Guacamelee! review

  • Excellent combat
  • Lovely presentation
  • Smart and funny
  • Brief difficulty spikes
  • No hints anywhere
  • Playing co-op with a less-skilled partner

Drenched in Mexican culture and mashing together a half-dozen classic games, Guacamelee! is a challenging and delightful experience. It draws heavily on a triumvirate of combat, platforming, and exploration to create a memorable romp through a multi-dimensional world, consistently offering up vexing problems that take skill and creativity to solve. Emboldened by a confident art style and sense of humor, its only drawback is that it may be too much to handle for casual gamers even as it strikes an oft-ignored chord for hardcore fans.

Best known for its superb Mutant Blobs Attack! from last year, Toronto’s Drinkbox Studios has gone bigger and better with Guacamelee!. Playing as a Luchador (wrestler) tasked with saving the World of the Living from an evil leader of the World of the Dead, you'll navigate a rich and colorful environment inhabited with interesting enemies in both dimensions. Over time, you'll acquire various powers and skills in order to steel yourself for tougher battles and seemingly impossible platforming tasks, all to prepare for the final fight.

"A meaty experience with terrific combat, lovely visuals, and a smart sense of humor..."

The combat is definitely satisfying. A deep feature set offers multitudes of options, from ground and air-based combos to special moves designed to match particularly equipped enemies. While some enemies can easily be dispatched with mindless button-mashing, others require thought, planning, and a quick set of distinct combinations to eliminate. Some fights get frustrating, especially as multiple enemy types descend upon you in enclosed spaces, but (mostly) fair checkpoints make these battles much easier to take and eventually triumph over.

Getting around is easy at first, but as the game progresses, the challenges get intense. Thanks to the two dimensions of the worlds, there are areas that can only be seen and touched in one or the other. This, in turn, requires very quick hands in order to execute perfectly timed double-jumps tied to special moves while changing dimensions all at the same time. As you advance to the late stages of Guacamelee!, there are a few that feel almost impossible; but after finding the exact combination of special abilities needed to progress, the sense of reward is empowering.

Therein lies the biggest--and, really, only--issue with Guacamelee!. There are several intense difficulty spikes that turn a delightful experience into a temporarily frustrating one, especially in certain platforming spots. While there are dozens of tough combat battles, those almost always feel fair; it’s simply a matter of figuring out the specific way to defeat enemies in the best order and then move on. While difficulty balance is always a tough thing to nail, Guacamelee! could have used a few simple hints to let players know how to approach certain situations without letting them flail around for 15 minutes in vain.

"... it may be too much to handle for casual gamers..."

Sometimes, the best thing to do is simply put the game down and cool off for a few minutes. Luckily, Guacamelee! offers cross-buy and cross-save between the PS3 and Vita, so when you’re standing in the shower thinking about a particularly vexing spot and have a “eureka” moment, you can simply grab the Vita to test out your theory. Guacamelee! looks, sounds, and controls beautifully on both systems, so picking which one to play at any moment is more about convenience than anything else. You can’t go wrong with either.

When you put together a little Metroid, Castlevania, Super Mario, and Mutant Blobs Attack! then immerse it in Mexican folklore, you get Guacamelee! A meaty experience with terrific combat, lovely visuals, and a smart sense of humor, it scratches an itch that’s being ignored more often than not these days. Despite some frustrating moments and difficulty spikes, it’s a terrific game for PlayStation Network gamers looking for something both familiar and different.

This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita.

More Info

Release date: Apr 09 2013 - PS Vita, PS3 (US)
Apr 09 2013 - PS Vita, PS3 (UK)
Available Platforms: Wii U, PS Vita, PS4, PS3
Genre: Action
Developed by: DrinkBox Studios
ESRB Rating:
Everyone 10+: Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol, Mild Blood


  • eric-richburg - April 19, 2013 7:07 a.m.

    Great Review. Just wanted to point out that there are hints on the map. Always something telling you where to go. For the times you need to find out how to get through a obstacle, I love how they don't tell you. They let you figure out the puzzle on your own. I think this game did a great job with that. One of my favorite games this year so far.
  • Swedish_Chef - April 9, 2013 9:51 a.m.

    So what you're saying is it's like Super Metroid but with more Luchador wrestlers? ...SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!!!
  • shawksta - April 9, 2013 7:04 a.m.

    Great to see this game lived up to the potential.
  • archnite - April 9, 2013 5:51 a.m.

    GR has a waterproof PS Vita just for shower time gameplay.
  • BladedFalcon - April 9, 2013 5:37 a.m.

    Fantastic! : DDDDD I've really been looking forward to this game! specially since I'm both a Mexican AND a hardcore fan of metroivania-style games, so this sounded right up my alley, and I'm specially delighted to hear that it delivers on all the important aspects. Seriously... all the negatives that were listed? those are actually pros or at least non issues to me XD Difficulty spikes? cool! bring on the challenge!!! No hints? well, that's how a game SHOULD be, you reviewers have been spoiled thanks to all the obnoxious handholding that has become more and more prevalent in gaming. Playing with a less skilled co-op partner? Isn't that more of a problem with the person more than with the game?
  • shawksta - April 9, 2013 7:03 a.m.

    Gamesradar's system requires them to shove 3 negatives, even if it ain't a negative to begin with, frustrating and difficulty levels being a common practice to shove in when they got nothing else XD
  • GR_RyanTaljonick - April 9, 2013 8:44 a.m.

  • BladedFalcon - April 9, 2013 12:12 p.m.

    Oh, I know, I was just amused that even the negatives sounded like positives to me XD And heh, if Ryan likes it, that reassures me even more! definitely downloading it tonight!
  • Sinosaur - April 9, 2013 9:15 a.m.

    Honestly, it's just a spot to list potential reasons that people might not want to play the game, and it's used so that everyone can compare it to their gaming pet peeves to see if it meshes.
  • GR_RyanTaljonick - April 9, 2013 8:45 a.m.

    This game rules.
  • gilgamesh310 - April 11, 2014 3:54 p.m.

    I agree. I'm after getting and playing through most of the game. Never have a I felt that hints should be provided. There are some tough puzzles. So what? We should just be left figure them out ourselves. The experience is more rewarding when we do. The only somewhat unfair moments were in those challenges in the caves, where you have to fight waves of progressively tougher enemies and must repeat it all if you do. It's an optional area though, so it's not really a problem. I don't think most games reviewers are that skilled at games at all. I hear lots of reviewers complain about difficulty in games quite often, even in games that aren't even that hard. I believe GR even listed the lack of regen health in Resistance 3 as a negative. That's just completely retarded.
  • taokaka - April 9, 2013 5:11 a.m.

    I was hoping to have finished persona 4 by the time this came out but I suppose I'll have to take a break from it to play this. Mutant blobs was one of my favourite games of last year and I've been eagerly awaiting this game ever since I found out drinkbox was making a new game. I never doubted whether this game would be end up well received for a second and after reading this I can't wait to sink my teeth into it.

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