Drinkbox gave us the second adventure of our favorite Luchador, and we are giving you the second part of our opinion about Guacamelee! 2.
WARNING: this article contains spoilers from Guacamelee! 2. If you don’t want to ruin your experience with the game, stop reading right now.
I know it took me quite a while to write this opinion, but I wanted to be sure about what I wanted to address on this article. If you read my review of Guacamelee! 2, you should know already that I’m a huge fan of Drinkbox titles and, of course, Juan itself. But as I said, there are some problems that will contain spoilers of the final moments of the game as well as some minor things that couldn’t fit properly inside the review. And after this long introduction that doesn’t clarify what I want to talk about, this is my problem with Drinkbox’s approach to sequels.
Sequels: from Safe to Risk
Think of a game that you love that it’s part of a saga. It could be Sly Cooper, Ratchet & Clank, God of War… Now, try to compare the changes you found from the first game to the second one. I’ll use the already mentioned games as examples of my argument:
Ratchet & Clank changed quite a lot of things while keeping its focus and style. We still shoot and jump our way across levels filled with enemies as well as alternative routes and secrets, of course. But on the sequel, we have more weapons that can be upgraded, spaceship dogfights, lock-on feature, Hoverbike races… Same game, but with tons of new features that improve the quality of the game’s life.
God of War is another one that teaches a simple yet great premise: same mechanics, same style, same combat. But the thing here is that everything is cranked up to 11. We have more epic boss battles, more gore, more brutality, new weapons, and magic as well as some new items and skills. Does the sequel stray far from the first game? Not really, but it improves everything the first title created.
Sly Cooper is the big deal regarding the ones already mentioned. We are talking about a sequel that completely obliterated the structure, the style and the level design of the first game and created something completely different from its predecessor. From small hub areas that harbor straightforward levels, we go to quite broad places with a huge variety of missions to tackle. Different gadgets, as well as a new health system (and no more lifes), could be enough, but SuckerPunch said: “just wait because you can also play with the entire Cooper gang!”.
And after all these examples, what does Drinkbox do with Guacamelee 2? Well…
Even if it’s good…
The main issue that I have with the second adventure of Juan is that it doesn’t feel like a sequel. Not only we don’t have new moves for our Luchador (the Eagle Boost is fun, but everything else was present on the first game), but the structure itself follows the same path as well. Something evil is lurking, so we have to kick its ass, and along the way, we gather abilities that will help us in terms of both platforming and combat. After this, we reach a temple that will test our skills and mastery of Juan until we reach the final boss that has more than one form.
“But plenty of games do that, that doesn’t mean it’s bad” you may say. And I… Agree with that. It’s not something bad for your first title, but when you do the exact same thing on your sequel it means that either you want to play it too safe or you want to improve small aspects of the game, which Drinkbox did and didn’t manage to do at the same time.
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Even if Juan only gets one new skill, his chicken form gets more than the previous game. Not only he is able to glide, but he can use air currents, bounce off walls and break purple and orange blocks and shields by attacking diagonally or by sliding. Oh, and turn into a giant chicken, but that only happens in certain points of the game. This is clearly the part where Drinkbox put more resources into, as we see more chicken challenges the more we keep going. However, let’s not forget that we will be using Juan 85% of the game, so having only ONE new skill for him makes everything feel more like than expansion rather than a complete sequel. And then you have the biggest issue: the end game.
…Doesn’t mean it’s perfect
I’m going to be honest: I don’t think the secret ending is worth the struggle you have to endure in order to get it. The purpose of a challenge is that, when you overcome it, you get something worth the sweat wasted. After you get all keys for the Golden Door (don’t bother finding them on Hard or you’ll probably suffer a cardiac arrest), you are rewarded with… another set of challenges for the chicken form. And after finish them all, you get… ‘Unlimited’ Pollo Shot. It is not unlimited for one simple reason: you still consume stamina.
Why?! This is just stupid! It’s like finding Unlimited Jumps for the Wolf Form in Castlevania SotN, yet every single time you jump you consume magic points. Why not doing the same thing they did in the first game and give Infinite Jumps to the Chicken form?! If only we had a costume that allowed us to use abilities with no stamina cost… Oh wait, that’s right: costumes are useless now. No more silver coins, no more risk vs reward outfits like the Alebrije or the Diablo costume, nothing. And we still don’t know if they are going to allow Steam Workshop compatibility, so for now, we can say goodbye to play as Spiderman or Lara Croft. And this is not the worst part of the game, that goes to the final section: the Blocks of Death (either that or Horrid Voids, whichever you enjoy more).
Even if I understand that in the final temple (and some really specific areas) they work as part of the challenge, 90% of the times they are just really horrible. Not only they are one-hit kill boxes, but they annoyingly fill the screen of every single part of the world. They make exploring for secrets quite a drag, as you’ll be trying to not touch them every single time you see a room with large Blocks of Death on it. It may be cool to see the world turning into nothing at first, but after a while, it’s just boring.
You can do better than this, Drinkbox
As a way to conclude all this nonsense and gibberish, I want to say once again that Guacamelee! 2 is not a bad game, but only because it’s the same game with a couple of new things. Sequels are usually an opportunity to show the developers’ skills and to improve or add new content to the game. If I put Sly 1 and Sly 2 together, I can spot all the different things each title brings to the table with no problem. Same goes with Ratchet & Clank or God of War, but what can I say if I put Guacamelee! 1 and 2 together?
It may look better, but the gameplay feels the same, the levels look no different from what we’ve seen on the STCE edition (I would even dare to say that we had more environmental variety there than in the sequel) and the good ending doesn’t feel as rewarding as the first one. And I hope they don’t take the same route of releasing the game again with more areas and tweaks like they did with STCE, otherwise, I’ll be quite disappointed.
We always say that sequels cannot top their first entries, but when you have to face a game that feels like an Expansion Pack rather than a Sequel itself, is it okay to say “I want more with bigger risks” or “I want the exact same thing with slight improvements”?