Drinkbox co-founder Graham Smith talks chickens, luchadors and co-op in the next Guacamelee.
Perhaps one of my personal favourite announcements from Sony’s pre-Paris Games Week conference was Guacamelee 2. If you haven’t played the original from Drinkbox Studios, then it’s an awesome Metroidvania-esque title that mixes satisfying combat with a raucous art style. The entire package was so deftly executed that it instantly pops out at you. As for Guacamelee 2, there’s quite a bit that’s different this time and it’ll arrive on PS4 and PC fairly soon.
To learn more about the game, GamingBolt spoke to producer and Drinkbox co-founder Graham Smith. What’s up with Juan after all these years and what can you expect from the sequel? Find out below.
"When we finished the development of the original Guacamelee, we were left with a backlog of ideas that we didn’t have time to implement. We were able to revisit these ideas for the sequel."
After the rousing success of Guacamelee and its various special editions, what took so long for the sequel to finally be announced?
With our previous title Severed, we announced the game about 2 years before it was released, and found that to be much too early to keep people interested in hearing about the game. At a certain point, the press just wanted to play and review the game instead of meeting with us at shows like PAX and writing articles about it.
For Guacamelee 2, we wanted to announce closer to when the game will be ready for release. We’ve actually been working on Guacamelee 2 for about 1.5 years at this point, so things are pretty far along.
When conceptualizing the sequel, what were the goals you had in mind in terms of expanding the overall property but staying true to what made the first game great?
With the sequel, we didn’t want to completely change the aspects of the original game that we felt worked well, so you will see many of the mechanics of the original game coming back in Guacamelee 2.
When we finished the development of the original Guacamelee, we were left with a backlog of ideas that we didn’t have time to implement. We were able to revisit these ideas for the sequel. There were also a number of things that felt very first pass in the original game, like the chicken ability or purchasing upgrades in the store. The sequel also gave us an opportunity to re-design and improve these elements of the game.
What’s the story with Juan this time around? Which evil baddie will he be dealing with now and how does his trainer fit into the whole mess?
Guacamelee 2 picks up seven years after the end of the original game. Juan is now married to Lupita (El Presidente’s daughter) and they have two children.
Everyone is happy and living a peaceful life until Uay Chivo, Juan’s trainer and spiritual advisor, discovers a new threat. A new luchador named Salvador, and his array of bizarre henchmen are hatching a new scheme that threatens not only Juan and his family, but the entire Mexiverse.
"Co-op has not changed substantially from the first game. Players can still drop in or out at any time, and enemies will scale in health and damage to keep the game feeling challenging when this happens."
Four player co-op will be shipping right out of the box with Guacamelee 2. Did that influence how some aspects of the game were designed as opposed to the original?
Having support for co-op introduces some additional design challenges. For example, when there are a lot of players and enemies on the screen at the same time it can be difficult to find yourself. Also, the camera needs to keep all players on screen (if possible) and this can mean that other important things like nearby enemies or hazards are not visible.
When designing the game, we’ve been working really hard to take these problems into account and make the multiplayer experience feel as smooth as possible.
How has co-op changed in general this time around? Is there more of a focus on co-op mechanics per say?
Co-op has not changed substantially from the first game. Players can still drop in or out at any time, and enemies will scale in health and damage to keep the game feeling challenging when this happens.
While it is possible to play through Guacamelee 2 entirely in 4-player co-op, we felt it was unfair to require co-op for any challenges or trophies. That being said, playing in co-op is still a lot of fun, and allows you to do interesting things like toss enemies back and forth during combat.
What can you tell us about Eagle Boost? How does it change the overall style of what’s essentially a Metroidvania experience?
The Eagle Boost ability is simply one more asset in Juan’s arsenal of powers. It allows the player to traverse across large spaces very quickly. While this ability is received fairly early in the game, we do use it to gate off parts of the world before it is obtained.
Speaking of which, how has the formula changed this time around? Are you still following a decidedly Metroidvania approach or branching out in different ways?
Like the first Guacamelee, the sequel is still essentially a Metroidvania structure, where coming back to old areas with new abilities will allow the player to access new challenges or pathways to new areas. There are also some additional ideas that we’ve thrown into the mix, but we want to leave some surprises for players to discover.
"Similar to Severed and the original Guacamelee!, we’ve partnered with Sony on Guacamelee 2. Right now we’re entirely focused on the PS4 release, and are trying to make this version of the game as great as we can."
Can you tell us why you increased the focus on chicken form aside from how awesome it would be to see four chickens beating dudes up?
We felt the chicken was really limited in the first game, essentially being used only to squeeze through small tunnels, and not really for much else.
In Guacamelee 2, initially we tried adding all of Juan’s moves on the chicken, unlocking them at the same time that Juan obtained them. While this was fun, we felt that having the exact same move set did not encourage players to switch between the two forms. So, we went back to the drawing board, and came up with designs for additional unique chicken abilities such as the Chicken Shot – a diagonal chicken attack.
Is there a specific reason why you are not on Switch or Xbox One?
Similar to Severed and the original Guacamelee!, we’ve partnered with Sony on Guacamelee 2. Right now we’re entirely focused on the PS4 release, and are trying to make this version of the game as great as we can.
When can we expect the game to release?
We won’t want to release the game until we’re entirely happy with it, and it’s hard to pin down exactly when that will be. Right now we have a target of “Early 2018” as our release window.
Is there anything else you want to tell us before we let you go?
If you own a PS4 Pro, the game looks absolutely stunning in 4k! (if I do say so myself)