Skip to main content

Guacamelee! review

guacamelee review cover art
“Drinkbox’s third game is a gorgeous bruiser built on old ideas, but stacked with originality.”
  • Excellent platforming
  • Responsive Controls
  • Tons of old school gaming Easter Eggs
  • Challenge varies from easy to insane
  • The music is often repetitive
  • Occasional glitches force restarts

When it comes to evolving as an artist or artistic unit, the maxim that the third time is the charm is often spot on. In very general terms, the first offering is the breakthrough, while the second sees the artist learn and grow.  The third, however, is when the individuality of the artist or group takes over and classics are made.

Radiohead went from scrappy, traditional Brit Pop rockers on debut Pablo Honey to one of the world’s most creatively potent bands on their third record OK Computer. Quentin Tarantino broke out with his first script, Reservoir Dogs, wrote the memorable True Romance, and then defined a generation of cinema with Pulp Fiction. Like Tarantino and Radiohead, artists with clear influences that color their work, Guacamelee! sees Drinkbox transcend the classics that defined their style to make something that’s wholly their own. It is an artful, confident game as beautiful and fun as it is demanding.

Once Upon A Time In Mexico

The world-eating alien monsters of Drinkbox’s previous games, About A Blob and Mutant Blobs Attack are gone here, replaced by Juan the Agave farmer. Juan’s childhood sweetheart has been kidnapped by the nefarious skeleton bad ass Calaca,  foiling her plans to reconnect with Juan, and it all goes down right before the Dia de Los Muertos festival to boot. Juan dies trying to save his lady friend, but is resurrected thanks to the power of a magic luchador wrestling mask.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

From there, it’s a race across the game’s fantasy version of Mexico as you try to stop Calaca from turning your woman into a skeleton bride and, in the process, merging the lands of the living and the dead. Doing so is a tricky business, though. In his pursuit of Calaca’s minions including the cat warrior Jaguar Javier, Juan regularly runs into obstacles that block his way and he has to find a new skill in order to proceed.

In one of the game’s many explicit callbacks to Metroid, Juan stumbles upon giant statues of birds – Choozo statues, rather than Chozo as in Nintendo’s old series – that give him new wrestling moves like a fiery uppercut or a head butt. These moves help in fights and opening stone doors throughout the world. Later moves, however, alter Juan’s ability to traverse the world, letting him double jump, climb walls, and even launch himself through the air.

It’s a tricky business, rolling out these sorts of abilities in the game. Do it too quickly and the information overload can be overwhelming, making it difficult to learn how to control the game. Do it too slowly, and the game can lose its sense of direction. Drinkbox absolutely nails the pace of Guacamelee!, the progress of what you can do as Juan perfectly syncs with his journey across the countryside. Where so many games just have the trappings this feels like an adventure whether you’re scaling the inside of a giant tree, learning how to transform into a chicken, or getting help from Calaca’s scorned ex to transition between the worlds of living and dead.

The Luchador Way

The luchador brawling in Guacamelee! is also fine-tuned. This is a much faster game than Drinkbox’s Blob titles, with fights against evil skeletons, cactuses (cacti?), and flying chupacabras requiring a mix of swift punches, throws, and dodging. The game’s layout and progression may feel like Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but Guacamelee! does what those games never do, making every unlockable skill useful in both fights and traversing through the world. It’s an incredible balancing act, but it works so well.

Guacamelee Review 3
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The fights, save for a few of the end game bosses, aren’t the most challenging in gaming history, but the same can’t be said for the platforming sections. Finding all of the hidden treasure littered across the countryside and its temples is not a task for the faint of heart. There are some jumping challenges in Guacamelee! that make Super Meat Boy look like a quiet nap. Actually saving the day and getting the best ending requires you to leap through these gauntlets too. The Tree Tops sub-level in particular is insane, a drawn out climb that has you timing perfect jumps through spikes and buzzsaws, flipping around, and switching between the dead and living worlds in split second flashes (this is one of a few moments that forced me to play on PlayStation 3 – the game is identical on PS Vita, but in these crazy jumping challenges, the handheld’s button layout was just too cramped to pull off a win.)

Drinkbox knows how hard it is too. At one point I ran into a chicken who says, “You’re halfway there!” and it nearly broke my spirit in two. On the next screen was another chicken who just says, “Psych!”

