Guacamelee! 2

Year: 2018
Platform: PlayStation 4
Genre: Action/Adventure
Review Date: 11/26/18
Rating: ****

Taking place seven years after the original "Guacamelee!" (assuming you got the "good" ending), Juan Aguacate and Lupita are happily married and raising two children. But in a different timeline, Juan failed to defeat Carlos Calaca, and another luchador named Salvador saved the world instead. Now, an ailing Salvador is seeking power and immortality by recovering the fabled sacred guacamole. Unfortunately, bringing the sacred ingredients together fractures the integrity of the Mexiverse, which threatens to destroy all parallel timelines. Uay Chivo and Tostada summon Juan to put on the sacred mask again in order to defeat Salvador and save the Mexiverse. Which means they have to kill him first. Juan traverses the "dark timeline" in a desperate attempt to stop Salvador and his henchmen, and becomes a member of the secretive Chicken Illuminati as well. Juan's pollo powers play a much larger role this time around, and you spend a lot of time switching between human and chicken forms.

The game is a natural extension of the original, and the gameplay mechanics are identical. It's pretty much just more of the same, except with new areas, enhanced graphics, and a wider range of characters to play. Right from the start you can play as Juan, Tostada, Uay Chivo, or X'tabay, and several other costumes and characters are unlocked along the way. The game also features a multiplayer component, which I didn't bother trying out. But it bothered me to see a number marker above my character's head when I was running around. You start the game as a weakling with no powers, and as you make progress, new abilities and areas become available. The difficulty is challenging and often diabolical, but the game is never unfair. Success boils down to pattern recognition, memorization, quick reflexes, muscle memory, and a good deal of patience and persistence. Coordinating all of your fingers to work independently can be maddening, but it can be done. Mostly. I managed to finish the game with the "bad" ending, which was quite taxing. Similar to the original game, in order to get the "good" ending, you have to collect a bunch of special keys for the Chicken Illuminati, which are extremely hard to obtain. Only the best of the best should even attempt to try. I tried to get a couple of them, and it wasn't worth the frustration, especially since I already had emotional closure to the story. Overall, I feel like the difficulty is about the same as the original, and possibly even a little easier.

Just like the original, it's a delightful celebration of Mexican culture, with rich and vibrant art, thoughtful writing, and a wonderful soundtrack. The game once again contains numerous clever references to other games and pop culture icons including "Metroid", "Sonic The Hedgehog", "Mario Brothers", "Zelda", "Resident Evil", "Silent Hill", "Limbo", "Double Dragon", "Street Fighter", "Pac-Man", "Star Trek", "Masters Of The Universe", and numerous others. I noticed a clever take on Schrodinger's Cat, and Unikitty from "The LEGO Movie" also shows up at one point. Several mini-games are included that poke fun at turn-based RPGs and microtransaction loot crates. There's also a Cave Of Dankness that collects a bunch of old Internet memes in response to criticism from the first game, which is rather amusing. For the most part, the game references are fun and keep the tone of the game carefree and light. "Guacamelee! 2" is a worthy sequel that's super fun to play, but it also carries the curse of feeling a bit too familiar. It will be interesting to see if the series goes any further.