Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition (Switch) Review
The Nintendo Switch has been graced with an incredible wave of software support since its launch, but one genre that has been severely lacking in representation is the classic Metroidvanias. Apart from Hollow Knight, Axiom Verge, Dandara, Owlb-
-Ok so there’s been more than a few outstanding backtrack-em-ups on the Switch over the last year, but one of the pinnacles of the genre in recent times has navigated its way through the land of the dead consoles to find a final resting place on the Switch, and its meticulously crafted blend of 2013 and 1994 side-scrolling still holds up wonderfully today.
Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition brings the fantastic original to the Switch complete with new areas, abilities and gameplay refinements to offer a high-quality Metroid-style brawler wrapped in an aesthetic inspired by Mexican wrestling and the traditional Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) celebration. Playing as luchador Juan, you’ll scrap, grapple and smash your way through a wide array of undead baddies and other strange cronies across a beautifully crafted world filled with abilities to discover and a fun mix of combat and platforming.
The game doesn’t shy away from its inspirations. As the map opens up you’ll come across different coloured blocks that you’re unable to get through until you come back with a new ability. You’ll earn these abilities at a pretty rapid pace from Chozo statues (no really, actual Chozo statues ripped right out of Metroid), and they’ll provide you a new attack that you can utilise in combat in addition to entering previously inaccessible areas.
Movement and combat feel incredibly slick. Simple combos will stun enemies which can lead fluidly into grapples and throws. Once you’ve got a few new unlocked abilities, you can chain them into your standard attacks for some satisfying combos. You’ll be forced to use them too, as later enemies come equipped with different coloured shields corresponding to the colour of one of your moves that you’ll need to break before you can deal any damage. This is about as complex as the combat gets, but the core mechanics feel great and never grow stale.
You’ll also use your special abilities as you navigate the environment. When you’re not smacking down cronies and pile-driving skeletons into the ground, you’ll be jumping your way across more than a dozen areas, often requiring some impressive feats of reflexes and dexterity. This gets even better when you can eventually switch between the living and dead dimensions, phasing walls and platforms in and out.
You’ll often be required to combine your abilities to pull off some otherwise impossible maneuvers to get to some hard to reach nooks and crannies, though you’re quickly popped back on the last platform if you fail. Success in these platforming challenges will reward you with chests containing upgrades to your health, stamina and Intenso meter. The Intenso meter was a new addition to the Super Turbo Championship, allowing you to go…uh… super turbo for a short amount of time and deal a ton of damage. It’s nothing you won’t have seen in almost every other action game, but it’s a nice addition nonetheless.
That somewhat exemplifies the heart of Guacamelee. The entire experience feels comfortable and familiar, but it’s a game that knows exactly what it is and what games have built the foundation upon which it stands. It takes those elements, gives it a polish and flair all its own to provide an incredibly enjoyable time through and through. The combat is fun, it’s gorgeous to look at and the level design is superb. The map opens up in a way that gives plenty of options to explore but never feels overwhelming, and the abilities you unlock create some very clever loops back through levels to minimise the amount of backtracking.
The pacing is spot on, expertly mixing up gameplay styles to soothe you into a rhythm that makes time fly by, which may be the only gripe some may have. It’s pretty short compared to many of its peers, coming in at around 6 hours for the main adventure. The DLC included as part of this package does provide some extra playtime, and there’s no shortage of upgrades to find and costumes with unique abilities to purchase if you’re the completionist type.
With that said, the length means that the spread of new ideas is spot on and it never outstays its welcome. Guacamelee is a tightly crafted, masterfully executed game that borrows and refines ideas from amongst the best in the industry that leaves you wanting more. Lucky for us, the sequel is just around the corner, and this is the perfect appetiser. If you haven’t played it before, don’t let this Switch port pass you by.
+ Satisfying combat
+ Challenging platforming
+ Superb pacing
- A bit short