The upcoming Xbox Live Arcade platformer Guacamelee is looking to take the action-meets-exploration “Metroidvania” formula to a place it’s never been before: the realm of Mexican folklore. The title lets players switch between its real world and Day of the Dead-like universe on the fly, and both present ample opportunities for people to harass each other through some griefing. I talked to Chris McQuinn from developer DrinkBox Studios for a deeper look at the game.
Mexican culture is not something that’s been extensively explored in video games. What inspired the setting?
Two factors really inspired the setting. One was the drive to pick a setting that was different, magical, and visually extensive. The genesis of new project ideas for us is really based around creating a game that we genuinely find interesting — games that explore topics, mechanics, or environments that are novel. The second factor, which was a biggie, was our animator Augusto is Mexican and put forward the Mexican-luchador theme. It immediately seemed like the right decision once the team began to see what Mexican folklore looked like from where he was from.
Did you set out to reinvigorate the Metroidvania style of platformer or put your personal stamp on it?
A little bit of both I think. The Metroidvania style has been kept alive and well by some awesome games like Shadow Complex and Cave Story, among others. Although, I certainly wouldn’t say there is a new Metroidvania coming out every week. It is a challenging style of game to make that we’re hoping to put a personal spin on. For example, we’ve thrown in some exploration/attack moves that are on the verge of ridiculous and one might even call “game-breaking.”
The light/dark world mechanic is also one that has come up in games before. How does this implementation stand apart from the rest? Will the swapping mechanic affect combat as well?
The light/dark world mechanic for us is absolutely core to the game. From a story perspective, the mechanic highlights the fascinating Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico and how certain folklore explains where spirits go when they die. Of course, dark/light world mechanics also play an important role in combat and exploring. For example, enemies may only be vulnerable in the world of the Dead (dark) or that the surrounding environment may change to your advantage when battling enemies depending which light/dark dimension you decide to battle from.
I’m particularly interested in the co-op possibilities shown in gameplay demos. Does the title significantly change when you’re playing with a partner? Do both players control the world-shifting ability? If so, does that present the possibility for some co-op griefing?
Both players do control the dimension swap ability, and yes, it really can become a grief-fest. Playing co-op definitely has moments where player cooperation is tested to its limits.
What were some of the inspirations for the art style, specifically the sharp-edged paper cutout look of the characters?
Our previous game (Tales from Space: Mutant Blobs Attack) had a very organic art style, so this time around, we were hoping to be much more sharp and stylistic. A lot of inspiration was pulled from those old concept drawings made in the ’50s and ’60s of how the “future” would look. In addition, a lot of inspiration was taken from this generation of sharp-edged cartoons like Samurai Jack.
Is there a playable demo of Guacamelee available? Are you planning on having a presence at PAX East this year?
A playable demo for Guacamelee will be available. Although, I can’t say if it will be available on release of the actual game. With that said, everyone can get their hands on the game at PAX East. We’ll be part of the Indie Mega Booth again. I’d also say our booth should look pretty good this year, and everyone should drop by. I get very lonely at the booth and can always use a “hello” or a high five.
As of now, is there an estimated release window?
There is! We should be announcing a release date quite soon. But, in the meantime, I can say we’re aiming for an earlier-than-later Q2 release. How cryptic and ridiculous is that?