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Hands On: Guacamelee Super Turbo Championship Edition is a mouthful of mayhem

By Connor Sheridan on Wednesday 26th Mar 2014 at 8:00 PM EST

Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition delivers exactly what you want - more Guacamelee. If you didn't get the memo that its overzealous subtitle is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, it does not in fact feature a hyper-speed mode or tournament-friendly balanced play.

But it does have more Guacamelee, and this time on new consoles. What does this mean for a game that already thoroughly explored the concept of masked wrestlers negotiating dimensions, undead foes, and dastardly moving platforms alone or in co-op?

We grabbed a controller with Drinkbox concept artist and animator Augusto Quijano and designer Chris McQuinn to find out.

The most obvious question to ask of a game that's made the generational leap is what its visuals have to show for it.

The truth is, Guacamele is a 2D sprite-based game: its sharp characters and vivid environments can't boast the same kind of next-gen no-brainer facelifts that games like Tomb Raider Definitive Edition could. On their own, Juan, Tostada, and the whole gang look about the same as they did before.

"Besides the new content, the hardware allows us to put back in the environmental effects we couldn't necessarily have before," McQuinn said. "If you just looked at them each on their own, you might think the additions are subtle. But I think it really adds to the overall world."

"I love the light effects", Quijano said. "You couldn't overlap too many of them before or the performance would suffer. But now with next-gen we can just go to town with it, and have it look extra pretty."

Guacamelee had a great sense of style, something that generational advancements don't tend to affect. But the layered light in particular elevates the beautiful world from cohesive-but-clinical graphic design project to fevered lucha libre fantasy: Guacamelee's geometric designs get more character and unity from the soft colorful light playing across them, where more complicated visuals might just get muddy.

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Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition isn't a whole new game. It just adds a generous dollop of new moves, foes, and regions to the original. Then again, it's not so easy to slap two new regions into a Metroidvania that so happily littered its map with hooks to keep players backtracking as their arsenal of wrestling moves/exploration techniques expanded.

"We had to move around some of the areas where we got certain abilities, and the places where you blocked by not having an ability we'd have to move that somewhere else," McQuinn said. "So there was some surgery within the game, we didn't just simply tack on levels, because that's not possible in a Metroidvania... It's a [quality assurance] nightmare, basically."

We played through a special demo level created to show off new regions and abilities, so we'll have to take him at his word on the overall progression. The two new combat moves we sampled are another story.

The first move we tried was a powered-up dodge. The move was essential for both bypassing environmental hazards and enemy attacks in the original game, but the new version let us tuck-and-roll through enemies for some decent damage. The improved dodge naturally comes with a variety of corresponding blocks to break through in the environment, but it's still great for avoiding damage and keeping combo multipliers climbing.

Speaking of combos, the new Intenso meter makes chaining attacks useful even for players who don't particularly care to see increasingly enthusiastic Spanish words splash across the screen. Consider it a masked wrestler version of Kratos' Rage of the Gods: impressive combos fill the meter up faster, then with a button press our attack speed and damage soared until the meter ran out.

Instead of turning the screen red, it gives Juan and/or Tostada a glowing Dia-de-los-Super-Saiyans makeover. We could keep smashing, suplexing, and evading in double time to keep the meter topped off indefinitely (or until we screwed up, anyway).

Of course, if the promise of new abilities and a map rearranged to suit them doesn't appeal, you won't find much more to draw you in. But the fundamental idea of crossing the streams of fast-paced mobile brawling with fast-paced mobile exploration is as sound as it was when it first appeared on PS3 and PS Vita a year ago.

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Some of the same complaints remain; it can take up to a half an hour for thorough players to unlock co-op buddy Tostada, making some prep work necessary for an optimal couch co-op experience. The goofy, meme-laden humor still won't be everybody's cup of Mexican Coke, though our appreciation for Grumpy Cat's Mexican brother grew after McQuinn admitted most of them were born as in-jokes between developers not intended for release.

Its naming scheme still made us hungry. But at the end of the demo, there was little to complain about aside from stomachs growling for enchiladas.

Drinkbox hopes to release Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition on PC, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Wii U simultaneously in late spring. McQuinn noted that Drinkbox has never before orchestrated a multi-platform release of this scale, but there's a first time for everything.

How to best use the Wii U GamePad is still a topic of discussion. McQuinn said he did not want to commit to anything but "there could be some interesting opportunities there."

Drinkbox is working on an unannounced new game alongside Guacamelee. McQuinn refused to give up many details, but he did let slip that it will be "a grittier, edgier game than our past games." That's not saying too much for a studio whose previous projects starred cartoon blobs from space, we observed, but McQuinn said it may have more to reveal this spring.

Until then, the little Canadian studio will keep working on its surprisingly big Mexican Metroidvania.

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