Engadget Feature: The World of ‘Guacamelee! 2’

There are few games that I have replayed – and then again, and again, and again – as much as I did with Guacamelee!.

Each playthrough emboldened me to become an even stronger, faster, more magical luchadore, but they also revealed new layers to the game’s world. Guacamelee! was brimming with secrets, hidden between the difficulty spikes and its signature atmosphere. That attention to detail only went further in its recent sequel, and luckily I got to hear & write all about it.

For my second longform piece on Engadget, I had the pleasure of talking with the series’ creators, DrinkBox Studios. Guacamelee! 2 became an opportunity for them to revisit a world they loved building in the first place, only to discover how rewarding the creative process could still be. I spoke with the team’s co-founder and producer, Graham Smith, art director, Steph Goulet, and concept lead & animator, Augusto Quijano, to better understand the sequel’s new landscapes, narrative beats, color palette and more.

As delightful as Guacamelee! 2‘s slapstick self-aware tone is, what stuck with me were its quieter moments – and how personal Augusto was in drawing inspiration from his Mexican upbringing. It’s clear that DrinkBox made even more thoughtful design decisions this time around, managing to distinguish the sequel from its already hyper-stylized predecessor along the way.

With a Guacamelee! themed episode of Screen Looking in the works, I now have a great excuse to replay the sequel, too. Until then, I hope you enjoy reading about it.

E.5 – Spider-Man

If a video game is going to let you experience life as Peter Parker in 2018, it ought to feel amazing. Thankfully, it does.

Strength, grace, and a taxi-driver’s understanding of Manhattan are just a few of the advantages that Marvel’s Spider-Man affords players. Surprisingly, it’s also filled with heart, laughs, and a gravity-defying means of traversal that never grows old. After a tumultuous history in video games, the iconic character is finally done justice in the hands of Insomniac Games.

My brother, Nicholas Kuhar, and our longtime friend, Ryan Ward, join me for an extended chat about the wall-crawling adventure we’ve been waiting for. We break down what makes Spider-Man a thoughtful adaptation through its relationship with its source material, web-slinging physics, commitment to the character, and clever yet jaw-dropping presentation.

Additional Credits & Notes:

  • Spoiler Warning! Around the 30 minute mark, we start discussing major narrative and plot details.
  • Nicholas Kuhar is my brother, bandmate, and frequent donor of graphic novels. He is also the Director of Innovation at St. Edward High School in Cleveland, OH, helping young students unlock their creativity through new-media and technology. Some of his favorite video games include The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Final Fantasy VII.
  • Ryan Ward is your go-gettin’ friendly neighborhood Spider-Fan with a heart of gold. His knowledge of Marvel Comics is extensive, and the Metal Gear Solid series has produced some of his favorite video games. Since growing up together in Northeast Ohio, these truths have remained the same.
  • Special thanks to Megan Kuhar for lending her audio engineering expertise & support — without it, we would have not been able to record this month’s episode.
  • Music in this episode is from Spider-Man: The Animated Series, and the OST to Marvel’s Spider-Man (composed by John Paesano).

Polygon Opinion Piece: ‘The Last Guardian’

Polygon graciously allowed me to write this intimate opinion piece for them, which explores my experience playing the long-awaited The Last Guardian and the parallels I drew between it and our bond with animals. It serves as an analysis of the game’s design, as much as it is a personal essay and investigation into the ways we all encounter animals in need.

Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

The Last Guardian doubles as an interactive metaphor for the discovery and rehabilitation of animals in situations of abuse or neglect. For being such a fantastical setting, it plays host to a cautionary tale that is grounded in reality. By offering us an extended glimpse into an abused animal’s perspective, The Last Guardian asks us to empathize: What does it mean to spend time in their environment? How are they a product of it, and how much can they change?

The full article can be found here, and I invite you to share your own story and/or takeaway from The Last Guardian.