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.