Saturday, July 5, 2014

REVIEW - Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition.

Guacamelee is a beautiful, stylish, Mexican-themed 2D Metroidvania platforming-brawler, and the best PSN game of 2013.  I completed the game a half-dozen times last year, and my affection for it only grew after my initial review, which I now consider a tepid endorsement of an excellent tile, and a modern classic.

Guacamelee is one of the better 2D games of the past decade.  Its platforming and combat are both exceedingly comfortable and satisfying, and its wholesome, classicy, chicken-soup gameplay dressed up with Drinkbox's gorgeous art direction and Rom Di Prisco and Peter Chapman's soundtrack results in nothing less than a delicious dish.

The Super Turbo Championship Edition, now available for PS4, One, 360 and Wii U, takes what was already an exemplary title and gussies it up with new content, new abilities, new enemies, and new areas.

More of a good thing is, in Guacamelee's case, a very good thing, and the game's dimension-swapping, twitchy platforming puzzles get a touch more interesting, here, as you time swaps from the land of the dead to the land of the living in order to permit changes in one to alter the geography of the other.

The new areas, which represent about a 30% increase in geography, are as lovely as you expect from Guacamelee, and are seamlessly woven in to the game's campaign to the point that folks who hadn't played the original likely won't know which content is new.

One change I'm not particularly happy with relates to your throws.  In vanilla Guacamelee, some enemies onscreen are in the land of the living and some are in the land of the dead - you can only hurt enemies in the dimension you currently inhabit - but you can beat on an enemy in your current dimension, throw them, and then swap dimensions as they sail through the air to crash into an enemy in a different dimension.  It's super-cool.

Super Turbo gets rid of that.  For some reason.  I found it disappointing.

There are a few new enemies, but the most welcome are (oddly) nasty, upgraded palette-swaps of the original three skeletal vaqueros.  Also new is the ability to drop explosive eggs in pollo form and the Shadow Swap ability, but the biggest game-changer is Intenso mode.  It's basically rage mode - fill its meter by striking enemies - with a pronounced increase in your combat and movement speed, allowing you to tear through even the toughest enemies like brightly-colored tissue paper.

All previously-released DLC is present and accounted for, so you can still play as Juan's female combat companion Tostada, you can still dress like a chicken and you can still visit Hell and help the devil out by completing some super-hard challenge rooms which insist you understand the game's mechanics on a deep and spiritual level.

The Super Turbo Championship Edition is $14.99, and I was able to zip through it in a mere four hours of play time (I didn't get 100% collectibles completion, of course), but it feels like some of the best money I've spent on my PS4 - up there with the Resogun DLC and the Tomb Raider Definitive Edition.

Guacamelee is a modern classic - a must-play - and if you love the game as I love the game, there's enough new content and gentle twists on its formula here to make double-dipping an easy, guiltless pleasure.  If you've never known the joy of wandering a two-dimensional take on Mexico as an agave farmer of destiny, rest assured this is one of the best downloadable games since Mark of the Ninja.

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