Guacamelee 2: Winner winner chicken dinner | PAX East 2018 preview

Credit: Drinkbox Studios
Credit: Drinkbox Studios /

During our PAX East 2018 demo of Guacamelee 2, we couldn’t help but smile at how Drinkbox Studios went all in on the chicken humor.

It’s been nearly five years since I jumped, punched, and tossed my way across the lands of both the living and the dead in the action platformer and luchador brawler Guacamelee!.  I loved my time playing this fun little 2D Metroidvania-style game, filled with a mix of humorous enemies and platforming challenges. So when I saw that Drinkbox Studios was bringing Guacamelee! 2 to PAX East 2018, I knew right away I was going to have to make time in my schedule to check it out.

I had the chance to meet up with Drinkbox Studios co-founder and lead designer Graham Smith to chat about Guacamelee 2! as well as play a short twenty-minute co-op demo of the upcoming sequel. Although many years in the making, the sequel harkens back to the original in many ways. Aesthetically, the game is extremely similar to the first with all of its bright, Mexican-inspired colors and locales. Guacamelee 2! features a newly redesigned lighting system, but I admittedly found it hard to notice much of a difference from its predecessor. The game’s silly sense of humor hasn’t gone anywhere either. Let’s just say, I hope you like chicken!

Chickens played a bit of a side role in the first game, but that mechanic takes on a much, much larger role this time around. As Graham Smith put it, there is a “chicken Metroidvania inside of the Metroidvania.” Once you unlock the power of the chicken, you can turn into a bird whenever you want to squeeze into small spaces or glide across large gaps. While the chicken only had basic attacks in the first game, this time around you can also dodge, throw, and wall jump as a chicken. There are benefits to playing as both Juan the wrestler or as the chicken, though, which is a part of the puzzle-solving aspect of the game.

Drinkbox Studios went all on in the chicken-themed humor, and it was hard to not crack a smile, even when the obvious “winner, winner chicken dinner” joke was thrown out there. This sort of dual character mechanic translates to a larger game as well. Smith said to expect Guacamelee! 2 to take about ten to twelve hours to complete, whereas most people completed the first game within about six to eight hours.

Guacamelee 2
Credit: Drinkbox Studios /

The increase in poultry-based combat isn’t the only change coming in Guacamelee! 2. The game features new skill trees that require you to both meet specific trainers throughout the world as well as meet certain requirements to unlock new skills. Learning new abilities for your luchador will require both exploration and skill as opposed to just blindly spending experience points or some other currency. This also adds a fun level of customization, letting you focus on things like grappling or on your chicken form.

In terms of combat, Guacamelee 2! is just as action-packed and fun as the first game. Smacking enemies around and tossing them across the map like a wrestler never gets old. There are new combat moves that tie in with the chicken theme as well, namely Chicken Shot. This ability allows you to turn do a directional dive which not only lets you smack through environmental barriers but also enemy barriers. You will find yourself needing to switch between Juan and the chicken to take down certain enemies.

Guacamelee 2
Credit: Drinkbox Studios /

The demo also showed off a new directional jumping mechanic, where you had to position yourself under a floating Eagle emblem to aim a powerful directional jump called Eagle Boost. This was used throughout the boss fight in the demo, which was insanely hectic and fun. It took a little bit getting used to how to properly hook and launch yourself using this mechanic, but once it clicked I found myself flying around the map, punching the boss midair while trying (and often times failing) to avoid damage.

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Another primary difference in this sequel is how zone shifts work. While in the previous game you shifted between the world of the living and the world of the dead, in this game you have to deal with moving time zone shifts. This works into the game’s story, in which the new antagonist tries to destroy all of time and space. Several of the platforming challenges involved moving backdrops which would modify the layout of the room. One minute an Eagle hook would be present to launch from, the next it wouldn’t be there and you would be falling into a pillar of fire.

After playing the demo, I felt like Guacamelee 2! hit the nail on the head in terms of a sequel. It took its winning formula and iterated on it just the right amount. Guacamelee 2! is basically a longer and improved version of the original with “300% more chickens”. And it’s clucking good fun.

Guacamelee 2! is coming later this year to Steam and PlayStation 4, with an official release date announcement “coming soon”. No information yet about whether Guacamelee or Guacamelee 2! will eventually make their way onto the Nintendo Switch though.