Graham Smith, a producer on Guacamelee! 2 and one of the co-founders of Drinkbox Studios, was at the Indie Megabooth at PAX East this weekend to walk us through the additions and gameplay for the upcoming the game, which we played on PlayStation 4.
Evan Griffin, Gaming Editor: How does Guacamelee 2 compare to your other games and what may players find different about this game than the original?
Graham Smith: There’s a lot of differences. One of the biggest things is that we’ve flushed out the chicken in the sequel. In the original Guacamelee you gain the ability to turn into a chicken and it had a basic peck attack and mostly was used to squeeze through small tunnels that the Luchadores couldn’t fit through. In this game the chicken has a whole set of mechanics of its own and you can fight as the chicken just like the Luchadores. Once you start unlocking chicken abilities you’ll be able to play as the Luchador and the chicken. There will be parts of the game that will push you towards one or the other as there are certain things the Luchadores can do that the chickens can’t. So, there’s definitely a lot of chicken stuff. But, the Luchadores have some new mechanics like these new points in the game which unlock an ability called Eagle Boost which allows you to launch through the air to different points. They’re used in the game for hooking challenges and to help get around the arena faster when fighting enemies. Those are really the two big things we added to the game, however we did flush out the graphics of the game more in this one. We added a lot of new technology to our rendering engine so our environments are entirely normal mapped, which means that even though all the art is in 2D all of the objects know how they need to be lit which creates three dimensional looking surfaces. We’ve also added a lot of new shaders and effects like smoke and water ripples which makes for a lot more movement in the environment, so nothing is static. We really wanted you to be able to tell looking at screenshots from the first game and this one which one was the new game.
Evan G: What has been some of the feedback you’ve been getting from fans and people here at PAX East visiting the Megabooth?
Graham S: Definitely the chicken. There’s this fun temporary power-up that’s a feather that transforms you into a giant chicken. Another new chicken ability is to float and glide down and when you see these big wind fans that if you float onto you can glide up to other platforms. It allows us to make new platforming challenges that only the chickens can do which is another reason why it’ll push the player from one character to the other. But yeah, the chicken is going over really well and people seem to love chickens.
Evan G: Was this Guacamelee game made accessible to those who may be new to the series?
Graham S: At its core the game is a Metroidvania. It’s not a true one though, at any point there’s a map you can pull up and a story that pulls you through the game and brings you back certain areas again. The map will update and show you new places you can now explore with your new abilities which encourages exploration. So, it is a Metroidvania at its core, but it’s also a platformer and it’s a brawler. We’re really trying to fine tune the game so that it’s fair to all players of various skill levels. It’s not too easy and not too hard and has a good base level. There is a lot of optional content that is extremely challenging. For people who want to platinum the game it will test your metal quite a bit.
Evan G: What were the influences and design fundamentals for the art style of Guacamelee 2?
Graham S: The game takes place in Mexico and you’re playing as a Luchador. It’s heavily inspired by Mexican culture and our concept lead, Agosto, is from Mexico. He’s the one who pitched the idea for the story of the original Guacamelee so he’s keeping us in line. We’ve been getting a lot of compliments from Mexican people saying they like all the subtle references to Mexican culture. I don’t think we would have ever dared to tackle a game like this without having him on the team. We’d have moments where we asked, “Can we have Tequila in here?” and he’d tell us of course because it’s part of the culture. We were being almost overly cautious because we don’t want to upset people. So yeah there is a lot of Mexican influences on the game in every area is based on something you’d find in Mexico and a lot of the characters are based on Mexican folklore, like little myths that only small towns would have.
Evan G: What platforms will the game be released on and when?
Graham S: Right now, we’re planning to ship on PS4 and Steam. We don’t have a launch date yet, but the game is getting pretty close and we’re hoping to get it out this summer.
The demo of Guacamelee! 2 was a lot of fun. The controls were very easy to learn, and the pacing was fairly quick and exciting. Being able to switch from the large Luchador with double jump abilities to the small chicken with speed and gliding abilities made for very lively gameplay. The story was simple and enjoyable and had me smiling the whole time. The graphics were beautiful, and I could definitely see the Mexican influences in the art and characters. Visually, it looked a lot like Drinkbox Studio’s recent game Severed which I was also a fan of. – Tyler Carlsen