Chips Not Included
If you own a home console made by a company other than a Nintendo one or a gaming computer, you may have already heard about the metroidvania known as Guacamelee!, which came out in 2013 for Playstation 3, Playstation Vita, Mac, Linux, and Windows. This title was met positively a year ago, and Drinkbox Studios decided that they could add a bit more to the game for "next-gen" consoles as well. This updated version added the "Super Turbo Championship Edition" to its title, and also features enhanced HD graphics along with a few extra levels and bosses on top of the DLC that had been released for the original. There are also some new features and abilities that add quite a bit to the game.
The game starts of with you waking up as Juan, an agave farmer, on the day of a festival. Soon, however, El Presidente's daughter is kidnapped by the skeleton Carlos Calaca, and in your immediate attempt to stop his scheme, you are quickly killed by him. Juan wakes up in the land of the dead, however, and finds a mask in the Land of the Dead's equivalent of his town. This mask is guarded by a luchador who becomes your help character of sorts, and after putting on this mask, you are transported immediately back to the realm of the living to go on a quest to save El Presidente's daughter. While a fairly typical story for a video game, it does get a bit more interesting later on (not extremely, but some), and the character dialogue is quite good and/or humorous much of the time, giving each of the main characters or bosses their own personality to make things more interesting.
Guacamelee! STCE is a merging of quite a few things that all fit together quite well. It has brawling action mixed with metroidvania-styled exploration, along with video gaming and Mexican culture. Basically, the game progresses as you move from area to area, such as from a forest to a town to a temple (a temple being the same as a dungeon in some games), where you'll likely find one or two Choozo Statues per major area (meaning most areas that aren't towns). These Choozo Statues, one you punch them to pieces, will give you a new ability such as wall jumping or a powerful move such as a more damaging uppercut move. These more powerful moves use stamina, which replenishes over time, plus you can collect upgrades for your stamina bar just like you'd collect more heart pieces to make a heart in The Legend of Zelda series (and guess what? You do the same thing with health, too). After you quickly figure out all of this works, though, you'll realize how much fun Guacamelee! STCE really is. Brawling action rarely works just this well in a game, especially in such a game as Guacamelee! STCE. You'll find yourself seeing how well you can combo enemies, and figuring out just how awesome you want to look while you're destroying enemies. Drinkbox Studios really has nearly perfected the concept of Guacamelee! STCE. In case all that wasn't enough for you, though, there is a 2 player co-op mode so you can have fun with a friend of yours while you're playing.
In temples - and generally, just everywhere - are checkpoints at which you can also buy costumes and abilities. These don't change from place to place, and the abilities are mostly just power upgrades and health/stamina boosters, so this part of the little store is useful if you're struggling in an area. All you need are some spare Pesos from defeating enemies, and you're good to buy some stuff every once in a while. However, the costumes part of the shop is simple, but where the entire game can change sometimes. Basically, when you buy a new costume, apart from your appearance changing, there are two or three buffs or debuffs that costume has. For example, the Chicken costume lets you regenerate health over time, but makes it take longer for you to replenish your stamina. You need to be wary of your strengths and weaknesses as you buy costumes as they can either greatly help you or severely harm you if you're not using one suited for you. On the other hand, you could just stick with your original costume, which works fine throughout the entire game because technically, no costume is really "better" than any other; it's mostly a preferential thing. If you do decide to get more costumes, though, you'll need to defeat quite a few areas where you'll be stuck in a room with some enemies (sometimes spawning, like in waves) to get silver coins, which'll enable you to buy costumes eventually.
As for the music and visual quality of the game, both are very pleasing. The music is usually, but not always, fantastic, but you may not even notice it sometimes. However, it never gets boring or annoying, which is good. The artsy and comical graphics, however, we found to be very nice, unique, and fluid. They also work perfectly with the direct Drinkbox Studios was trying to go with the game. We never noticed any drops in framerate or points in the game in which the graphics didn't seem to fit.
By the way, have you known Nintendo for very long? If you answered yes, chances are you'll be able to spot multiple references to a variety of Nintendo's games (and you may have already noticed from this review that the way to get new abilites is by breaking "Choozo Statues"...seem familiar, Metroid fans? There are references to other companies' games though, as well. In fact, there are so many references to other games that it becomes a nonverbal challenge to see where and how many you can find. These, along with many other small things, are a part of what makes Guacamelee! STCE so much fun.
After you beat the game, just like in Metroid games, there are many more things to do if you want to prolong your experience. The game does only take around 6 hours to beat the first time through, give or take an hour depending on your skill level. You can go through and try to collect all the health and stamina upgrades, or get enough Silver coins to collect all the costumes. There are some secret levels you can even find, to test your ability. If the game was too easy for you, you can replay it on Hard mode, which is quite a step up from Normal. Actually, the thing about all these extra things to collect is we felt as if they were too out of the way when we were playing it, in the way that while Guacamelee! STCE is most definitely a metroidvania, it wasn't hard to get to the next objective as the path was fairly clear-cut, and we didn't need to use the game's teleport system until after we beat the game. So, if you enjoy looking around everywhere for the next "level," you may be disappointed, but we were indifferent. However, all these extra things to find, collect, and beat made the game replayable and should add many hours to the game's experience.
In the end, Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition is the definitive version of the game, and if you're into metroidvanias and/or brawlers, you have no reason not to pick this up if you haven't already. If you already own the original game on another system, you should seriously consider double dipping for the bonus content STCE offers. Everything in the game works out very well, and it's loads of fun throughout the entire game with much content offered even after you beat game. It's well worth it if you're into the mentioned genres, so take a dip into the action of Guacamelee! STCE. You'll find a unique but well-working combination of metroidvanias, brawlers, Mexican culture, and video gaming culture that's well worth your time.Overall Score: 8.75/10
Review copy provided by Drinkbox Studios.