Reviews

Guacmelee: El Diablo’s Domain

El Diablo’s Domain is just jumping and fighting on a tight timer. Only one challenge stands out for its uniqueness. It’s absurd and dumb and so much fun.


Guacamelee: El Diablo's Domain

Publisher: Drinkbox Studios
Rated: E10+
Players: 1-2 players
URL: www.guacamelee.com/‎
Price: $2.99
Platforms: PS3, Vita, PC
Developer: Drinkbox Studios
Release Date: 2013-07-23

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.

5
Music

The Best Metal of 2017

Painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. Cover of Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper.

There's common ground between all 20 metal albums despite musical differences: the ability to provide a cathartic release for the creator and the consumer alike, right when we need it most.

With global anxiety at unprecedented high levels it is important to try and maintain some personal equilibrium. Thankfully, metal, like a spiritual belief, can prove grounding. To outsiders, metal has always been known for its escapism and fantastical elements; but as most fans will tell you, metal is equally attuned to the concerns of the world and the internal struggles we face and has never shied away from holding a mirror up to man's inhumanity.

Keep reading... Show less

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

Two recently translated works -- Lydie Salvayre's Cry, Mother Spain and Joan Sales' Uncertain Glory -- bring to life the profound complexity of an early struggle against fascism, the Spanish Civil War.

There are several ways to write about the Spanish Civil War, that sorry three-year prelude to World War II which saw a struggling leftist democracy challenged and ultimately defeated by a fascist military coup.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Film

'Foxtrot' Is a 'Catch-22' for Our Time

Giora Bejach in Fox Trot (2017 / IMDB)

Samuel Maoz's philosophical black comedy is a triptych of surrealism laced with insights about warfare and grief that are both timeless and timely.

There's no rule that filmmakers need to have served in the military to make movies about war. Some of the greatest war movies were by directors who never spent a minute in basic (Coppola, Malick). Still, a little knowledge of the terrain helps. A filmmaker who has spent time hugging a rifle on watch understands things the civilian never can, no matter how much research they might do. With a director like Samuel Maoz, who was a tank gunner in the Israeli army and has only made two movies in eight years, his experience is critical.

Keep reading... Show less
9

South Pole Station is an unflinching yet loving look at family in all its forms.

The typical approach of the modern debut novel is to grab its audience's attention, to make a splash of the sort that gets its author noticed. This is how you get a book deal, this is how you quickly draw an audience -- books like Fight Club, The Kite Runner, even Harry Potter each went out of their way to draw in an audience, either through a defined sense of language, a heightened sense of realism, or an instant wash of wonder. South Pole Station is Ashley Shelby's debut, and its biggest success is its ability to take the opposite approach: rather than claw and scream for its reader's attention, it's content to seep into its reader's consciousness, slowly drawing that reader into a world that's simultaneously unfamiliar and totally believable.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image