Have You Played… Guacamelee?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Guacamelee is a wonderful game, a superb Metroidvania, and a real tedious pile of boss fights.

I know I get into this a lot, but it isn’t getting any better. Boss fights entertain people who like boss fights, but exist only to spoil games for everyone else who doesn’t. So I think it’s great that boss fights are being caged in their own little games like your Dark Bloodbornes. Sadly it’s not resulting in their disappearing from everywhere else – or, better, becoming skippable.

Gosh, Guacamelee would have been close to perfect if the dumb difficulty spike bosses had been skippable. As it is, it’s slightly farther away from perfect, but still really rather bloody good. I say why right here.


  1. Yachmenev says:

    I thought the game was already ruined before the boss fights, with bad level design and cringe worthy humour. The game is well overrated IMHO.

    Lovely art style, music and fighting system though.

    • Metr13 says:

      Yeah, the level designer really seemed to hate the concept of people progressing through it.

      And then the “real” ending is hidden behind most ridiculous platforming sections.

      I actually couldn’t beat it because at one point it just became impossible for me to proceed through the level.

  2. Ragnar says:

    The Super Turbo Championship Edition rebalances some of the bosses to reduce the difficulty spikes, though I personally had more trouble with X’tabay than any boss after her except the last one (and that only because I thought I needed to use the fireballs rather than just ignore them entirely).

    Going up that tree, though, was frustrating as hell. Jump, shift, sideways flying kick, shift – my mind understood what needed to be done but my fingers struggled to pull it off. I almost gave up on the game in that section.

    • Agnosticus says:

      Yeah, I remember that section, not too fondly either though. I dunno how often I fell back down. Having a controller helps though!
      But to be fair, it was a secret not progress sensitive part, iirc.

  3. mukuste says:

    I don’t generally like boss fights, but I loved Dark Souls and consider it one of the best games ever made. Just saying.

  4. haldolium says:

    Didn’t find it particular good or entertaining, it just has a very great art style, not much more.

  5. Malcolm says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the explorey parts of the game, frustrated by the boss fights. Gave up on the penultimate one I think. cf. PixelJunk Shooter 2

  6. Napalm Sushi says:

    I imagine that John’s place in Hell consists of a sealed obsidian chamber whose only feature is a low-spec, offline PC installed in one wall containing nothing but a copy of Warning Forever.

  7. Seboss says:

    > Gosh, Guacamelee would have been close to perfect if the dumb difficulty spike bosses had been skippable

    Applies to all Metroid Prime games for me. I loved them dearly, but couldn’t beat the final boss in any of them. Spending +50hrs in a game only to watch its ending on Youtube is such a shame.

    • Orix says:

      Agree on the Metroid Prime boss fights, although afaik I managed Corruption’s last boss, but yeah, Ridley and Metroid Prime in MP, and the thing in the shell in Echoes beat me. I used a cheat disc so I was invulnerable to beat them. The MP games badly needed an optional adaptable difficulty.

      • Seboss says:

        It’s not so much that they these boss battles are difficult, but as someone mentioned in this thread, they were an exercise of endurance and attrition. Figuring out how to beat was not the difficult part, the battles were just ludicrously long and tedious (almost 15 minutes according to this video of someone who is clearly better than me: link to youtube.com)

        I hated Retro Studios so much for coming up with these ridiculous battles.

    • John Walker says:

      Same here. Adored MP1, but never saw the very end.
      Was loving MP2, but couldn’t get past that sodding aquatic boss about halfway through.
      Didn’t bother with MP3, which I find a real shame.

  8. logicbus says:

    I didn’t know this is how other people felt about this game.

    I played the Super Turbo Championship Edition and enjoyed it immensely … until I got stuck at the final boss. Fuck that. I eventually gave up. That’s the absolute worst experience in any game: getting stuck at the very end.

    When I saw this headline I Google “guacamelee how to beat final boss.” Maybe I’ll try to beat it tonight.

  9. RuySan says:

    I usually don’t like boss fights, but in this game i loved them.

    And it’s not fair to compare them to the terribleness of Metroid Prime boss fights because they are quite short and aren’t trials of attrition.

    One game that was really spoiled by awful bosses was Gianna Sisters Twisted Dreams.

  10. internisus says:

    I very much disagree that it is a superb Metroid-like. Its structure is so plainly exposed that there’s nothing enticing about exploring or about finding something that you know you’ll return to. Red ability breaks red block. Metroid games do this too, but crucially they also do other stuff that’s more nebulous and hidden and interesting. Guacamelee is extremely rote as Metroids go.

    • internisus says:

      Also, there’s a kind of arrogance to Guacamelee that puts me right off. I found a secret at one point that rewarded me with a QR code which, when scanned, said something like “Congratulations! You have found and scanned a QR code!” That kind of thing combined with the references and memey humor… It’s got a cocky sort of tone that’s entirely unearned. The game feels like it’s posturing to cover for not being a better game.

    • Jekadu says:

      I use three informal quantitative metrics to compare Metroidvania games: exploration, platforming and combat. Exploration is a measure of how freedom the player has, how much emergent gameplay the game supports and how much guidance the player receives. Platforming is a measure of how much the game relies on puzzles and environmental traversal, and how much the gameplay engine supports it. Combat is a measure of how intricate the combat system is and how frequently the player is forced to participate in a non-trivial manner.