Guacamelee Review 4
Image used with permission by copyright holder

This chuckling sense of humor carries through the whole game too. Drinkbox’s penchant for littering its games with common Internet memes and shout outs to other games has only intensified on its third outing. The Castlevania reliefs in old Aztec temples and posters for a Bachelor Frog luchador fight are the sort of sight gags that could get old fast, but they don’t overwhelm Guacamelee!’s original charms. This is a game where Satan’s trapped in the body of a rooster and a multipart sidequest involves travelling to the land of the dead for enchilada ingredients. The game is funny and sweet, even without its referential humor.


Juan’s chest tattoo of a thorn-covered heart is emblematic of the studio that made him: Drinkbox has itself one gigantic pulmonary artery. The studio’s third game is a gorgeous bruiser. While it’s built on old ideas, Guacamelee! is a sterling original, and cements its creator’s status as one of the most exciting developers in the business.

(This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita via copies provided by the publisher)

Editors' Recommendations

Anthony John Agnello
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Anthony John Agnello is a writer living in New York. He works as the Community Manager of and his writing has…
Will there be DLC for Baldur’s Gate 3?
A group of four adventures stands on the ends of a cliff in Baldur's Gate 3.

Having come out on both PC and PlayStation, with Xbox said to arrive in the near future, adventurers have already dumped hundreds of hours in Baldur’s Gate 3. This unexpected hit for the CRPG genre is as deep as it is long, and yet some have already managed to plow through all three of the game's acts. Despite there being tons of ways to experiment and replay using all the different Races and Classes, people are already getting hungry for more. In the modern age, DLC for massive hits like Baldur’s Gate 3 is almost a sure thing, and yet this game is by no means normal. From its long early access period to the sheer amount of dynamic and reactive ways to interact with the world, this is a very unique product. That has left many to question whether or not there will ever be any DLC for Baldur’s Gate 3.
Is Baldur's Gate 3 getting DLC?

At the time of writing, there are no concrete plans for DLC for Baldur’s Gate 3, but that doesn't mean it isn't in the cards. The latest update Larian has given on any potential future expansions came from an IGN interview with Product Manager Tom Butler during Gamescom 2023. He stated "We'll carry on patching for a while and then we're all going to take a holiday and then we'll figure out what we do next. But at the moment, we genuinely have discussions. We want to do more. We don't know what yet." No doubt the team deserves a break after the years of work put into Baldur’s Gate 3, and while fans will be somewhat disappointed to know nothing beyond fixes and updates are in the works as of now, you can at least know that it is being talked about.

Read more
Is Baldur’s Gate 3 cross-platform?
A Baldur's Gate 3 character lights the way.

The biggest CRPG of the year, if not ever, promises a huge adventure that you are encouraged to play cooperatively with up to four friends. While online play is expected in the modern era, Baldur's Gate 3 surprisingly also supports split-screen co-op on every PC and PS5 as well, meaning you can run an entire campaign with a friend side-by-side. As great as all that is, the vast majority of people will likely want to play with a friend in the comfort of their own homes, which might mean a PC player and a PS5 player will want to team up. Is that possible in Baldur's Gate 3? Here's a quick rundown of this game's cross-platform support.
Is Baldur's Gate 3 cross-platform?

In short, no, Baldur's Gate 3 will not allow for cross-platform play. If you are playing on PC, then anyone you want to play online with will also need to be on PC, and the same is true for PS5. While this is true for now, it is possible that Larian Studios may add cross-platform play in a future update, but for now, it is safer to assume it won't come and make your purchasing decision accordingly.

Read more
Best PS5 game deals: discounts on the best games of 2023
Ellie pets a giraffe in The Last of Us Part I.

There's no shortage of discounts for PlayStation 5 games among retailers, with some of the offers involving our favorite PS5 games. It may look like a daunting task to narrow down your choice for your next PS5 game purchase, but we're here to help you out. We've rounded up some of the best PS5 game deals, and if you see a deal that you like, you have to click that Buy Now button immediately as some of these discounts won't last long. All of the games below appear on our list of the best PS5 games for 2023.
Deathloop — $25, was $60

If you're looking for a shooter game that blurs the line between single player and multiplayer, try out Deathloop, created by the same studio that made Dishonored. Played from a main story perspective, it could almost feel like a pure assassin murder simulator, with many targets to find. Of course, there would still be a big catch thrown into the mayhem: somebody is out there trying to kill you. And that's where multiplayer comes in! Invade others' games and try to end their day before they knock out their target or, if you allow multiplayer, add a whole new layer of difficulty to the campaign playthrough.

Read more