village in the Mexican countryside, lives a farmer named Juan. When the evil Carlos Calaca storms into town, causing nothing but devastation and destruction in his wake, he nabs Juan's love interest, planning to sacrifice her in order to fuse the land of the living and the land of the dead. Through doing so, Calaca will control both lands and be unstoppable. Juan loses his life when he goes up against Calaca, sending the brave but foolish farmer to the land of the dead. It's there he comes across a mysterious yet helpful entity that gives him a magical mask, one that transforms him from the modest-looking Juan into a strong and formidable luchador!

I always actually set to play the part of the damsel
in distress, but John cancelled at the last minute.
What stands out immediately from the story and dialogue of Guacamelee! STCE is how funny and tongue and cheek it is. The plot is nothing that hasn't been done a million times, and the game doesn't let up on that. The supporting cast around Juan delivers quick wit and does so in copious and constant amounts (almost as much as all of the references to other game series found in oh-so subtle and totally blatant places). My favorite characters would have to be the mariachi band trio that fused together to create one crazy combination of skeletons. Then there's a master luchador who has since disguised himself as a barnyard goat. The latter always spouts off hilarious and self-aware lines when Juan smashes one of this Choozo statues. (Yes, another reference to another video game series.)

The point here is that Guacamelee! STCE is unapologetic in poking fun at itself, its characters, its story, and even trends within gaming such as pre-order bonuses. This kind of writing remains strong throughout the game, from beginning to end.

Guacamelee! STCE is an inspired take on the formula that Metroid made popular. As is normal with this type of action-platformer, in Guacamelee! you slowly acquire new abilities and combat moves as your progress through the game. In this case, they're new wrestling maneuvers. These moves enable you to visit and access new areas of the map that you were previously unable to go.

As the game progresses, new moves and
new enemy types are introduced.
Guacamelee! STCE keeps things simple with color-coded blocks which signal which kind of move you to need to use on it in order to advance. It's just Super Metroid in that certain doors were specific colors, detailing which beam of Samus Aran she needed to use on it to get through.

Someone foolishly woke up the wrong
beast from its beauty sleep!
However, the moves that Juan learns throughout Guacamelee! are for much more than to just serve as keys to unlock doors. A meaty portion of the game is focused on using these luchador moves on enemies in combat to take out a swath of foes with relative ease. It's an awesome feeling to let loose on a group of opponents, leveling them down with a flurry of punches, kicks, directed throws, piledrivers, uppercuts, ground slams, lunging punches, charges, and much more. Getting a combo with a high number of hits is an incredibly rewarding feeling, and it makes encounters both engaging and enjoyable.

A cavalcade of carnage. Earn those hits!
Of course, you can't mindlessly mash buttons and expect to win. Enemies won't just stand there and take what you're dishing out. They will also advance with their own assaults, requiring you to roll and evade with precision timing in order to avoid taking damage. For later encounters, evading is a must, as some foes can not only attack fast but they can attack hard. A full health bar can empty into nothingness rather quickly for unassuming players. No, you need to fight with style, and doing so with some flash is a relative breeze once you get a groove. Seeing as the controls are ultra responsive and incredibly intuitive, that becomes an easy thing to get into.

Doesn't Juan know he's about to become a pancake?
I guess it takes Juan to know Juan...
When you're not battling enemies in and out of what can essentially be described as "kill rooms", where the goal is to defeat all foes within an area before Juan can proceed (something that's used a bit too often in this game), you're using the numerous luchador moves for other means as well. Guacamelee! STCE features a robust array of platforming that demands you to use your moves in creative and intelligent ways. You can jump into the air and use your uppercut attack to get one last height boost to reach an otherwise inaccessible platform. Later in the game there's a vast amount of points in the game where you'll need to use some finger-fu, switching between moves and button presses on the fly in order to successfully make it through the game's myriad platform challenges.

A simple example but one that  shows the types
of platforming to be found in Guacamelee! STCE.
This becomes even more complex when you factor in the earned ability to switch between two dimensions, the land of the living and the land of the dead. Some walls, blocks, and objects are in one dimension that aren't in the other, so switching between the two as you play is a must. There's plenty of platforming challenges that take dimension-switching to great use, requiring you to leap between two walls to reach a higher place. The only catch is that one wall is in the land of the living while the other is in the land of the dead, so you have to switch between both dimensions during each jump.

The team at DrinkBox Software should be commended for achieving a move set for Juan that works not only as a means to exterminate and out-muscle enemies in a combat setting, but also as something that is required to access new areas in the world of Guacamelee! STCE and see its bounty of secrets in a platforming and exploration setting.

Like any true Metroid-style game, Guacamelee! STCE comes packed with a profusion of optional backtracking. Unlike some games, the backtracking here is nowhere near as tedious as it could have been. The assistance of giant stone statue heads that allow you transport between them makes venturing to previously explored areas a simple task to do and one that offers no need to traverse all the way across the map just because. Backtracking can give you new upgrades, such as increased health and much more that are stored inside chests spread across Guacamelee! STCE's many lands.

One of the two completely new areas
within this expansion of Guacamelee!
Guacamelee! STCE may not be an overly lengthy experience, just clocking in at around 6-8 hours to complete. However, there's plenty of challenges to take on, such as the aforementioned discovery of chests throughout the world, the completion of side quests, and getting 100% completion in every area of the game and on your save file. In order to see the good and real ending of the game, you need to collect all of the mask pieces in the game. These are stored in some very tricky locations to reach, and most of them contain some plain dastardly platforming and combat challenges. In essence, one could get a ton of mileage out of Guacamelee! STCE, especially with the unlockable hard mode.

All of the preceding features would make Guacamelee! STCE worth owning, but seals the deal are marvelous lavish good looks and stunning animations the game possesses. Backgrounds are painstakingly detailed, characters animate splendidly, and all of the small little touches add up to create a wonderful game world to explore and thoroughly enjoy. Guacamelee! STCE is another example that a powerful art style wins over powerful tech any day. Add in some infectious tunes and you have one game that is a force to be reckoned with.

The attention to detail within the areas
of the game are truly amazing.
Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition succeeds in pretty much every category you can put it to the test to. Its combat is deep and rewarding, the platforming is strong and solid, the sense of progression and pacing are well established, the map design makes it so backtracking isn't a bothersome issue, and the presentation is a darling. What it lacks in length, Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition has in charm, humor, tight control, excellent design, and terrific presentation. Viva la Guacamelee!

[SPC Says: 9.25/10]

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