At PAX East 2012, EGM editors Ray Carsillo and Eric L. Patterson crossed the border for some action platforming goodness in Guacamelee, an upcoming project from Drinkbox Studios. While the game has no set platforms announced just yet—the studio is hoping for everything from XBLA and PSN to iOS—what’s already in place is an interesting platformer that involves Mexican wrestlers, nefarious skeletons, and chickens.
Eric L. Patterson, News Editor: Walking around PAX East, or E3, or other events of that nature, there’s a point you get to where you’ve seen so many televisions with games on them that a lot of thing start to look the same after a while. So, right off of the bat, one of the very first memories I have of Guacamelee is that—among all of that visual noise—it caught my eye. Before anything to do with the actual gameplay or design elements, it’s got a very striking visual style that really stands out from a lot of other games.
Ray Carsillo, Associate Editor: I have to agree. It looks like you’re playing a cartoon of the quality of something you would see on Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network. Bright colors, simple shapes, and a vibrancy to the world you don’t see in most any game nowadays, downloadable or otherwise. I think what really got me sucked in though is how tight the controls were. It’s one thing to make a game look pretty. But then to combine that with great game play is another matter entirely—and Guacamelee‘s controls are very, very solid.
Eric: Games like this really live or die by their controls, so it’s always good when you find a developer who understands that. It may seem like a simple task—well-crafted controls in an action platformer—but it’s surprising how often it still goes wrong. For what was present in the relatively short demo we got to try, this aspect felt great, and there was an interesting selection of moves for each of the two characters. I do have to say, though—for being a game starring two Mexican luchadore wrestlers, I would love to see Guacamelee show more of that off. Why not have more wrestling-inspired attacks?
Ray: I agree completely. Suplex finishers where you aim where you throw your enemies is cool, but where were the flying elbows? The piledrivers? The DDTs? But, at least it had wall-jumping, and I LOVE wall-jumping in action platformers. I feel naked when it’s not there. It should be interesting to see if we get more later though, since the game paid a very strong homage to Metroid—even with its own Chozo statue when you get your dimensional shift powers. Hopefully, there are a few more wrestling manuevers to go with the standard punches and kicks.
Eric: There’s a lot that could be done with it in that regard, an I’d love to see it maybe have an almost fighting game-esque control scheme that could really accomodate that. Still, Guacamelee is doing some fun things with the overall theme. Talking to one of the guys from the game’s developer, Drinkbox, we were chatting about how little is done in video games with the various aspects of Mexican tradition and mythology. Here, they’re using elements from that, as well as from Aztec culture.
Ray: The level we saw definitely had a very “Day of the Dead” feel to it and so yes, it would be great to make sure that the culture the game is trying to portray isn’t overshadowed by—what we earlier discussed as being the “buzzword” of this year’s PAX East—the “Metroid-vania” game play. At least they did an interesting take on the morphball when you turn into a masked-chicken. I don’t know what it means, but it was fun.
Eric: It was crazy how often we heard the “Metroid-vania” term used around the show. Definitely, what’s going to make Guacamelee sink or swim—with so many other similar projects running around—is whatever elements it can bring to the table that make it unique. It has that visual style, it has some fun Mexican- and luchadore-themed humor and design, and it also has its option for switching back and forth between the land of the living and land of the dead. It’s not a totally unique idea, but the game does seem to use it in some interesting ways.
Ray: Yeah, there is definitely a strong puzzle element with the dimension—swapping between wall jumps, how some enemies only live in one dimension, or how water can turn to lava and the fact it’s given to you on that first level means it will likely be prevalent throughout. I’m worried a little about the 2-player co-op though. From what the guys at Drinkbox said, they’re likely not going to do online co-op—only local. I still don’t understand why people do only one or the other whenever co-op is an option at all. But, other than that, as long as they can maintain the humor throughout, the game play is tight enough that I think this will be an enjoyable downloadable title when it hits sometime around the end of the year.
Eric: I think what I’m curious to see is how it stands up over the entire course of the game. We’re seeing a lot of projects like this, and in quick little bites like we saw them at PAX Prime, it’s easy for them to come off well. Will Guacamelee hold our attention the entire way through? That’s what’s going to matter—but I guess we’ll know that better once we can get our hands on the full, final game.