Super-charged in almost every way, Guacamelee! 2 makes the original Guacamelee!, a colorful and novel mix of over-the-top brawling and springy platforming, look like a backyard wrestling match. The temples you explore are larger, stuffed with hidden challenges; the enemies you encounter throughout are more diversified; your avatar’s chicken form now has both combat and traversal capabilities of its own; and there’s a wider variety of moves with which you can leap, glide, swing, and uppercut through the air. The areas that return from the first game haven’t been recycled so much as revitalized, and this time around, one familiar boss forces you to fight three versions of himself at once, which suggests exactly how much bigger and intricate this sequel is. With never a dull moment, this dimension-swapping, meme-dropping adventure is the Wrestlemania of Metroidvanias.
In its design and lore, Guacamelee! 2 borrows from Mexican culture, most notably in its luchador hero, Juan, and the vibrant palette of colors that liven the game’s environments, but the campaign’s structural DNA pledges allegiance to the WWE. Comic dialogue establishes your immediate objectives (the promo) before a brief stretch of highly technical platforming must be completed in order to reach the arena (the entrance). Then, it’s on to a short two-to-three round medley of enemies (the fight). And after a dozen or more of these cycles, you’ll have a showdown with a boss, which, as a bigger, badder test of everything encountered thus far, stands as the main event.
Almost every segment of the game is more challenging than what came before. The enemies grow in strength alongside you: By the time you gain, say, the blue Dash Punch, some of your foes will be shielded by correspondingly colored barriers that must be broken before you can go about dealing damage. And no sooner have you regained the first game’s ability to flip between the worlds of the Living and Dead than you’ll have to hastily swap dimensions in order to dispatch the enemies distributed across both.
As you pick up a wider variety of room-clearing wrestling throws, the number of on-screen enemies increases, as well as the variety of skills that they bring to the table. A single spider’s no problem, but how about a giant sombrero-wearing spider that slows down time? The game’s platforming sections are also always evolving to match your growing abilities. A double-jump may at first be all that’s needed for you to reach a ledge, but it will later need to be chained with mid-air moves like the Eagle Boost in order for you to generate the extra momentum needed to land on a distant platform.
This increased difficulty has an in-game justification too. As it turns out, Guacamelee! took place in the Good Timeline, where, despite being initially murdered, Juan managed to return from the dead and save the day. In Guacamelee! 2, the happily retired Juan is transported through the Mexiverse by his old friend, the goat-shapeshifter Uay Chivo, into the Darkest Timeline, a world that’s just as vibrant as Guacamelee!’s, at least until it starts being ripped apart by deadly pockets of space, the result of evil Salvador’s attempts to force his way into El Otramundo in search of the Holy Guacamole. It’s an admittedly light plot, but that’s not surprising given that this game’s inspired by a sport that’s not especially known for complex storylines.
Showmanship is meant to trump storytelling in Guacamelee! 2. Jokes are used to garnish the rich gameplay, as when Juan briefly visits alternative timelines that mock brawlers—Rivera City Ransom, Triple Dragon, and Bad Hombres—or emulate the car-smashing bonus stage of Street Fighter 2 or maze structure of Pac-Man. The humor also hangs a lampshade on some of the more absurd, but fully realized, twists: “All right, let’s turn into a chicken and find a way out of this prison hotel through the sewage system to meet the different-timeline goat men in the swamp town.” If real-world wrestlers need to catch their breath between the splashiest of moves, Guacamelee! 2 will have you catching yours from its whirlwind sense of comic and gameplay invention.