Guacamelee 2 preview: A spicy, long-awaited double dip

Drinkbox Studios
Drinkbox Studios /

A search for good guacamole shouldn’t be this difficult, but some gods just have higher standards. Check out our preview of Guacamelee 2, due out this month.

The beginning of Guacamelee 2 is not that dissimilar from the intro to the first game. Players go to the same town, meet the same characters and punch barrels in the same church in search of food. The game isn’t too different once it gets going either; protagonist Juan must punch his way through scores of enemies to stop yet another world, or in this case “Mexiverse,” ending catastrophe.

This time a man named Salvador is after sacred, eternal and ever-flowing guacamole made by the god of time himself. He is after three relics to find the guacamole and players must stop him before he rips the multiverse apart. It is every bit as zany as it sounds and the game is packed with puns and references to a multitude of games.

There are also chickens. So many chickens.

Drinkbox Games
POLLO POWER! / Drinkbox Games /

The basic move set has largely stayed the same. Juan can punch, grab and throw enemies both on the ground and in the air.  Most of the special moves have returned as have the various gyms spread out across the game. One new special move makes an appearance in the form of the Eagle Boost. Essentially a magical grappling hook, it allows Juan to get around certain rooms easier. Its use is limited to rooms with the necessary hook points, so don’t go into the game thinking your favorite lumbering luchador can now zip around levels at the speed of sound.

Guacamelee 2’s biggest change is to its upgrade system. In the first game, upgrades were made available through story progression and could only be unlocked at checkpoints. The list was also limited to making attacks stronger and granting more health and stamina. Upgrades in Guacamelee 2 have a further scope, going beyond the traditional health, stamina and move set increases to rewards like extending hit streaks and an increase in gold for killing enemies.

Juan’s chicken form also gets new upgrades that increase its utility. Guacamelee 2 introduces a new, chicken-only special move that allows Juan to blast through special blocks to reach new areas. The chicken form is also more fun than in the first game and I looked forward to each section that required the use of the form.

The game is harder than its predecessor in a way. Guacamelee 2’s enemies actually pack less of a punch. The lucha rooms that featured somewhat sparingly in the first game are much more prominent here. It felt like every few rooms the game would lock me in and let me go to town on a score of enemies.

In the first game, these rooms were daunting challenges. Even one hit from a basic enemy could take out a good chunk of Juan’s health, forcing players to be quick-thinking and nimble enough to dodge the bevy of projectiles, punches and rolling armadillos being thrown their way.

guacamelee 2
Did I mention the game has couch co-op? It has couch co-op. / Drinkbox Games /

Juan is a bit tankier in Guacamelee 2 and has more leeway to just punch his way out of a situation. Players can still play the game like a high-flying wrestler, but the game lets them be more André the Giant than Rey Mysterio.

The trade-off is that the game is just a bit more finicky when it comes to its broader design. Players must have the thumb stick in the exact right spot to execute special moves, which can make it harder to move around the level. Similarly, some jumps require precise positioning to pull off. It’s nowhere near pixel perfect but it can often mean the difference between life and death.

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The game adds a new threat in certain levels as well. Taking a cue from Wii U platformer Runbow (in which Juan and Tostada were both playable characters), Guacamelee 2 has scrolling sections that add or remove platforms in addition to the player-controlled portals returning from the first game. These add a sense of urgency and drive home the precise positioning and timing required to get through these levels.

Guacamelee 2 has many obvious changes from the original but its most important are less obvious. The game is slower than the original and is often quite difficult. It demands more from the player and punishes them swiftly if they fail. If that sounds fun, Guacamelee 2 is right up your alley. It releases on Steam and Playstation 4 on August 21.