June 9, 2012

E3 2012 – Hands On with Guacamelee!

Filed under: Features — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 2:50 pm

Guacamelee E3 2012
There’s some humour in the idea that I traveled to Los Angeles in order to play a game being made in Toronto. Of course there were plenty of other reasons to make the trip, but catching up with the latest creation from Drinkbox Studios was high on my radar and necessitated a priority stop at Sony’s booth during E3.

Drinkbox’s Graham Smith was on hand to aid me in a co-op session of Guacamelee!, which puts players behind the mask of a burly luchador, but also offers the chance to transform into a chicken with the press of a button. There’s something rather joyous about running across the screen with your beak in the air – in fact Graham might have had to wait a few moments while I abused the opportunity to keep doing that.

Eventually I regained some composure though, and the demo was able to move forward.

Guacamelee E3 2012
The chicken transformation is a good starting point for discussing Guacamelee! however, with said ability serving as a means of reaching areas of the side-scrolling brawler accessible only through narrow passages, allowing players to discover new areas and secrets – much like Samus’ morph ball ability in the Metroid series. Along the way I even discovered a taco stand, which I was told will serve as the save point within the game.

When I wasn’t running around as a chicken, the focus shifted to fist fuelled combat against skeleton hombres eager to prevent our co-operative pursuit of a pistol wielding villain with a flaming face. The immediate combat option was punching these adversaries, as well as a super-punch that also serves as a means of double jumping to reach higher platforms.

Slamming into enemies while in the air is also a familiar and effective option.

What really caught my attention during combat was the prompt over weakened enemies that urged me to press the triangle button, offering a chance to use the thumbstick to throw enemies in any direction – ideally toward other enemies.

Guacamelee E3 2012
After busting through a few enemies, the demo introduced the ability to switch between two planes – the world of the living and the world of the dead. Aside from color shifts, swapping between planes with the tap of a shoulder button affected the environment of each screen, bringing certain platforms into existence while phasing out others. Naturally this presented several instances where it’s necessary to jump from a platform in one plane and then quickly switch to the other in order to stick a landing.

It also becomes necessary to switch planes during combat as a set of enemies may strike at the same time from two different planes – the final boss confrontation wasn’t long for using this trick to force the switch in order to deal with underlings and thereby making him invulnerable until we switched back.

The overall effect was the sense that Drinkbox is keen on offering combat in equal measure with exploration, making for a demo that offered a strong balance of both those elements. The lasting impression is that Drinkbox is having plenty of fun with the side-scrolling genre and Mexican themed quest to save El Presidente’s daughter, which so far had plenty of fun to offer me in turn.

Given the critical consensus that Drinkbox’s last title on the Vita, Mutant Blobs Attack, represents one of the best launch titles for the still relatively new handheld, it should come as no surprise that Sony’s Pub Fund picked up Guacamelee! for a future release on the PlayStation Network and Vita – so stay tuned for more on this one in the coming months.

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