When most people look at the title of this game, the first thing that may come into their mind is “That’s a mouthful of a title.” It is, but there is more to Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition.
For starters, it’s a game that celebrates time-honored Mexican traditions, such as Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and the Luchadors/Luchadoras (Mexican Wrestlers). I was afraid Guacamelee would misappropriate those traditions in awful ways. (see Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show which included Karlie Kloss wearing a Native American Headdress, and World of Warcraft also has this issue with Mists of Panderia, among many others) and that the protagonist would be the default, muscular, white male.
I was pleasantly and happily surprised.
Let me issue a full disclaimer. I am not Mexican, I am a Spaniard. I am also a part of the Hispanic/Latin community. It is very rare to see games that represent my ethnicity and culture in empowering, realistic, diverse and positive ways. When my ethnicity is represented, it’s often done in a way that is highly problematic at best, deeply offensive at worst (see Call of Juarez, Saints Row 1 and 2, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Vice City to name a few).
Guacamelee: STCE does not have that issue. In the first few hours of playing the game, it is clear thatDrinkBox Studios not only had a lot of respect and appreciation for Mexican Culture, they even included alittle bit of Spanish mixed in the English as well. You can also play as a couple of female characters in the game too (X’Tabay and Tostada). The characters are funny, but they are also human (well, it’s relative.)
The game starts out with Juan Aquacave, an Agave farmer who is preparing for the Dia De Los Muertos festival in his village, Pueblucho. While he is helping put together the festivities with Father Fray, the President’s Daughter comes to ask Juan to help her with decorations in the President’s Mansion. On his way there, an explosion occurs and he goes in to see what is going on. It turns out that the main villain of the game, Carlos Calaca has kidnapped the President’s Daughter and in a double whammy, also kills Juan. However, in the world of the Dead, Juan goes to the Luchador statue and finds Tostada, his partner for the game and she proceeds to tell him that the mask has chosen him to put the world back in order. The mask grants him special powers as he becomes El Luchador!
Guacamelee is an old-school, “beat em up” archetype. The controls are are fun and easy to handle; they are reminiscent of games like Streets of Rage, Altered Beast and Double Dragon. (Guacamelee clearly pays tribute to some of them.) You can either play as Juan or as Tostada, and you toss the enemies around and use special moves such as “Dashing Derpderp,” a dashing kick or punch ability, depending on your character and “The Rooster Uppercut.”
This game also pays tribute to many classic 8-bit and modern era games as well as internet memes by hiding Easter Eggs and references throughout the scenery and dialogue. The most notable ones are Metroid, Super Mario, Minecraft, Megaman (there’s also a Strongbad and Goat Simulator reference in there too). Finding these Easter Eggs are just as fun as the game itself. The graphics are bright, colorful, fun and beautiful and the music is great mix of traditional Mexican beats and instrumentation with some techno, salsa and trance in the mix (it actually works here).
While there are a lot of things that Guacamelee gets right, there are some problematic areas that need to be addressed. While it’s wonderful that there are three main female characters throughout the game, two are problematic. One, the President’s Daughter, is a damsel in distress, and the other, X’Tabay, is a seductive temptress, who is also highly emotional.
This characterization of X’Tabay is common in media, especially when it comes to female Latina/Hispanic characters. It’s done for comedic effect, but it reinforces a negative stereotype. While the President’s Daughter is portrayed as a woman of high intelligence and conviction, she is powerless, confined to the damsel in distress role. This is overdone. Can’t we dispense with tired, lazy caricatures that diminish female gamers and put more effort into interesting, novel, and empowering female characterization?
Tostada, a playable character throughout the game, is a strong, mysterious, wise, and has moments of vulnerability (also known as a three-dimensional character.) How is that there is a female character in the game that is portrayed realistically while the two others are either a reinforced stereotype of Latin/Hispanic women or a Damsel in Distress?
Another concern I need to address is that while I was playing as Tostada, the villagers kept referring to the Luchador rather than to Tostada. She’s so inconsequential to the NPCs that they don’t even acknowledge her. They also kept calling her “Senor.” This problem will also persist when you purchase the “Frenemies” Pack from the Playstation Store and you choose to play as X’Tabay.
There is also the issue of Uay Chivo, the trainer of Juan and Tostada. While he doesn’t hit on Tostada, he does ask Juan if his mother is single and he makes some off-color remarks. Not on the same level of Quagmire from Family Guy (or anything from that show for that matter) but enough to be considered cringe-worthy for some.
There is also the lack of LGBTQ representation in this game. Representation does matter and I don’t think it would have been an issue for the creators of this game to also add LGBTQ characters in the mix as well.
Aside from the few problematic aspects of the game, Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition is funny, sweet and a great homage to classic arcade games as well as satirizing the very same tropes they are paying tribute to. This one is definitely worth downloading. Just be sure to not break a few Chozoo statues while you are playing. There are also chickens. Lots and lots of chickens.
It’s available now on the Playstation Network for $14.99.
Format: PS3/PS4 Digital Game Download
Developer: DrinkBox Studios
Available now on the Playstation Network
Rating: E – 10+