Guacamelee 2 is a hard game to demo. At PSX, I played one of the opening levels with three other attendees through the game’s appropriately chaotic four-player co-op. That’s probably not how I will play Guacamelee 2, if I play it at all, so I was predominantly looking to see if the first game’s cheerful Day of the Dead aesthetic and good-natured sense of humour managed to carry over.
The original Guacamelee’s greatest strength was its effortless charm. Never a particularly frustrating game, Guacamelee felt more like a warm cup of soup than anything else. It was comforting—warm, even!—and did a good job of filling you up between more substantial meals. In another lifetime, Guacamelee would be a weekend rental. But in the world of properly-priced indie platformers, it thrived, finding a cult following that lead to a sequel.
So when evaluating a sequel, the question becomes less about whether it’s worth buying—I own legitimate versions of the original game several times over and have not actually paid for it once—and more about whether the game fills the same need as its predecessor. Does it belong in that rotation of Sunday afternoon games we all keep in the back of our heads? The ones we always want to fiddle with but can’t ever bring ourselves to start fresh?
Yeah, I guess it does.
At no point during my Guacamelee 2 demo was I frustrated, even when I died. The game does a good job of keeping up the pace, regularly throwing new ideas and scenarios at the player. The writing is still perfect for all ages, keeping things light without being condescending. It’s not quite Pixar-esque, the whole thing is more like a better DreamWorks production.
If you’ve never played Guacamelee, you should be able to hop into 2 fairly easily. It’s a snappy, responsive platformer with maybe one or two fewer tools than it feels like it needs. The uppercut is a good way to get some additional verticality, but it feels more of a combat move than a platforming technique. The combat is absolutely the weakest part of both games, in that it’s forgettable and occasionally gets in the way of the platforming. There are worse fates than forgettable action in a platformer, but I still hoped that Drinkbox would have iterated on the combat just a little bit more.
I felt more entertained than I did challenged when playing the Guacamelee 2 demo. Yes, there’s always the chance that most of the depth comes later on in the game, but your opening moments and first boss fight sets the tone even off the less-than-ideal conditions of a convention show floor. With the advent of Steam refunds, those first two hours become even more crucial.
I’m not saying Guacamelee 2 looks bad—there’s a lot to be proud of in that PSX demo. It expressly conveys the game’s sense of humour, its art style, and the basic mechanical loop you can expect for most of the game. And most of that stuff is quite good! It’s just that if the game hypothetically expands later on, it shouldn’t hide that depth from the kind of people who are looking for it.
There is something to be said for the four-player co-op, which reminds me of New Super Mario Bros Wii in its best moments. Without any collision on the four playable characters, combat becomes a trifle and platforming becomes a collaborative effort. Your fellow players are also guinea pigs, running into scenarios and eating a death so you can see how they failed. Since the game continues as long as one player remains, we rarely all died at the same time. Usually, at least one player made it to the other side and took us all with them.
Yes, if you like Guacamelee I have reason to believe you will enjoy Guacamelee 2. Bonus points if you have three other friends (and controllers, if they’re local). You’ll likely have a few solid afternoons of fun playing it together. But if you found Guacamelee more charming than anything else, then maybe you should worry about the other stuff in your backlog first, because Guacamelee 2 will likely feel a little too familiar.
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Toronto’s Drinkbox Studios is most known for last year’s Guacamelee, a Metroidvania action platformer. The game was met with high praise and was featured on numerous game of the year lists in 2013.
Last month, they announced their new project Severed, a gesture based adventure game with dungeon crawling and RPG-like elements. CGM recently had a chance to talk to Greg Lesky, the lead designer on Severed about the game.
Comics Gaming Magazine: How did the idea for Severed come about?
Greg Lesky: The idea of Severed came from our Concept Artist Augusto, who was born and raised in Mexico, from thoughts about memories and physical and emotional distance from his family. Living far away from them made him constantly dwell in memories when they were together and he thought it would be great to explore this feeling somehow.
CGM: What is the story of Severed?
GL: I don’t want to give away too much because that’s a big part of the game, uncovering exactly what the story is. I can say you play a warrior that wakes up with a missing arm and a lot of questions about what happened. She goes on a quest to find the answers in a strange and surreal world.
CGM: What makes Severed different from similar games like Punch-Out and Infinity Blade?
GL: Punch-Out had enemies that had a strategy that made defeating them easier, exposing weak points. Unlike Punch-Out this doesn’t go round-to-round, so you’ll need to keep your health up during and after battles if you want to explore deeper into dangerous parts of the world. While we do use a gesture based melee attack system like Infinity Blade, our attacks are location-dependent which will feeds into the Punch-Out gameplay.
CGM: Why did you choose touch controls rather than using a normal controller for Severed’s controls?
GL: Gesture controls fit the style of gameplay better, especially with location-specific damage. Also it feels more satisfying to swing a sword with a gesture than a button press as it does better at mimicking the action she’s performing in game. We wanted you to feel like you were in her shoes (or boots).
CGM: What have you learned from your previous games that you’ve applied to Severed?
GL: This game is really a departure from what we’ve done in the past – 2D platforming – so we get to approach this from a fresh angle. I think this will be more about lessons we learned playing other games that inspired the gameplay.
CGM: You mentioned that there will be some RPG elements in the game, how will they work?
GL: There will be character progression but it will be RPG-light. You won’t be balancing how many points you add to your Strength or Intelligence, but you will have a satisfying level of customization without getting bogged down with details.
CGM: Drinkbox games always have had a vibrant and distinct art style, how does it contribute to the world Severed?
GL: I think the vibrant palette makes the world we’re setting up more unique. It is not a world deeply grounded in reality, so we can afford to be very bold with stylistic choices. The goal is to communicate a feeling and colours are one of the important tools for that.
Drinkbox Studios, the creators of Mutant Blobs Attack and Guacamelee have revealed their new project, a first-person “dungeon crawleresque” called Severed.
In Severed, players will play as a female warrior who goes on a journey to unravel the mystery of the world that she’s on.
Gameplay revolves around swiping the screen to hack and slash enemies to pieces, much like Infinity Blade. Players can cut off the limbs of enemies to significantly weaken them.
The game is nonlinear, so players are encouraged to explore to find new upgrades and secrets within the world.
Severed will be coming out sometime in spring 2015 and it has not been announced on what platforms it will be coming to.
With Drinkbox Studios Guacamelee! now out, we give you everything you need to know about studio and game in issue 27 of Comics & Gaming Magazine.