That evil charro skeleton Carlos Calaca is no more

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A problem of late is that I’m not getting to write about games immediately after finishing them up, and you can blame this on my dream goal of drawing a comic for every game I finish this year. See, in prior years, I’d write a haiku of said finished game and then, if warranted, I’d write some further and final thoughts about the experience, and I’d do both of these things relatively fast, with everything still fresh in my mind. For 2014, I beat a game, add its name to my ever-growing list, and sigh in sadness at just how far behind I am in these comics. Then, instead of writing about it, I either wallow in my own frustration or start sketching a comic for a game I beat months ago.

Now, the last few posts on Grinding Down have shown promise, as I got to cover the Puzzle Agent games quickly, am still currently playing Doki-Doki Universe, and only tapped into Charlie Murder a week ago, meaning I’m relatively caught up, but there’s a bunch of in-progress blogs on my dashboard that are beginning to grow mold. Seriously, green-and-purple fuzzy grass hairdoFor example, I still haven’t talked about my time with Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions, Spyro the Dragon, or even Transistor, one of this year’s big AAA releases. Hopefully soon.

All of those two paragraphs are there to say this: I beat Guacamelee! the other night. It’s a game I started playing in April, walked away from due to a difficult boss fight, picked up again in May, walked away due to a difficult platforming puzzle section, skipped playing it entirely in June due to life falling apart, and then returned to it last night to polish off the final chunk of the game in one glorious go that nearly saw me twisting my Xbox 360 controller into plastic bits. Don’t let the cartoony graphics and bouncy tunes fool you…this is one of the toughest platforming games I’ve played since VVVVVV and not getting very far in Super Meat Boy.

If you’ll recall, humble agave farmer Juan Aguacate lives in a small village in Mexico and is in love with El Presidente’s daughter. Alas, an evil charro skeleton named Carlos Calaca attacks the village and kidnaps her, forcing Juan to go after them. The story never really gets in the way and is only told moments before and after boss fights. This grandiose journey will see Juan jumping between the realms of the living and the dead, jumping between ground and air-borne enemies to punch, kick, and throw, and jumping from platform to platform to reach new areas. Basically, there’s a lot of jumping. Thankfully, the jumping controls are really good, generally leaving any missed landings as your fault, and be prepared to feel the blame constantly, especially the parts where you have to both move and switch between realms in split-second decisions. They are grueling, but then at the same time, really rewarding to complete.

I’m still not 100% completely sold on Guacamelee!‘s combat. And maybe it’s because I was still using the same tactics and combats that I rocked at the beginning of the game at the very end of it, too. After a while, Juan will have some special color-coded attacks, like uppercutting or headbutting, but I found just mashing the punch button until a button prompt appeared over the enemy’s head, which means they can now be thrown, worked well enough. Even in locked-in kill rooms. So long as you can get a good thrown enemy to bounce around and knock down other beasts, you can pretty much keep everything under control. Thankfully, you also restore health at every save point, which are frequently scattered across the Metroidvania map.

Before the final boss fight, you get the option to warp back to previous locations to finish up any side quests or find more health/stamina upgrades. I decided against this as I was cemented in my goal to finish the game, afraid I’d just end up putting it down again for another month. Thankfully, after you take down Carlos Calaca and his second form, which, for me, took at least ten attempts, you can reload into the game right before the boss fight. So I can potentially go back and look for more stuff, if I’m interested. Honestly, I’m kind of interested, and it’s all thanks to a handy-dandy map that is constantly updating where hidden areas are, as well as your completion percentage. Good on you for that, Guacamelee! because really, I can’t be bothered to remember this stuff. However, I don’t think I’ll be attempting every jumping/warp portal puzzle left because…um, my hands just can’t take it, but it is fun finding the secret areas.

I played Guacamelee! on Steam with a Xbox 360 controller, and I really can’t imagine someone using mouse and keyboard here. I mean, maybe. Um, maybe. But my tiny, one-sided controller-loving brain just can’t picture it. There are so many moments where you have to respond in less than an eye blink, and I’d say the controller is the way to go. Just my two cents. One day, it’d be fun to experience it co-op, but then that would mean co-op jumping puzzles, and my heart is all adiós a mis amigos.

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One response to “That evil charro skeleton Carlos Calaca is no more

  1. Pingback: There’s some cold, quiet body interchanging in The Swapper | Grinding Down

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