PAX East Preview: Guacamelee Impressions
Guacamelee is a cool PlayStation downloadable title from DrinkBox that is being released on PSN for PlayStation 3 and Vita. While at PAX East 2013, I had a chance to sit down with the guys over at DrinkBox and got to know more about their game. I had some hands on time in which I got to see how both versions of the game will play upon release. What I ended up finding was a title that not only drew inspiration from a lot of great examples from gaming classics, but a game that will definitely satisfy anyone who owns a PS Vita.
Guacamelee is a game about a man named Juan who dons a luchador mask to fight evil after being killed by enemies who raid his home. Juan is able to switch between the worlds of the living and dead in order to get past obstacles and fight various enemies that attack him on his adventure. In addition, Juan is able to change form and morph into a chicken in order to get through areas that require some finesse. The meat of the game outside of the Metroid-Vania style platforming is in the combat. A heavy emphasis is made on the various moves that Juan can use to get around areas and fight enemies, with a lot of them being Lucha Libre inspired attacks.
I spent a lot of time with Guacamelee playing alongside one of the developers as a co-op partner. The game supports local co-op between players on PS3, which adds an extra amount of fun to the mix. The game also has Cross-Save functionality between PS3 and PS Vita, with the ability to use the Vita as a controller while playing the game on PS3. Doing this has a map display on the Vita touch screen while the action plays out on the TV. It was a bit disappointing that co-op could not be played between both PS3 and PS Vita, yet it was not a huge detractor from the game's overall fun factor. Having the map displayed on the PS Vita screen is a huge plus, this makes things a lot easier and more comfortable exploring since you don't have to stop the action to view a map. The map on Vita updates in real time as Juan moves along from area to area, with unexplored areas displayed on the Vita screen while you play.
A lot of the enemies that show up in Guacamelee are very inspired by traditional Mexican folklore. Talking with the guys from DrinkBox, they revealed a lot of research was made to create enemies that were based off of myths from Mexican culture and folklore. One enemy that was shown to me in the demo was a kind of witch that in the folklore charmed men into following her into the woods, only to never be seen again. There were plenty of other references in the demo I saw, with one very cool looking boss towards the end that made for some fun action sequences and awesome visuals. Much of everything I saw drew parallels to games like Castlevania Symphony of the Night and Metroid in which the philosophical approaches were similar, but the results were unique and different.