Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition Review (PlayStation 4)
When Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition was announced, it didn't appear there would be that much different about the revamped re-release beyond the inclusion of DLC and improved presentation. However, once you start playing, it's clear just how much more impressive this iteration of the popular action platformer really is. Bigger, badder and muy caliente than before, Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition makes an already great game even more enjoyable.
Stop us if you've heard this one before. A dastardly villain appears in a village to steal away the girl you've been pining after. Only after overcoming a series of increasingly difficult challenges and adversaries are you able to once and for all reunite with your love, and banish the big bad forever. It's a story we've seen or heard or played dozens of times before, but Guacamelee! smartly plays with the tropes, acknowledging influences along the way, but never pandering to fans of titles like Super Metroid, Super Mario Bros., or Castlevania. With an acute knowledge of the genre, Drinkbox is able to play with conventions and churn out a game full of familiarity that feels incredibly new and fresh at the same time. That's even true with the STCE version, which shares an identical foundation to the original Guacamelee, but fine-tunes the experience even further to deliver the ultimate version.
Combat controls the same as before, with simple button combinations used to dispatch of your enemies. New powers are unlocked along the way, which in turn opens up more of the expansive game world for exploration. As has become customary, you can expect to use new abilities and moves just moments after earning them. It's another tried and true practice, but one that Drinkbox makes good use of in the long term. Around half-way through Guacamelee!, you'll have earned every skill you need to traverse and complete the adventure. It's then up to you to learn how to master things like Goat Fly, the Rooster Uppercut and the Dashing Derpderp. Your hero's health and stamina (whether you're playing as Juan or Tostada) are completely upgradable thanks to special chests hidden around the world, too, giving you more potential bang for your buck in regards to exploration. You can buy upgrades as well if backtracking isn't your thing, but taking the time to search is worth it as health and stamina upgrades get pretty pricey as the game rolls on.
For the most part, Super Turbo Championship Edition is a much more finely tuned experience from its original incarnation. The big stars of this update are the new levels, villain, and better balanced difficulty scale. The inclusion of the new areas (Canal De Las Flores and Pico De Gallo) and boss character (El Trio de la Muerte) could have felt extremely out of place and tacked on in the wrong hands, but Drinkbox is able to seamlessly integrate those elements to great effect. What's even better, is that both areas add a bit more to the existing narrative of not just Juan's quest, but also the world of Guacamelee! itself.
As great as the added content is, what really helps Super Turbo Championship Edition stand out is the tighter difficulty curve. From the standard battles against Calaca's skeleton army to the boss encounters against Flame Face and X'Tabay and more, you never feel all that overwhelmed by the challenge. Mastering the combat and combo system is still imperative to defeating the seemingly endless waves of baddies lurking in the late game, but at least the ramp up to that challenge is a lot less cumbersome. Even though this version isn't quite as controller-tossing frustrating, don't think that Drinkbox has dumbed down the game. That balancing also included making easier encounters much more difficult this time around. You'll still die, and you'll still face some stiff competition once the screen starts flooding with more and more skeleton soldiers. The pendulum swings both ways, and it's appreciated.
Just adding new content and balanced gameplay would have been enough, but Drinkbox also included every bit of DLC from the original game. Now there are two different kinds of in-game currency to earn, one of which is used for standard upgrades, and the other for new costumes. Co-op is also featured in Super Turbo Championship Edition, but like many skill-based platformers, is often more frustrating than it is fun. Nothing kills the momentum more than your partner not being able to make a jump or watching them get caught in a tricky section that you could pass through easily on your own. It's nice to have the option, but Guacamelee! is still a bit more enjoyable as a solo act.
Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition could easily have just been more of the same, but Drinkbox's improvements and additions make this update on the original a must play. Even if you've already blown through its predecessor, Super Turbo Championship Edition offers enough of the same great charm, challenge, and addictive gameplay to make it worth revisiting once more.
This review is based on download of Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition provided by the developer for the PlayStation 4.