Guacamelee!: Super Turbo Championship Edition

23 February, 2024 - 10:45 am by
About 9 mins to read
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch

Drew has pledged to slowly but slowly churn his way through his sizeable stack of Nintendo Switch games for his ‘Beat the Backlog’ feature. Check out his main article to see what games he’s completed already!

Oooof – this one has been a LONG time coming! I first caught sight of Guacamelee! around its original release back in 2013; my nephew had seen someone playing it on this upstart new social media platform called Twitch (it’ll never catch on) and picked it up on his PS3 – he knew it would be right up my street and suggested we play a bit of it in co-op. We probably only played together for an hour or two but it was definitely good fun and that short stint made an impression – this was a game I’d love to devote more time to in the future…

So the future came, and I bought Guacamelee!: Super Turbo Championship Edition on the Switch some seven years on from release… 

And then the far-flung future came (a further four years later), and when I finally made the time to turn it on and give it a go, I felt a little daft for waiting so long.

“Making his way down the ramp, weighing in at 260lbs, from Pueblucho, Mexico – Our Protagonist, Juan!” Juan is an agave farmer who lives on the outskirts of town and happens to be in love with Lupita, the beautiful daughter of the town’s mayor. On Dia de los Muertos, an evil skeleton called Calaca storms the village with a host of undead minions to capture Lupita. Despite doing his best to fight off Calaca and his minions, Juan is overcome and finds himself in the World of the Dead. Transformed into a mighty luchador by putting on a mystical mask, Juan, like any good hero, sets his sights on overcoming the undead horde, thwarting Calaca and saving the senorita.

At A Glance

Date Added to Backlog18/07/2020
Price Paid£4.79
Positives  + Wonderfully simple mechanics and controls
+ Fun Cartoon Network-style visuals
+ Fantastic stylised homage to the greats

Negatives  – Some actions not as responsive as I’d like
– Progress indicators not entirely clear
Recommendation Rating9 /10
Played OnNintendo Switch
Also Available OnPC, PS4, Xbox One
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Guacamelee! is still an incredibly stylish game, even by 2024 standards. There’s a very particular art direction that does a terrific job of showcasing its Latino influences whilst also perfectly playing to its target audience. The colours are bold and bright, with the Land of the Living bathed in deep reds, vibrant yellows and warming oranges that sing of the Mexican hillside. The World of the Dead, by contrast, is conveyed with a very opposing palette, with loud pinks, sickly greens and decadent purples giving an otherworldly feel and leaning heavily into the Dia de los Muertos theme. A game that’s over ten years old and two console generations behind frankly shouldn’t still look this good.

The characterisation style reminds me greatly of 1990’s era Cartoon Network shows, with Samurai Jack leading the way in my comparisons. There’s a simple elegance to the depictions of the characters, where sharp lines, bold colours and heavy contrast gives each and every character a distinct shape and outline, showcasing their individuality wonderfully. This goes for the enemy design too, where Mexican folklore and Aztec themes are brought to life in tremendously stylised fashion, with Juan assailed by all manner of poncho-wearing skellies, frightful Chupacabras and giants clad in jaguar skins as he searches for Lupita.

Guacamelee! plays as a cross between a Metroidvania and a beat ‘em up, where you’re encouraged to backtrack through past areas to discover new paths and previously hidden loot as your repertoire of moves expands. The combat benefits from being simple affair without being entirely mindless; you can hammer the attack button to encourage Juan to smash the baddies with a simple flurry of kicks and punches, but you’re also able to sprinkle in a number of special moves that help you attack in a specific direction or evade incoming blows. There isn’t a great deal of nuance to the fighting, but it’s a lot of fun and feels rewarding to string together a huge combo of moves to break enemy defences and pummel swathes of baddies into dust.

Most of your moves can be used both ‘in the ring’ and for traversal too – whether it’s breaking colour-coordinated blocks to open new areas or shooting across the screen to avoid huge pitfalls, your newfound lucha powers are paramount to your progression. You’ll eventually be able to move between the Worlds of the Living and the Dead at will, and that’s when you can really have fun exploring the wonderfully designed world. New moves are granted to you by Uay Chivo, an elderly teacher who has the ability to transform into a goat and who takes a rather dim view of Juan smashing all of his ‘Choozo’ statues that are scattered throughout the world. Yes, you read that right – ‘Choozo’ statues – sound familiar?

The statue reference is just one of many, with DrinkBox Studios candidly showing off both their influences and their favourites via lucha libre posters, graffiti, and murals that are scattered throughout the game. On top of Metroid, I saw references to Mario and Luigi, Viva Pinata, Castle Crashers, Qbert, Majora’s Mask, Megaman, Mario Kart, Final Fantasy, Goat Simulator, and I’m sure there are more that I missed! 

And why are these references worth mentioning exactly? 

Because I think they show the incredibly human element behind video games that we often forget – that developers are gamers too! It’s fun to feel a shared appreciation for the great franchises, characters and moments that shape this hobby we all share- especially when so many of those influences can be so clearly felt throughout Guacamelee!.

It took me between 15-16 hours to to 100% Guacamelee!, so while it isn’t a monster of a game, there’s still plenty of bang for your buck, especially with the added levels and bosses in the Super Turbo Championship Edition. For the perfectionists amongst you (like me), there’s some wonderful optional challenges later in the game that will test the limits of your platforming, lucha skills and your patience! You’ll have to help Juan overcome a myriad of tasks behind each door in the Devil’s Advocates law firm building, attempting to win golden medals and reclaim the penthouse for the Devil, who Calaca turfed out when he took over the World of the Dead. It’s a tremendously fun level that’s very well designed to offer a challenge above that of the main story without ever getting to silly levels.

11 years on from its original release on PS3 and Vita, Guacamelee!: Super Turbo Championship edition feels just as polished and is as infectiously fun now as the original ever was. Punching, kicking and suplexing your way through the hordes of the undead is effortless in a way that makes you want to play until your thumbs hurt. Guacamelee! is a tremendous example of the Metroidvania genre and doesn’t shy away from its influences, resulting in a game that feels wholly original despite using a tried-and-tested format. With a visual design that simply sizzles with Latino Heat, the brash colour schemes, stylish motifs and 90’s Cartoon Network stylings land like a 5-Star Frog Splash. A timeless classic and, quite simply, a must-play.

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Our Rating