Really not what I had hoped for or expected. The only game in my steam library I regret buying.
The Good: This game is unique in that it is to my knowledge the only 2D Mexican-themed metroidvania beat-em-up in existence. For the first 1/3 of the game, you'll be thinking "wow, I've never played anything quite like this". Almost everything meshes really tightly (more on that "almost" later).
Superficially, the game is great. I am usually critical of vector/Flash art in indie games (Ed McMillan's style is ugly and unappealing to me) but this game's style is beyond well done and beautifully drawn. It really captures the luchador aesthetic, and it's refreshing to see an indie game with an art style that isn't pixel art (or Ed McMillan's John K-esque gross-out shock-art style). One aspect of this game's art that really impressed me was that it uses its bold and flamboyant colour palette to its advantage: not only do the colours highlight the setting and theme, but bright and vivid contrasts make it very easy to not lose track of your character in the brawls, even in multiplayer. A++ to the art department. Colour me impressed.
The Bad: This game's music is repetitive and unmemorable. While what there is sounds very authentic and fitting, this is a game whose music will become muted very, very quickly. It feels there should be more, but there just… isn’t.
Unfortunately, beneath its shiny exterior Guacamelee! sports some very flawed game mechanics. Fighting becomes bland quickly, and about 1/3 of the way through things start to get baaad. The game tries to stave off the samey-samey-ness of the combat in ways that ultimately fall flat. Instead of increasing the (very limited) variety of enemies, the game introduces gimmicky limitations to combat that feel broken, frustratingly arbitrary, and poorly thought-out with respect to the way the characters control. They also artificially increase the difficulty to levels that border the “completely unfair / broken game design” line.
A fair challenge tests mastery of game mechanics and rewards player skill. Fair challenges are not a part of the latter 2/3 of this game. In fact, some parts of this game are so stupidly difficult (the insta-death fast-spawning exploding bomb enemies for example) that I almost stopped playing. These parts of the game do not test skill; they test patience (in the worst way) and temper. Failure during these parts is almost entirely out of player control. And I do mean literally out of player control because there is virtually no damage-invincibility or ability to recover from a mistake before your character becomes a pingpong ball. And this will happen, again and again and again…
The Ugly: Good writing can be to bad game design as is brown sugar to porridge. It can make something bland into something modestly enjoyable. Unfortunately, Guacamelee!’s writing is more like finding a hair in that bowl of porridge. Sure, it might be your own hair, so there's nothing wrong with it per se, but now you really don’t want to eat any more of that porridge because ewww.
Outside of combat, this game’s story is overrun by a certain style of humour. Take a long sigh out of your nose. That's really the best summary. There are a few actual jokes (setup/payoff) that did make me laugh. Unfortunately they are buried in a sea of dated and cringe-worthy internet memes (???), "references" to movies, and "call-outs" to popular videogames. Yes, that last sentence did indeed say “memes", as in "injokes" with no purpose or amusing qualities beyond "hey I know what that is lololol".
Finally, the ending is an absolute joke.
And when I say the ending is an absolute joke, I mean both that it is an out-of-nowhere, context-blind, poorly-integrated reference, and also that it is abrupt, stupid, and ultimately unsatisfying.
Conclusion: I really wanted to recommend this game. After playing, I felt let-down and disappointed. Give it a pass.