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‘Guacamelee! 2’ hands-on preview

'Guacamelee! 2' adds more jokes, more moves, and more chickens in a new Luchador brawler

‘Guacamelee! 2’ hands-on preview
“From battles and platforming to chickens, "Guacamelee! 2" is amping up what fans loved about the original.”
  • Graphical upgrade makes the series’ fun art even better
  • Just as tough as the original
  • Good balance between new moves and smart challenges
  • Hilarious writing
  • New 4-player co-op is still a question

The chickens are back, and at least some of them are giant, in Guacamelee! 2.

Developer Drinkbox’s 2013 side-scrolling brawler recaptures the elements that made the first a hit, from its luchador-inspired fighting-game-style combos, to its goofy, humorous writing. Guacamelee! 2 does what good sequels should: Recaptures the highlights of the first game, while expanding on the scope to reinvigorate the formula.

Guacamelee! 2 picks up seven years after the original. Players reprise the role of Juan, the blue-masked Luchador with spiritual powers, who must work through another “Metroidvania”-style world, beating down bosses and finding new paths on an adventure to save the world from a mysterious new foe.

While many of the game’s core mechanics remain unchanged, Guacamelee! 2 uses the mechanic much more aggressively. Juan will, for example, continue solving puzzles by hopping back and forth between the real and spirit worlds, but in this game the ability seems to be used to amp up the challenge instead of giving you a leg up over your enemies. In one platforming sequence, we were forced to fight waves of enemies across both realms as world-altering waves of energy shifted the world from spirit to normal every few moments. To smash skeletal bad guys, you have to time your attacks to hit them in the physical realm, while avoiding the waves that would send you back to the world of the dead, rendering them invulnerable.

Like the original, Guacamelee! 2 follows the Metroidvania playbook closely.

Though the bones of Guacamelee! remain more or less unchanged in the sequel, Designer Chris McQuinn told Digital Trends that Guacamelee! 2 was an opportunity for Drinkbox to dig in and add some of the more interesting concepts they couldn’t fit into the first game.

“We had a whole list of ideas we had to leave on the board,” McQuinn explained. “One of them was robust upgrade system, or the idea of adding four-player co-op.”

Though it wasn’t in our demo at PlayStation Experience 2017, McQuinn said the sequel’s upgrade system will allow you to customize your abilities and make Juan’s moves reflect your particular combat style.

Over the course of his adventure, Juan will meet a number of trainers, each associated with a particular special move that players will learn throughout the game. You’ll be able to spend money earned from beating enemies to amp up the abilities you like or use most, making them more powerful and even adding better animations. The result is luchador combat that you can make more your own as you play, McQuinn said.

Like the original, Guacamelee! 2 follows the Metroidvania playbook closely. Players earn new moves that, in time, let them go back and access areas of the game they couldn’t get into before. The new abilities Juan learns define the experience.

We used one of these new skills, a grappling hook called the “Eagle Boost,” which lets Juan grab onto specific nodes throughout the game, shooting him through the air. Navigating hazards with the Eagle Boost means getting into a rhythm with Guacamelee! 2’s platforming, something that definitely takes a second to pick up.

The demo also sees Juan regain his ability to transform into a chicken to sneak through tight corridors (don’t ask). In Guacamelee! 2, Juan learns new abilities in chicken form as well. In the demo, Juan the chicken could turn into a divebomber that smashes through rocks. While it had a clear function for exploration, the ability was just useful for enemies that popped up along the way. When things got particularly hairy for chicken Juan, though, he was able to transform into a giant, kaiju-style chicken that stomped its way through all challengers.

If that doesn’t sound wacky enough, McQuinn teased “lots of surprises on the chicken side.” Whatever that means.

Some of Guacamelee! 2’s most interesting new features remain to be seen

In a boss fight, we put Juan’s fighting skills to the test. Fighting a masked magician on the hunt for a sacred relic, Juan had to use his grappling hook abilities to fly through the air and connect a few combos with the floating wizard before dropping to the ground. The magician had tricks of his own, though, hucking waves of chickens at Juan that added some dodging to the brawler boss fight.

So far, Guacamelee! 2 feels like a very familiar return of a game that did a strong job of marrying its brawler fighting style to some tricky platforming and funny writing. From what we saw, there was no shortage of jokes along the way. A lot of them came rom by Juan’s nemesis, the magician — we almost felt bad laying a beatdown on him.

Some of Guacamelee! 2’s most the most interesting-sounding new features remain to be seen, including its aforementioned upgrade system and four-player drop-in, drop-out co-op. McQuinn said the game scales up in difficulty on the fly as you add more players, helping to keep things challenging even as you add more fighters to the chaos. Even in single-player, Guacamelee! 2 seems tuned to push players to hone their brawling, jumping, and grappling hook skills in order to make it through.

Guacamelee! 2 is currently on track to launch on PlayStation 4 in the “spring or summer” of 2018.

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