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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Capcom

 

Developer

Capcom

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

April 2002

 

 

- Old School Platforming

- Great sound and cut-scenes

- Cool combat

 

 

- Repetitive

 

 

Review: Dark Cloud (Playstation 2)

Review: Ratchet and Clank (Playstation 2)

 

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Maximo: Ghosts to Glory

Score: 6.0 / 10

 

Maximo is the closest thing to an old school platform game you’ll find nowadays outside of the Game Boy Advance.  With today’s 3D capabilities the term “platform” is being revised with each new release.  Maximo attempts to take the technology full circle back from whence it came by reviving the old Ghosts and Goblins series. But with the resurrection of old favorites undoubtedly comes the revisiting of old problems. Such is the case with Maximo.

 

maximo-1.jpg (22422 bytes)          maximo-2.jpg (23085 bytes)

 

With any retro view also comes the forgivable clichés. Maximo has returned from war only to find his land and kingdom in shambles.  As always, his most trusted counselor, Achilles, has taken over while he was gone, imprisoned the four holy sorceresses, released evil minions on the land and married Maximo’s woman while he was at it.  Maximo is immediately killed by the evil counselor and makes a deal with the Grim Reaper who isn’t happy with Achilles’ dead raising ways. Grimmy puts Maximo back on Earth under the condition that he will collect Death Coins and souls that have been let loose by Achilles – your journey starts here.

 

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The beginning cut scene is dramatic and Disney-esque. While the in-game graphics don’t explore the same color palette as a game like Jak & Daxter, the environments are nice and gloomy with acceptable lighting effects and textures.  The game definitely suffers from a few jagged edges but the animation is smooth without much of a hint of slow down. The scenery is comparably one-dimensional but the focus is clearly on game play more than appearance.

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Beyond the intro, the story line has very little to do with the bulk of the game. The levels are selected through hubs that Maximo is free to roam and you can choose stages at will.  Each hub is centered on a boss that Maximo will have to defeat in the end. Taking the good with the bad, Maximo enjoys the simple goodness of platformers of yesteryear when it comes to satisfying reflexive combat: relentless hordes of enemies and the unforgiving “three lives and you’re dead” law. But unfortunately this also translates into endless, repetitive hacking and slashing, overwhelming opposition and sheer aggravation that landed many of us in Anger Management classes back in the NES era.

 

Maximo careens through the levels smashing objects, releasing souls and collecting things like coins, diamonds and various power-ups. All the while he uses his sword to clear his path of ghouls, skeletons and all sorts of unyielding dead things.  He can use his shield to block and with a particular power up it becomes a flying weapon. Other times, he’ll find an enchantment that endows his sword with the power of fire, ice etc. Maximo’s power gauge is his armor – when he’s struck by an enemy, pieces of his armor fly off until he’s in his heart-laden boxers and just about to expire. The main aspect of getting through the levels is slicing and dicing. Although you have to pull a lot of switches and find keys, in some places you can basically slash your way through any level and ignore extra distractions shortening levels considerably. The only incentive to explore is to push up your mastery percentage, which gauges how deeply you’ve completed the level.  Otherwise it’s not worth the time and frustration. Matching the difficulty with the repetition of the gameplay it’s hard to play Maximo for hours at a stretch unless you’re a hardcore old school masochist with thumbs of steel.  While it’s entertaining, it becomes boring doing the same thing over and over.

 

maximo-3.jpg (25305 bytes)          maximo-4.jpg (26932 bytes)

 

Once again comparing the game to Jak & Daxter, the control is noticeably less intuitive.  At first it’s hard to feel that you can see what’s going on around Maximo because you don’t have full control of the camera. Unlike in J&D the player can’t move the camera at will with the right analog stick – a feature that is sorely missed. It’s hard to see enemies and most players will be struck from off screen plenty of times before they realize how to remedy this.  Also, Maximo’s sword doesn’t seem to be quick enough to deal with the literal swarms of enemies that come at him at times.  No matter how quick you press the attack button he can only swing at a certain speed. Without a power-up, enemies tend to pile up and you don’t have time to take them all out before they pounce on you.  Small problems like this could have been fixed but they just make you put down the joystick in pure frustration and play something else.

 

On the plus side, Maximo is always finding new helpful items like the aforementioned sword enchantments and various other combat abilities.  While many of these are not necessarily needed or very helpful in the game they’re fun to mess around with.

 

The games orchestration is pretty nice and appropriate with a lot of scary dramatic strings and the realistic sounds of sword play. When Maximo’s sword collides with stone there’s a spark and a clank – when he chops into wood there’s a thud and he has to take a second to remove the blade from the groove it created. All the smashing and slashing are satisfying enough.

 

In the end I’d say Maximo successfully created an old school experience with the power of new systems.  While it never kept me glued to the screen I’d have to salute the developers for staying true to their vision.  For old school platform fans Maximo is the 3D answer to nightly prayers.  For others it’s an entertaining yet stressful, repetitive jaunt that’s better left alone.

 

- Doug Flowe

 

(April 26, 2002)

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