Melding Platforming And Dimension Swapping In Guacamelee!

By Matt Hawkins . April 2, 2013 . 2:10am


Independent game development has exploded clear across the globe. Though it could be argued that the hottest spot of them all is Toronto, Canada. That’s where the trio of Jonathan Mak (Everyday Shooter), Mare Sheppard, and Raigan Burns (N+) helped to give birth to the modern North American indie game movement that is still very much in effect today.


Drink Box Studios is one of several PAX exhibitors to call Toronto their home, and were showing off a near complete version of Guacamelee! You might know it as that Metroidvania-esque platformer that stars Mexican wrestlers that we talked about last summer. The genre is starting to become a tad bit crowded, so how does it manage to stand out? Well, the usage of Luchadores certainly helps, but there are two other key distinctions, according to Drink Box Co-Founder Graham Smith: "First, it’s a brawler, whereas most other examples are shooters."




As touched upon last time, you’ve got your standard attack, along with special moves, which includes uppercuts and other maneuvers that you’d find in a Mexican squared circle. Plus there’s a dodge move, which allows you to roll past enemies and obstacles, "God of War style". Pretty much everything demands being up close and personal. The other big difference? It’s a two-player game, something that was fairly tricky to pull off, and that’s without also factoring its other major gameplay hooks; the ability to switch back and forth between two different planes of existence.


There’s the world of the living and the world of the dead. Each has its own unique architecture and enemies; both must be deal with in its own terms. Again, orchestrating it all was no easy feat: "It was a real challenge, dealing with two characters, especially keeping them together. Having platforming and dimension swapping happening at the same time made thing even more difficult, because they kind of interfere with each other."



Making a manageable single player experience was equally challenging. Though after two years of development, Drink Box was able to figure a way, of not making the game too difficult with just one player, and not too easy with two. Still, there was one major concession: Originally there was going to be three dimensions: the world of the living, the world of the dead, and the world of nightmares. But it was just too much!" or concession:


Guacamelee! taps into the Mexican Day of the Dead (or Dia de los Muertos) esthetic, and rather unabashedly. Which begs the question, was there any trepidation about doing so? It’s not every day in which a game is based upon an actual ethnic culture: "In the beginning we were very nervous. But Augusto, the lead animator of the game, was born and raised in Mexico, and he’s has been our soundboard. We pass every idea by him, though he also comes up with most of the stuff anyway.




Also, when we started showing the game publicly, we also brought in a lot of Mexicans to get their feedback, which has been very positive. Mexicans in general seem to be really behind the game; they’re excited that someone is doing a game that taps into their culture. I remember reading something, I think it was a message board, where someone asked, ‘Wow, why can’t a Mexican company make a Mexican video game; why does it take a Canadian company to do one?’"


As the game’s leads, Luchadores have long been an exotic delicacy that a few parties have tried importing in video game form already, but it’s never panned out for them: "Actually, we ran into some difficulties, all because we have Mexican wrestlers as the lead. Initially, when talking to publishers about funding, some of them told us ‘we already tried that, releasing a Lucha game and it didn’t do well… do you really need one?’


But we didn’t see it as a game starring Luchadores, just a game that happened to have them. It’s a brawler set in Mexico, sot it just made sense to have such personalities."


Though, what about the chickens, what’s that about? Specifically how ones character can transform into one (to get through tight passage ways), plus how they play a fairly significant role in the game in general: "Well, we needed something to add to towns, to give them an extra bit of life, because they felt empty. We added chickens to make them feel alive. Then one day, someone in the studio, decided to control one of the chickens with the controller.


Next thing you know, everyone’s controlling chickens! So it was decided upon that you had to play as one. Because, hey, everyone loves chicken!"


Both the PS3 and Vita versions of Guacamelee! were on hand. If you happen to have both, you can play the game on the big screen as you normally would, and use the handheld’s smaller display as a dedicated map. Otherwise, the entire thing can be played on the go. It was recently announced (after PAX East) that both iterations will work in tandem, via Cross-Play. Which also means that for $14.99, you’ll effectively be getting two games, one for each system.

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  • gamerdude

    The art design is astounding!!! I really hope the combat holds up.

  • Solomon_Kano

    I got to play this briefly last month. Really, really fun. I look forward to owning it. It’s cool to hear a bit from Drink Box. Wouldn’t have figured they’d have run into any snags over luchadores, so that was interesting.

    Also, I don’t want to be that guy — I really don’t — but there are a number of small editing errors in this writeup. Some spelling that’s off, a few other things. The information is all great though.

    • Thanks for the head’s up! Sorry, but with between PAX and GDC, things have been kinda nuts around here :)

      • Solomon_Kano

        No problem. It’s understandable that you might miss a few things between all of the writeups. Good work, dude.

  • gamefreak86

    Sounds and looks interesting. Toronto has at least one thing going for it.

  • DanijoEX

    Oooh! That’s something I could go for. I normally don’t have any motivation to play Indie games but hey… I could go for it.

  • TheExile285

    Looking forward to this. My Vita is ready.

    BTW, there is a demo of this on Best Buy Vita demo sets

  • puchinri

    That sounds really fun and it looks really cool~.
    It’s good that they’re trying to get input and response from people of the group/culture too. That’s quite important (and good to have that on the team especially).

    I wish them the best of luck with it, and I definitely plan on picking the game up. ♥

  • Göran Isacson

    I did not know I needed a game about Luchadores transforming into chickens until I read this very article. I am curious though as to how the chicken-forms will play in- if they will be some kind of punishment, or if it will be like Metroids Morph Ball and used for traversal. Either way this game sure is super pretty and… is the lady luchadore a zombie, or is that just stylistic coloration?

    • The chicken form, at least from what I could tell, is like the Morph Ball; you use it to get through tight passage ways. But there would be more applications as the game goes on.

      And it’s no zombie, just a lady luchadore!

  • Lester Paredes

    I played a demo @ a Gamestop. I was hooked. My body is ready. My Vita is ready. My Ps3 is ready. So, c’mon, already! Next week is still too far away!

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