Platforms: PS3, Playstation Vita
Release Date: July 23, 2013
Challenge rooms are one of gaming’s most untapped wells of endless entertainment. Usually set in a collection of rooms, these arenas stretch the main mechanics in a way that didn’t fit into the normal campaign, allowing for a healthy mix of skill improvement and challenge. Batman: Arkham City and Dishonored are a few examples that showcase this extra mode beautifully and have been given long legs because of that. El Diablo’s Domain aspires to achieve the same score-heavy chasing of the previously mentioned games and apply it to the sublime Guacamelee!, one of PSN’s best titles. Satan’s wealth of gauntlets for Juan and Tostada pushes the game’s difficulty to its limit, but provides an addictive level of challenge, making it the perfect way to add-on to an already complete package.
After some stumbling trying to find the DLC, you discover that Calaca’s destructive takeover has disrupted Lucifer’s business output, specifically causing his souls to crash. And, you know, the whole “getting turned into a rooster” thing doesn’t help the company when your hands have been turned into feathers. Satan has been locked out of his office and the only key is, you guessed it, medals you earn from challenges. It’s unarbitrarily arbitrary, something the game hilariously points out, but it sets enough of a premise for Juan and Tostada to step foot into these outlandish trials.
There are seventeen trials, each feeling different enough from one another. Some test platforming, other assess your combat prowess, and some… er… make you throw a defenseless chicken into a meat grinder. However, just about all of them are as equally demanding as they are fair. I’ll echo what I said in my review of the main game: the controls are spot-on and incredibly responsive. Because of this you, again, can’t blame the game for your death at the hands of that saw blade. Knowing this, it allows for the devious bastards at Drinkbox (and I mean that in the nicest way possible) to craft rooms that might have actually involved the work of Satan. A nice Satan with a background in near-perfect game design, but a devil nonetheless. I yearned for that sadistic challenge because Guacamelee! controls can support it, which isn’t something many games can say.
Knocking out all seventeen gold medals will take some elbow grease, determination, skill, and clever use of the costumes. Three different outfits can be earned in this DLC; the Alebrije (which makes the player dish out and receive more damage), the colorful El Portero (which trades physical power for stronger throws), and the classy Diablo’s Suit that gives health for every successful hit at the cost of a hamstrung life bar. Carrying these costumes into the main game is a nifty side effect, but focusing your inner tactician and choosing which costumes will yield the strongest performance is an unexpected but welcome aspect. A handful of rooms can be incredibly frustrating if you are ill equipped but can be made into a healthier challenge once you use your noggin and pick the right threads.
El Diablo’s Domain is a microcosm of Guacamelee! as a whole, only skipping the narrative beats and exploring while focusing purely on the gameplay while dialing up the difficulty. Noteworthy challenge rooms do exactly this and the attractive $3 price point makes El Diablo’s Domain a requirement for any fiend ready for punishment. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for Satan. He’s falling behind in his work schedule.
+Incredibly difficult yet rewarding challenge rooms
+Has its own unique place within the game
-Immense difficulty might turn off some players