Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition will quite possibly be one of the most colourful, bizarrely-named games on the Wii U eShop when it arrives on 2nd July, as any exclamation mark-bearing title with a masked hero can be. The Nintendo début of Drinkbox Studios is an expanded, improved version of the popular original, and the pleasing angle for Wii U gamers is that the wait may well have been worthwhile.
For those unaware of the original or what this title brings, its a 'Metroidvania' beat-em-up action platformer, which should be enough blended genres to keep those with itchy thumbs satisfied. After starting off with basic abilities, you work through a sizeable world gradually, unlocking new areas and secrets as you discover new moves and capabilities.
As those with experience of the original Guacamelee will likely attest, this is certainly in the tier of more substantial 'indie' games, reflecting the time spent and abilities of a relatively experienced studio. The Mexican fantasy setting is impossibly vibrant, and this title throws up varied environments; this expanded version takes further steps, with new areas that could add a good few hours to adventure. One example we've seen early on in our Wii U build is the 'Canal of Flowers', which intros with a fight scene reminiscent of water-raft levels in a certain iconic 2D Nintendo platformer. A new area it may be, but as it'd been a while since our playthrough of the original we didn't even realise that it was new right away, as it slipped seamlessly into the story progression, but also that Metroidvania progression of unlocking new abilities. That bodes well for the rest of the new areas, in that they won't feel bolted on and out of place.
We've alluded to a Mario reference, and playing through this game will likely have Nintendo fans flashing familiar smiles on a regular basis. This title is full of retro and current game references, many of them immediately recognisable as riffs on Mario, Metroid and more. Whether it's the 'Choozo' statues that you break to access new abilities, or an early boss that brings flashbacks to Super Mario Bros., the first few hours of the title don't hesitate to nod and wink furiously in the player's direction. This is a fairly cheeky game overall, in actual fact, with the dialogue and cutscenes often humorous and slightly bizarre — in a world of heroic luchadors, enormous beasts, drunks with flaming faces and talking skeletons, that's not particularly surprising.
Of course, colourful visuals, cute references and humour only get you so far, though so far this is shaping up to be a robust gameplay experience, too. Basic movement, jumps and attacks are factored in, of course, though the combat does have some depth. Some abilities are unlocked with progress, naturally, and early on it's a relatively linear experience as you hit coloured walls that block your path — opening up later on, of course. Moves to open up areas double as attacks, however, so a dramatic uppercut is not only needed to break red blocks but is necessary for some tricky platforms and battles. On top of these gradual unlocks you have standard grapple attacks, in which you can powerslam, kick or throw weakening enemies; there are plenty of moves to figure out.
It all feels instinctive, however, at least early on, and combat has a pleasing flow — the trickiest aspects in the opening sections are a couple of jumps, actually, with one optional path for an item chest requiring real precision. As before there are some puzzle-platforming aspects, too, in which you jump between a light and dark dimension, either to tackle enemies, hit inter-dimensional platforms and wall jumps, or both. This entry also introduces the ability to switch dimension at will (though not in the early sections) so there's certainly potential for some challenging level design.
For those finding the battles tricky, meanwhile, there's the new 'Intenso' mode. It charges up your hero for extra destructive power; this is triggered by pressing both analogue sticks when a meter fills, and feels like a hyper-colourful 2D version of the B.A.T. mode in Batman: Arkham City Armoured Edition. We used it mainly for fun in the early hours for this preview, though it may be more important in later stages.
Beyond basic moves, the inspiration from classics of past eras shines through in aspects of levelling up, with collectable heart and skull/mask pieces boosting stamina (for special moves) and your health bar — three pieces for a full boost, of course. Each battle — or barrel smashed open — also provides currency for buying extra parts of these boosts, or boosting your hero's default moves and abilities. A fun extra is also a second currency of silver pieces, which can be traded for some wacky outfits — we were all about the chicken suit, ourselves. For those that feel gaming should be more gender neutral, meanwhile, you can wear a costume to play as the main female character — who features in the story — as a 'costume'.
That extra character factors in for two-player co-op, too, in which someone with a Pro Controller can just jump in at any point. It's fun beating up crazy villains with a friend, while this incorporates familiar 2D co-op mechanics such as the ability for player two to 'bubble', while the camera keeps the focus on player one. As for Wii U-specific features, the GamePad is best used for viewing the map at all times — pretty helpful in a large world where re-traversal will likely be important — with off-TV also included; the title does 'work' on a smaller screen, too, as it has been on Vita, for example. For those of you that care, meanwhile, there are three save profiles, and that's in each Wii U account on the system.
Ultimately, fans of this genre should certainly have their eye on Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition, and this seems to be a particularly enticing version. While it's often dismissed as a minor enhancement, having a map at all times on the GamePad could prove extremely useful, but importantly the title runs and looks absolutely fantastic on the system. Always bursting with creativity and colour in the first place, nothing has been lost in translation to Wii U, rocking a solid framerate and a sharp look. The music deserves a special mention, in particular, as what we've heard so far has made headphones — or a decent volume on the TV — a necessity.
So far our time with this Wii U iteration has been undoubtedly positive, while the seamless introduction of the first all-new area suggests that this'll feel less like the original with new content bolted on, and more like an enhanced adventure.
Are you excited about Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition? Let us know, and be sure to check out our recent interview with level designer Jason Canam.