In 1997, there was a game that was not simply great but truly genre-shaping - Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. It took Castlevania but turned it into a deep, open world action RPG not unlike Metroid but with it’s own unique RPG elements. Thus, a new genre was created: Metroidvania. Games in which you had a broad world to explore with many, many hidden rooms that require you to gain powers and then backtrack, all to be rewarded with secrets (in case of SOTN, they literally hid half of the game behind one such secret).

A few years back in 2009, my personal favorite game in the genre was released, the brilliant Shadow Complex. Seriously, if you own an XBox and you are a gamer, you owe it to yourself to buy it if you haven’t done so.

Today, another Metroidvania game was released, Guacamelee! I’m playing it on my Vita right now. The game is heavily nodding towards Mexican culture, specifically the Dia de muertos (Day of the Dead) and Mexican wrestling. It looks very stylized and has you play as a reborn luchador who has to rescue the daughter (and your childhood friend) of El Presidente.

The setting is a lot more lighthearted than Metroid, Castlevania or Shadow Empire, with special moves like “Downercut” or “Rooster Uppercut” and the combat is based on melee-combos rather than weapons (hence the name, in itself a light-hearted pun on Guacamole). It does a great job to tease you with locked passages (red, green, blue and white blocks that require a special ability to pass) and secrets (e.g., heart containers) which already makes me excited about backtracking and unlocking these passages (that is one of my favorite things about Zelda games).

The music is good, definitely with the Mexican flair you’d expect (yes, that includes trumpets). It’s available on Playstation 3 and Vita for $15 (or $12 if you’re a PS Plus subscriber) and it’s cross-buy, so one purchase will give you both platforms. It also supports cross-save through the PSN cloud, which means that you can play on both platforms on the save savegame. This is super neat!

I haven’t finished the game yet, so I don’t know how it holds up compared to Shadow Complex, but if you like Metroidvania games, Guacamelee! is worth it.