Guacamelee, a Mexican-themed “MetroidVania” adventure, was the idea of one of the animators at DrinkBox Studios. The artist is Mexican, and his idea helped mould the style, which features bright colors, a lucha libre protagonist and plenty of chickens. Not bad for a group of developers based in chilly Toronto, Canada.
Melee combat plays a big part in the game, and any new power-ups that give access to new areas will have a practical use in the fights. I played the demo at PAX East with one of the developers and got a taste of the fighting and platform jumping.
The combat is akin to a 2D beat ‘em up. There were no projectiles at this stage, so the fighting was up close and personal. The two characters are agile, with the ability to wall jump and double jump while doing an uppercut. They can also roll out of harm’s way. In a nod to Metroid, characters can shrink down in size to find secret areas. Instead of morphing into a ball, they turn into chickens.
Early on we’re given the ability to switch dimensions and change the properties of each room. Molten lava in one world is harmless water in the other. Walls blocking the way disappear in another dimension. It adds another element to the platforming when the dimensions need to be switched mid-air at times. Both players have the ability to switch dimensions at any times, leading to some fun trolling if one character is lagging behind. For fun, you can switch worlds so that they miss a platform or end up stuck in lava.
The shifting isn’t just for platforming and puzzles. Certain enemies are invincible depending on the dimension, so deftly switching between the two is necessary in certain groups of foes. The potential of the dimension shifting is shown in the demo’s boss battle. A gun-toting ball of flame attacks the heroes. He occasionally becomes invincible while also throwing traps at the players, such as a pit of lava that has to be switched into water. It adds a level of frenetic action to what’s already an engaging fight.
If the demo is any indication, Guacamelee is a worthwhile entry into the MetroidVania genre that switches things up enough to stand out on its own. DrinBox Studios say most of the core mechanics are finished, so now it’s just up to building out the world and adding all the areas. The fun style and cooperative play are already standouts. The game will most likely be released in early 2013 for the PlayStation 3. An Xbox 360 version is being looked into by the developers, but nothing is final on that end.