Monday, April 30, 2012

PAX East 2012: Guacamelee!

At the Indie Megabooth, we got to see the newest flavor of juice from Drinkbox Studios.  While the company was showing off its Steam version of Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack!, we got to try out the first playable build of Drinkbox's adventure brawler, Guacamelee!  We had some time to speak with Graham Smith, the Producer behind the game and COO for the company, and we got some tantalizing details about the game and chickens, too! [Check after the break for our preview.]

Guacamelee stars Juan Aguacate, a young Mexican whose hidden love, El Presidente's Daughter, has been kidnapped by the Evil Charro Skeleton to bring the worlds of the dead and the living together.  With a mystical luchador mask, Juan gains the powers to fight these undead monstrosities, and thanks to a shape-shifting shaman, the fighter also gains the ability to jump between the two worlds, pivotal in his quest to save El Presidente's Daughter before it is too late!

The game is a Metroid-vania style platform adventure with a focus on combat.  As players venture into the world, they will encounter skeletons and other monsters which can be beat down in a variety of ways, including special moves such as uppercuts and throws.  On top of the many enemies to battle, players have to swap between two worlds in order to pass certain obstacles in the game.  For example, the game's demo at PAX East featured a land filled with flowing water and, conversely, ruins covered with lava.  When facing a dead-end, changing the dimension may allow for a pathway to cross, whereas other times one world's harmful lava can become safe and refreshing pools of water.  Some platforms only exist in some worlds, making for traversal to be full of constant dimensional shifts.  Furthermore, a number of enemies exist in different realms, requiring shifts between them to be able to land an attack correctly.  So, between platforming and punching baddies and shifting worlds, there is plenty of activity going on in Guacamelee!

At PAX East, I got to play the game on as Juan's faithful companion in the game's Cooperative Mode.  While still in development, the mode felt fairly balanced.  Beating up multiple enemies together felt great, and the movement was smooth.  Unlike some games, the two did not interfere with each other's physical location, but there was some communication needed for particular points in the demo.  Because both of us could shift dimensions at a moment's notice, certain platforming puzzles became difficult.  Sometimes we would climb to the very top when one of us would set off the dimension change for the sake of progressing upwards, unaware that it would cause the other to fail at their climb.  The game does warp the second player to the first for such a situation, but it was still the more aggravating part of the co-op experience.

The game's music and graphics very much fit the Mexican theme, and there are plenty of humorous elements thrown in to make the game all the more delightful.  The graphics are smooth-moving, vector graphics, and the music, while quiet, sounded like it would fit perfectly with the world.  Meanwhile, the game's sense of humor seemed to fit very well with the game's art style.  In the demo, the villain would make some humorous quips, and there were a number of gaming history callbacks which were a delight to see in the game's style.  Regardless, it all added to the festive feel of the game.

We have a chunk of the PAX East demo shown in the video below.  Guacamelee! is expected for release soon, with platforms still up in the air.  Still, keep your eyes on it!

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