Friday, April 12, 2013

Guacamelee! Was Pretty Good, You Guys

I'm not going to review Guacamelee! because I don't think I can rightly give it a fair shake, given the week that I've had.  I honestly do think that it had -something- of an impact on my overall experience with the game, given that, after beating it tonight and starting up a Hard Mode playthrough, I started having a lot more fun with it.  Not a lot is different about Hard Mode from what I noticed - you start out with less health and I imagine health orbs initially heal less as well, but I don't think damage has been toyed with, or if it has, then it's negligible.  Being that I'm a lot less stressed tonight than I have been since, hell, Sunday, I imagine that I might have just been enjoying it because it is, indeed, enjoyable, but I'll never get to play it for the first time again, so I can't say what I thought then versus what I think now.

Still, I played Guacamelee! to completion, as I stated (100% completion at that) and I am going to talk about it, because holy shit I've played like five games that I haven't even talked about on here and that is a daunting thought.  So if I've just gotta spill now to get it done and go back to the others, then that is what I'm going to do now that I've broken the hold that Disgaea 3 had on me and Soul Sacrifice is still two weeks off.  And I have been feeling oddly excited for Soul Sacrifice in the past few nights (especially with news of a demo next week) so it's safe to say that I will be playing the hell out of that when I get my hands on it.  At least, I hope I will be.  Because that will mean that it is a good game that I agree is a good game.  Since I can be contrary sometimes, you see.

Anyways, to segue that into Guacamelee! - people have been saying that Guacamelee! is a good game.  A great game, even.  A Metroidvania through-and-through that shines brightly and plays nicely.  These people?  They are not wrong.  Even in my stress-riddled state where I was not up to fully enjoy anything, I couldn't fault Guacamelee! much.  It plays smoothly and looks gorgeous on the Vita, both aesthetically and mechanically.  The game has been fine-tuned to run at something that is locked, framerate-wise, whether that's 30 or 60, I'm not sure, but I would guarantee that it is, in fact, locked to it because not once did I see a stutter or hiccup or even the briefest moment of roughness.  I'm not sure I even expected there to be any problems with that, really, but that there weren't any was reassuring, if nothing else.

As stated, the controls handle rather well with only a few minor complaints here and there on them.  Combat is, obviously, the main portion of the gameplay and it is definitely no slouch in that area.  Though there aren't a -lot- of attacks, the ones that are there are utilized in such a way that you have a healthy amount of combo options at your fingertips which only expands and gets more complex as you gain new moves from breaking Choozo Statues (homage, honest).  The complexity of these combos is demonstrated if you happen to step foot into a dojo in one of the few cities in the game where you are tasked with completing combos of varying difficulty on a Skeleton Luchador who just kind of stands there and takes it.  Still, even with the equivalent of a sack of sand as a sparring partner, pulling off twelve input combos that require precise timing is not an easy thing to do, nor is it something you'll likely use when you're -actually- fighting.  Unless you go out of your way to do so, which you might want to if you're looking for the combo-oriented trophies.  Or bragging rights.

Indeed, if you played like me, then a lot of fights went something like "Rooster Uppercut, Derpderp Dash (it's seriously called this), Punch, Punch, Punch, Grapple, Piledriver" and then it was dead, if not before then.  That's not saying that I -didn't- use variety, nor is it a good idea to fall back on a basic combo and spam that, but it's what I did because it was effective.  And, well, piledriving skeletons never gets old.  (I personally would've liked to see a powerbomb move as well, but alas)  Still, combat is responsive and dodging works fantastically, which some games get wrong somehow.  Not -everything- can be dodged, but what can't be can be evaded easily enough regardless.  It's as deep or as shallow as you want it to be, which is a nice slider, I think.  It's simple, it works, just how flashy you want it to be is up to you.

Every single move you pick up has a utilitarian use as well, which is part of the whole Metroidvania base that the game was running with.  Some of the moves, like the Rooster Uppercut and Derpderp Dash (seriously, I am not lying when I say it's called that) are meant to help with the platforming, giving you a little bit of extra air time and coverage to try and get to places you wouldn't be able to reach otherwise.  Still, other moves serve limited, but useful functions as well, such as the Headbutt, which will stop you in the air for a moment or two in case you need that moment to get a platform under you or something like that.  Of course, there are more direct uses for exploration in the form of colored blocks that correspond to different moves, meaning you can only get into certain areas after you have that move.  Much like the different barriers in Super Metroid requiring the Ice Beam, Super Missiles, etc.  The inspiration is pretty clear and pretty well-implemented regardless.

One of the places where the game falls short is the actual story and characterization.  It's not that what's there is -bad-, more like what's there just isn't -enough-.  It is a barebones experience which has a veneer of charm overlaid onto it, which is fine, but not necessarily meaty enough to really come away satisfied if that is your thing.  You get enough to get from Point A to Point B and punch someone with a reasonable excuse, but that's -it-.  Everyone is essentially an archetype with a flimsy attempt at adding another point to it so they're not directly out of the book, but it's barely there.  -Especially- with our main character, Juan.  There is precisely one attempt to flesh him out in the entire game and not only does it fall flat on its face, but it has nothing to do with anything, really, and is never really brought up again.  You can connect a few dots with what's laid out, but it's not going to win anything for writing, which, for me is a shame, but I suppose it's not a necessity.

Still, the question with most games is "Is it worth the price?" to which, for Guacamelee!, I say yes.  Even at the normal price of $15, it would be a worthy investment, if only for the smooth combat, lovely visuals and clever map design that manages to not be contrived in forcing Metroidvania elements while actually using a few of the moves in smart ways.  (Mostly Goat Fly.  By the way, I love Goat Fly)  All of the things it supports - Cross-Buy/Save, Vita Controller functionality, etc. - are things we want to support as well, so your purchase is getting you a good game -and- doing a good thing.  It's flawless!  It's made that much easier a decision if you buy it for the sale price ($12, so not a big discount, but a discount no less) and, equally easier if you consider that it's part of the Indie-Themed Spring Fever Sale that will be going on for the rest of the month. (Sale is only good for the launch week, however, so buy Guacamelee! before Tuesday)

In short, Guacamelee! rocks and you should buy it if you're at all interested in it.

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