At the Vita’s launch, DrinkBox’s downloadable Mutant Blobs Attack was talked about as much as any retail title. It featured a quirky sense of humor and classic platforming gameplay, which are two qualities that the developer is bringing to the upcoming Guacamelee. Due in early 2013, it plays like Metroid would if it were melee-based and featured luchadores instead of intergalactic bounty hunters. I had a chance to play it at PAX East, and it immediately became one of my most-anticipated downloadable titles.

DrinkBox informed me that they don’t yet know if it’ll be a XBLA, PSN, or PC title (or some combination of the three), but the version I played utilized an Xbox 360 controller. Before we started playing, I got a quick rundown of the story. You play as Juan Aguacate, a down-and-out field worker that turns to the world of lucha libre. He falls in love with the president’s daughter, and sets out for revenge when she’s kidnapped by a reanimated skeleton.

He doesn’t have to go it alone, as the game supports local-only co-op play. The second player will control a female luchador named Tostada, and her back story fits right in with the rest of the game’s quirky sensibilities. She was killed by Flame Face, a pistol-slinging baddie that behaves like Yosemite Sam if his head were constantly ablaze. Donning a luchador mask to cover her scarred face, this undead brawler teams up with Juan to seek her revenge.

With its sprawling map and exploration-based gameplay, DrinkBox makes the Metroid influence clear. Just in case the connection wasn’t obvious enough, the first upgrade I received was retrieved from one of Metroid’s trademark Chozo statues (a classic Metroid tune even plays when you enter the room). Instead of simply grabbing the upgrade from the statue’s hands, however, it shattered and the upgrade was given to me by a talking goat/man hybrid. Oh yeah, and instead of turning into a morph ball, you navigate tiny corridors by turning into a chicken.

Considering he’s a luchador, Juan’s moves are melee-based instead of the traditional beams of Metroid. In the demo, my character already had an uppercut and butt stomp unlocked. Both of these helped me with exploration, as they can be used to break through walls and other obstacles.

Much of the platforming involved a mechanic that switches dimensions from the world of the living to the land of the dead. Hitting either LT or RT made different platforms appear depending on which world you’re currently in, and helps you take on enemies that phase in and out of the two. It’s similar to the switching mechanic in Outland, and makes for some interesting platforming.

Our time with the game ended with a boss battle against Flame Face, who greets you by cackling and firing his pistols at the ground. When he turns the pistols on you, he realizes they’re empty and says “Hmm… probably shouldn’t have wasted all my ammo on the ground.” The fight begins, and he phases in and out of the two dimensions while sword-wielding skeletons try to take you out. Once I gave Flame Face enough uppercuts and haymakers to deplete his health bar, the luchador celebrated his win with a dozen or so dancing chickens.

With its ridiculous sense of humor and tried-and-true gameplay, Guacamelee is now solidly on my radar as a game to keep an eye on. We won’t see its release until next year, but it already feels polished, fun, and hilarious.