| Guacamelee!

I can't count the number of times I've asked a developer to list the games that influenced their latest creation only to see them clam up and change the subject, as if I had just asked them where the bodies were hidden.

But I bet the team at DrinkBox wouldn't be shy. I bet they have game names tattooed on their bum cheeks. You only have to look at the cameo appearances and cheeky references littered across the world of Guacamelee! to figure out which retro games were a source of inspiration.

In this Vita brawler you retrieve new upgrades from the exact same Chozo statues as you do in Metroid. Plus, the game's ramshackle towns are plastered with posters depicting retro game heroes in luchador disguises - like El-Linko and Mega Hombre.

Supremo Metroidas

So, from SNES classic Super Metroid, Guacamelee! borrows the sprawling, maze-like world that you can explore at your leisure.

Playing as hero Juan, you can move freely on your quest to save the president's daughter from nasty skeletal baddy Calaca. But you'll often find your progress halted by obstacles and impossibly large pits that you can't bypass with your current abilities.

Lucky, then, that a new power is hidden just around the next bend. Maybe an uppercut that gives your leap a little boost, or a body slam which lets you smash through boulders. Something handy like that.

It makes the game feel less linear than your standard side-scrolling platformer, and encourages you to wander off the beaten track - or double-back and return to previous areas.

It also takes a cue from The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, by employing a clever light and dark world division - though in Guacamelee! the division is between the land of the living and the mythical land of the dead. Swapping between the parallel dimensions at the tap of a button reveals hidden areas, platforms, and puzzle items.

But don't go thinking that this is just a re-run of decrepit 16-bit games for nostalgic geeks. No, Guacamelee! has plenty of its own ideas to share.

Doble Dragón

Take the gloriously scrappy, combo-heavy combat. You can beat down foes; dodge attacks with a quick jab of the right analogue stick; use super moves like uppercuts, body slams, and head butts; and break colour-coded shields.

But the pièce de résistance is the grapple, where you can latch onto dazed enemies and toss them about the screen. Lobbing a skeleton warrior into a dragon is incredibly satisfying, and a very handy tactic.

The brawling is feisty and just plain fun, and you're constantly facing new enemy types that keep you on your toes. The fighting can also be incredibly challenging - but that just makes it more rewarding when you piledrive the final enemy in the room.

There are also tricky platforming sections, which play with the whole split-dimensions gimmick in cruel and twisted ways.

To get through some of these bits you'll not only need a firm grasp of the game's controls, but also wicked-fast reflexes and the smarts to know exactly when to swap between the lands of the living and dead.

Los Super Hermanos

Guacamelee! has an outstanding aesthetic style, with bold cartoon characters, intricately decorated 2D worlds, and a catchy collection of Mexican anthems for backing music.

It's also raucously funny in its writing, and wonderfully geeky in its many references to much-loved video games, cult classic movies, and goofy Reddit memes.

The only real criticism you can aim at Guacamelee! is that it's too short. I wrapped up the game in just six hours, and had a pretty commendable completion percentage under my belt by the end.

Those were six action-packed hours, mind you, and the game doesn't rely on excessive backtracking to inflate its running time. But in a genre known for enormous campaigns which often last twice as long as Guacamelee!, I was still a little disappointed.

Within those six hours, DrinkBox borrows from the best - with the world design of Metroid, and the puzzle-led mechanics of Zelda - and also adds its own twist, with tricky platforming sections and intensely enjoyable brawling.

Mash that all together and you get Guacamelee! - stupidly enjoyable, utterly silly, and quite possibly the best game on the Vita.


Guacamelee! is genuinely funny, massively enjoyable, and filled to bursting with good ideas. It's your next essential Vita game