      Outland scores high on platforming, low on exploration and medium on combat.
      Super Metroid scores medium on platforming, high on exploration and medium on combat.
      Axiom Verge scores medium on platforming, high on exploration and medium-high on combat.
      Ori and the Blind Forest scores high on platforming, medium on exploration and low on combat as I recall.
      Guacamelee is a medium platforming, low exploration and extreme combat game.

      • Frank says:

        Yeah, I guess everyone who likes the genre has different standards. My ideal metroid-like is similar to Metroid Prime: exploration and traversal are everything. By traversal, I mean platforming, puzzles or whatever else you use to get around. Combat should mostly flow from traversal and not be a serious roadblock.

        In Guacamelee’s case, combat was painfully hard and there was nothing interesting in the exploration or traversal mechanics, so I dropped it right quick. The Batman Arkham series are the only AAA metroid-likes that have ever been any fun. Plenty of indies do it well too, in my book (for example, nifflas’ games, ikachan and several posted on kongregate).

  11. gnalvl says:

    I liked everything else about Guacamelee, but I feel like the whole phase shift thing has become a really over-used gimmick in indie sidescrollers. I don’t know who did it first or did it best, but it seems like every new decent sidescroller on Steam always includes it, and it’s annoying.

    My primary problem with it is it works really badly for co-op since the shift always affects both players simultaneously. Unless you and your partner do things 100% simultaneously, you are constantly screwing eachother up as you need to be in different worlds at different times to progress. Inevitably there are block maze puzzles where you wind up shifting eachother into solid objects and getting stuck.

    And the truth is I just don’t think it’s a great mechanic. Generally in platformers, fun mechanics need to be kinetic in some fashion; moving your avatar somehow, or moving some other object or projectile. Phase shift just toggles scenery in the background, so it’s not kinetic and not particularly well-suited to platformers beyond giving the devs a cheap way of artificially doubling the size of the world by copying and pasting the whole thing with minor differences.

    It’s like the developers of shift sidescrollers played SOTN and decided the most exciting thing about the inverted castle was the fact that it was mirrored from previous parts of the game, and not the fact that it gave twice the amount of content at the very moment that players thought they were done with the game.

    • nootrac4571 says:

      “Unless you and your partner do things 100% simultaneously, you are constantly screwing eachother up as you need to be in different worlds at different times to progress.”

      It’s been a while since I’ve played it, but I’m sure there were seperate buttons for ‘switch the world’ and ‘switch yourself’ – which makes those bits a lot less chaotic in co-op.

  12. unistrut says:

    I actually just beat this last night. Loved the art style, hated the boss fights.

    For those who are stuck:

    Jaguar – His attacks are random and you cannot interrupt them. You need to dodge roll in and headbutt. Your goal is to headbutt him into the air and bounce him off a wall so he comes back for another headbutt which bounces him off the wall … you get the idea. If you run out of stamina you can jump and cling to a wall for a breather – his fire pillar attack can hit you up there, but since the attack he uses is random he’ll usually just stand below you and hammer the wall uselessly.

    My (successful) tactic for the first stage of the last boss was to double-jump around like an idiot at all times, unless he’s got a blue shield, then dash-punch. Then go back to jumping.

    For those second stage the first thing is ignore the falling rocks. You can throw them, but it’s not worth it. Also, I don’t think those actually hurt you. Ignore them. Break his shield using the appropriate special and then headbutt repeatedly. When you run out of stamina back away and recharge, don’t bother punching. He’s got a really obvious ‘tell’ for each attack, and there’s really only one defense for each one, duck the fire breath, roll through the projectiles, move out of the way of the fire lines or jump to avoid the fiery floor punch. Do be aware that when he does a fire breath he can hit you with his chin, so you need to be far enough away that that doesn’t happen.

  13. Det. Bullock says:

    I remember my thumbs being extremely sore while playing this with an Xbox360 gamepad to the point that I didn’t unlock the good ending.
    I don’t remember if the analog sticks were compulsory, if not I might try again with the arcade stick as I find it much less tiring than the Xbox 360 pad with 2D games.

  14. Det. Bullock says:

    I mean, I quite liked the game and its rather ubersilly cartoon art style and sense of humor, it’s just that while trying moves and such the face buttons of the Xbox pad tended to dig into my thumb, it would have helped if they were a bit bigger and flat like in the Mega Drive 6 button gamepads I use.

  15. GR says:

    I immensely enjoyed playing Guacamelee. I got the gold edition and played it on default difficulty with a gamepad and don’t recall any special trouble with the boss fights. Fighting is probably the best feature of the game. The art style is great and sets the folklore tone in every aspect, visuals, soundtrack and writing in light and humorous way.
    I wholeheartedly recommend this game, it’s fun.

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    Ninja Dodo says:

    I like this game a lot, though I must admit I got sidetracked at one point when I kept dying somewhere mid-to-late game (not at a boss though). Still intend to return and play the rest. Only thing that didn’t work for me are the internet memes. Kind of takes away from the game feeling like its own world.

  17. welverin says:

    Yes, multiple times even!