In forums and on bulletin boards across the net its a frequent occurrence to hear the cry 'They don't make games like they used to'. Well in steps Maximo. Maximo is an update of the old skool game Ghosts N Goblins and its sequel Ghosts N Ghouls. For those of you who don't remember these classics, you were a knight sent to rescue a fair maiden. The games were side scrollers and gave you a variety of weapons to battle the undead amongst other foes, whilst huge chunks of scenery dropped to pieces all around you. The games were most well known for their intense difficulty.
The main character of the game is king Maximo. Maximo returns to his castle only to find that his advisor, Achille, has betrayed him. Achille has decided to raise an army of the undead by piercing a hole between the real world and the underworld. Achille blasts Maximo with his magic staff sending him straight to hell. The Grim Reaper intercepts our hero and gives him a second chance. You see if there is no-one dead then our pal Death is out of a job. Its at this stage of the intro that you notice how lighthearted the game actually is, death seems like quite a nice guy. After this very well put together intro your thrown straight into the game.
The game itself is a 3d adventure/platform/hack and slash affair with our hero battling through waves of the undead. Each level is a fairly linear affair with you guiding Maximo from point A to point B, though with a little exploring each level has its own secrets to explore. Along the way platforms will drop from under your feet lava will erupt from all angles and zombies will pounce on you. The way health works in the game depends on your armour. Maximo can don a centurion like suit of armour, but when he takes sufficient damage he will lose this armour and will wear his normal clothes, further damage will take him down to his underwear. After that too much damage will lead to the loss of a life.
The first thing that you actually notice when playing the game are how superb the graphics are. Everything within the game looks like it fits perfectly with its surroundings and detail is very well done. Maximo's character model is very well detailed and so are most of the enemies. The sound complements the look and feel of the game very well such as the skeleton guards who march around saying 'up two three'. The game doesn't take itself too seriously. The controls are very tight and are very easy to get to grips with. Collision detection is absolutely spot on, the only problem is when fighting enemies with objects or walls around you'll find yourself hitting your surroundings rather than your enemy leaving yourself prone to a counter attack. From a technological point of view the game is a small triumph in PS2 gaming as it delivers what is expected from a next gen console.
At the end of the first level you will find yourself in one of the games five hubs. Each hub is themed and contains all of the levels of the hubs theme such as the bone yard or the ships graveyard. In fact each hub can be seen as a level within itself as it contains secrets koins and unrelenting undead. Within each hub is a pool, this pool will allow you to save your game or travel too another hub making the game slightly less linear. Unfortunately this costs 100 koins per time and so you'll find yourself having to choose between buying an item or saving the game, which can be very annoying.
Along your journey you can collect koins, fairies, and new abilities. Koins are used to purchase things such as health top ups and armour during levels. Now collecting fairies takes us back to the old skool days as collecting a number of fairies will give you a death token. When you run out of lives you will have to give death a token to stay alive i.e. as a continue. As the game progresses you will have to give death more and more tokens to continue. So you may find yourself repeating earlier levels to gather fairies to give you enough tokens to tackle later levels. This again is a journey back to the old skool away from the current trend to have as many attempts as you want at a level (a la Jak and Daxter). Unfortunately this adds unnecessary difficulty and repetition to the game. The special abilities that our hero uses in the game do help to break up the repetition though you'll probably find yourself only using some of the most basic of the moves. Many people have recently complained about how short games are, and that most games can be completed over the course of a weekend. This is most certainly not the case with Maximo, it will take more time to complete than most other PS2 titles currently on the market.
The game also suffers from several downfalls. The game is at heart an old skool platformer, and although its great walking down memory lane, you quickly remember what you hated about the genre. Some of the jumps in the game have to be precise to say the least, and you'll find yourself losing several lives carrying out what should be a simple platform to platform leap. Also there is a major lack of variation in the different undead that you actually see in the game. Each of the hubs has only a handful of baddies for you to do battle with.
One point to note though is that the game does nothing to push to boundaries of game playing. Whereas Jak and Daxter implemented a day/night cycle, tides and such, Maximo brings nothing new to the equation. Also there is a distinct lack of mini games within the game and boss encounters are few and far between (actually one at the end off each hub). If you add to this the fact that the bosses are far easier than some of the jumps in the game, you'll see that bosses are a minor inconvenience rather than a true challenge within the game.
In summary Maximo is a very well put together 3d adventure/platformer, it has good graphics, tight controls, spot on collision detection and is thoroughly enjoyable to play, and it shows that classic game play styles do have a place in the modern console environment. Unfortunately it may be too repetitive and difficult for some and you may find yourself trading it back in at your local games store because that one jump was just too difficult to make. Also if you can't stand platformers then Maximo will make you hate them even more. If you can see past these problems you will find yourself spending many hours trying to get 100% on every level and remembering the good old days.