It’s somewhat appropriate that Drink Box Studios chose to release their latest DLC pack for the superb Guacamelee! this week. If you have no idea what I’m talking about then what are you doing reading a review for DLC in the first place, go back and read my review of the main game and then play it. In fact skip the review if you want and just go and play Guacamelee! You won’t be disappointed.
It’s about eight pm on an absolutely sweltering Wednesday, in what has been the hottest couple of weeks in England for years. We’re not used to this kind of weather; tea is no longer a feasible noon day beverage, we’re forced to drink copious amounts of beer, our usual attire becomes a sweaty mess and is therefore abandoned. The entire country goes into a weird state of pandemonium in which we all run about attempting to appease the various sun gods lest they find us all wanting and bugger off again for another five years.
Sitting in my lounge, sweating like a pig even with all the windows open I have gained a new found respect for the people of Mexico, why don’t they melt. They must be made of much tougher stuff.
Whilst I feel as though I’m on the verge of spontaneous combustion, on the TV, Juan, the intrepid hero of Guacamelee! descends down to El Infierno, aka hell. The former domain of El Diablo, the deposed ruler of the realm of the dead, who was cast out by Calaca the bastardly skeleton and big bad from Guacamelee!’s main campaign, I think to myself- rather you than me pal.
Once Juan finally arrives in the pits though it appears that all is not well, thanks to Calaca’s meddling the day to day running of hell has gone right out of the window, the infernal office block of eternal bureaucracy which El Diablo once called home has been converted from a place where the damned were tortured with never ending TPS reports all in need of a new covering letter into an arena used to train Calaca armies of the damned by putting them through a series of deadly challenges. 17 to be precise, each deadlier and more difficult than the last.
They begin simple enough, the first challenge literally being racing to the end of the level as quickly as you can, but before you know it you’ll be diving through portals surrounded by spikes, out running massive mechanical grinders and drop kicking a chicken through a maze, before finally navigating a maze full of enemies, which, although not the most inspired of challenges, still felt like satisfying climax.
On the whole, the challenges, though devious in their own particular ways, are tough but fair. The potential for controller shattering frustration is kept to a minimum thanks to the ability to simply skip a room if you aren’t getting anywhere.
As you would expect each challenge room carries either a gold, silver or bronze medal depending on how well you perform. Platforming challenges have a par time you need to complete the challenge in under and combat challenges have a certain hit combo you need to reach in order to gain the best marks.
Trying to get the high score does feel incredibly addictive especially once you see the three costumes available. Each costume is unlocked once you’ve managed to successfully complete 10 levels at gold, silver and bronze.
Complete ten missions with a bronze ranking and you’ll unlock the accounting department which houses a chest containing the El Portero costume, a goal keeper’s kit just like the one worn by the keeper of Mexico’s national Football team. Whist wearing El Portero, Juan has incredibly powerful throws but weakened melee attacks.
Since throwing is probably my most used move in the game, this costume came in especially handy during El Diablo’s arena challenges, especially in room 3 in which you have to toss invincible enemies into a set of spikes at the side of the screen. Although I would recommend switching to another costume before attempting to get a high score in room 10 because throws are disabled in this challenge and his melee attacks really are pitiful.
If you manage to get 10 silver medals then you will open up the break room, home to a very lazy intern, shelves filled with bottles of hooch and a chest containing a costume which turns the wearer into the mythical Alebrije. Wearing this monstrous suit that looks like something from a Mexican artisan’s fever dream, the wearer’s attacks are greatly powered up but conversely the wearer also takes a lot more damage when they are hit.
Once I had stated using this bad boy I didn’t want to use anything else. Juan’s attacks whilst dressed as Alebrije are utterly devastating, especially on standard skeleton warriors which makes clearing a room of low level baddies an absolute breeze. The trade off is also just harsh enough, especially if you get walloped by the games tougher enemies, to not unbalance the combat too much.
Finally, should you manage to get ten gold medals, congratulations! Your hours of hard work have finally paid off. You’ve managed to open the elevator to El Diablo’s office and more importantly gained access to El Diablo’s suit.
This rather sharp black suit grants the wearer additional stamina and makes each melee attack performed leech health from their opponent at the cost of a reduction in the wearer’s own health bar.
In many ways, this costume feels like a bit of a cheat as its only drawback is a minor one which is almost completely negated by the fact that almost every attack you make will either do a lot of damage or gives you additional health. Then again after the amount of blood, sweat and swearing it takes to actually unlock the thing, it’s a worthy prize.
So should you enter El Diablo’s Domain? In a word yes, it’s a great addition to an already phenomenal game and gives you plenty of bang for your buck too.
Although you can potentially skim through the rooms in a couple of hours, going for gold will take many more. But I would recommend playing thorough the main campaign first as this DLC is clearly aimed at veteran players in need of a challenge.