PAX East 2012: Guacamelee! Preview

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Nestled snugly in the indie developers area on the PAX East show floor was DrinkBox Studios, developers of the critically acclaimed Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack for the PS Vita. They were demoing a brand-new title called Guacamelee!, which already shows much of the same comedic charm and style that made MBA so popular.

Like DrinkBox’s previous title, Guacamelee! maintains a wonderful sense of style and humor throughout. You take control of Mexican luchadore Juan Aguacate (that’s avocado in Spanish, for you English-only types), tasked with rescuing El Presidente’s kidnapped daughter. A barrage of puns and silliness get you right from the jump, and the character designs, animations, and environments reflect that.

Not knowing what else to expect, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Guacamelee! had a Metroidvania feel to it, collecting powerups in a maze-like environment and backtracking when necessary. This time, though, you were fighting with your fists rather than with a gun or whip, and you could even play with a buddy. Combat was fluid and intuitive; one button handled all of your main attacks — which comboed very easily — and another for special attacks that allowed you to juggle your enemies with uppercuts or belly flop. You can throw your enemies when prompted, and you use the right stick to dodge — simple, yet satisfying.

Guacamelee! also has a trick or two up its sleeve to differentiate it from other Metroidvania-type games, the most significant of which allows for switching between two different dimensions with the press of a button. Certain platforms and enemies only exist in one dimension, so you have to be ready to switch back and forth as you traverse the map and while you’re in combat. This makes for some tricky wall-jumping, while also keeping the game from becoming a mindless brawler — all enemies can damage you no matter where they are, while you have to be in the right “place” to damage them. It’s a really fresh take on the genre, and I can’t wait to see more of it.

Oh, and chickens. Chickens seem to be a theme throughout the game, as they’re all over the map. They’re everywhere. You even turn into a chicken when you need to enter small tunnels for…some reason? When I asked the game designer I was playing what that reason was, all he could offer was a shrug and a smile, probably the best answer to such a question.

DrinkBox still hasn’t locked down a couple of key details for Guacamelee! Platforms and a release date have yet to be confirmed, but they’re aiming for a release on PSN, XBLA, and Steam by year’s end.