Guacamelee: El Diablo's Domain
US: 23 Jul 2013
Guacamelee was fun for its wit and style, but not so much in its gameplay. It was a side-scrolling adventure game marred by poor combat controls, so it’s immediately disappointing that its first substantial piece of DLC is so combat heavy.
El Diablo’s Domain opens a path to hell from the Desierto Caliente area. It can be a little hard to find if you haven’t played Guacemelee in a while since there’s no mention of new content in the game. I only found my way there because I assumed it must be the lowest point on the world map (because, y’know, it’s hell). Thankfully, I assumed right.
The hell of Guacamelee is a business district where skeletons in suits and chains go about their bored afterlives. It’s a fun place to wander and chat, and eventually you’ll meet El Diablo, who is now a very flustered rooster. To lift the rooster curse, 17 challenges must be passed, and since Juan the Luchador looks pretty strong he’s roped into the trials.
Going into this DLC, I assumed that the combat of Guacamelee might be more fun if it were the sole focus of the experience, as opposed to something that just gets in my way while I’m trying to explore, but I assumed wrong. There’s still that devastating half-second delay after every special attack, during which Juan is vulnerable but unable to move. Because of this, it often feels like one wrong move means failure, and given the unpredictable nature of combat, it’s pretty easy to make one wrong move. Not helping things, the combat challenges usually pairs you with increasingly difficult waves of enemies, and as more enemies fill the screen, it gets harder to see Juan and easier to make that one disastrous mistake.
Platforming is still fun and hard as hell. One mistake means failure, but the levels aren’t random so practice does make for perfection. When you fail, it always feels like it’s your fault.
For the most part, El Diablo’s Domain is just jumping and fighting on a tight timer, but one challenge stands out for its uniqueness. Challenge 15 demands that you throw a chicken through an obstacle course of spikes. Switching to the “dead” dimension freezes the chicken in time, allowing you to hop over platforms and catch it when you return to the “living” dimension. You’re essentially playing catch with yourself on platforms that appear and disappear, over a spike pit with a bouncy invincible chicken. It’s absurd and dumb and so much fun.
It’s such a great challenge because it uses all the same mechanics as the rest of the game but repurposes them into something new. It’s platforming with a twist, and it proves that the mechanics of Guacamelee are flexible enough to allow for more than what El Diablo’s Domain offers.
With that kind of potential on display, it’s hard not to be disappointed with the rest of the 16 challenges.
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