Saturday, October 31, 2015

6 days of...Guacamelee!

Spooky scary Skeleton...

So in between bouts of a strong addiction to DOTA 2 (it's a love/hate relationship) I picked this gem up for some relaxing downtime entertainment. It originally caught my eye for the outstanding art direction and musical choice. There is a consistent theme of the Day of the Dead from Mexican culture and it is delivered amazingly. The bright and subtle color indicators and changes between the  dead and living world are especially impressive.

I've never been a big fan of Metroidvania style games but Guacamelee! by developer Drinkbox Studios definitely got me into the genre. I'll be visiting some other classics and some newer ones in the coming months purely because I enjoyed this game so much. The character design is highly inspired by Mexican culture both present and past. I'm sure it's not entirely accurate but there is definitely a faithful origin to that culture.

The greatest lesson I learned from playing this game was the creative but purposeful use of color and shape to act as indicators to the player. Obstacles are given color and shape to indicate what type of ability is needed to pass them. Enemies are given color to indicate attack patterns. Enemy shield color indicates what type of weakness they have. Slight color differences in between worlds shows whether or not you're dead or alive.

This type of indicator is highly important for initial progress and instant recognition of action. The game sometimes goes very quickly and requires some split second reflexes, So the colors very naturally lend themselves to recognizing what needs to be done and what buttons you should be pressing. When you start getting the combos right and using weaknesses of multiple enemies in between the two worlds it can be very rewarding and exhilarating. Visiting some of /r/guacamelee I've seen some amazing combos, that seem to be effortlessly done so maybe I'm just bad.

Either way the color direction is the defining factor that makes the game translate so smoothly to user input. Other than the color to ability translation the game itself is par for the course from what I can tell. Zones are definitive but not there wasn't anything revolutionary about the level design. Setting and story is essentially "Evil king kidnaps princess and wants to end the world" all over again. These aren't particularly bad things, but they are standard. I would have like to have seen the same creativity from the color mechanic and the characters put into the story, setting, and level design.

You'll like this game if: You are looking for a fresh perspective on Metroidvania while still sticking with the tried and true with masks and mexican wrestling vengeance!

(If you have a different opinion or want to suggest a game to play and review, let me know @Big_Dad_Gamer on twitter!)

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