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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


 

 

      

 

 



Maximo: Ghosts and Glory for the Playstation 2 brings Capcomís classic Ghosts Ďn Goblins series to the present day. While many of the original enemies and locales make return appearances in the Maximo, a 3D environment and state-of-the-art graphics lend it a contemporary feel. Read our review to find out how the tight controls, addictive gameplay and solid level design makes for an exceptional update.

More than a little Inspired by the classic Ghosts Ďn Goblins series, Capcomís Maximo takes the spirit of those games and transplants them into a contemporary 3D environment. While retaining the feel and atmosphere of the series, itís not a direct sequel. Fans of the original will find that there are enough homages to the past to make it fit in with the series nicely. For example, the series original musical score has been re-orchestrated and mixed to give it a more epic feel. Luckily, the main mission of the game has remained unchanged, but why would Capcom mess with a successful formula in the first place? This is more a spin-off that has enough of the original to satisfy fans but also adds new elements to the gameplay that take advantage of the 3D space.

As the game begins, players are introduced to Arthurís successor, Maximo. As the king, your mission is to save the princess from the evil wizard who is holding her captive. The wizard has sent you to another dimension where you meet the cipher of Death. The Cipher allows you to live as long as you help him to defeat the wizard whoís unleashed the dead. Once you regain your mortal form, youíll find your old kingdom has been transformed into the domain of many creepy undead enemies. During this quest youíll face a variety of enemies including zombies and skeletons. Some of the classic GNG enemies also make return appearances Ė itís nice to see the blue birds, treasure chests and other classic elements back. The cool thing is that Maximo feels like the older GNG series but the 3D perspective lends the game a unique feel.

At first, Maximo has only his standard sword to use as a weapon which is quite effective at slicing through enemies. In addition, Maximo can do cool double jumps, crawl and crouch around, plus he has a variety of moves he can use with his sword. Players can also use Maximoís shield to guard against attacks, bujt this only works a few times. So overall, he has a lot more flexibility than normal. However, there are times when youíre faced with multiple enemies and harder opponents that nee more than these standard sets of moves to beat. The good news is that you can also use some special abilities such as a flaming sword, devastating super attacks, and you can also gain the ability to throw Maximoís shield. Armor plays a big role in the game as well, as players collect upgrades in the armor to add to his ability. If you takes too many hits, his armor degrades until heís nearly naked clad only in his boxer shorts. This should sound familiar to fans of the original and its nice to see that this quirky aspect of the series hasnít been discarded.

Maximo can purchase items and upgrades using coins and jewels he finds along the way Ė this is important and players should never pass up a coin since many of the items are expensive. One of the locations where Maximo can find coins are in the many treasure chests scattered throughout the levels. Some of these can be opened easily, while others require keys. Additionally, and in another nod to the classic game somtimes the chests open to reveal a surprise in the form of snapping jaws that chases after Maximo. This is really cool and adds to the slapstick humor of the game. Another cool feature is that the chests can also, once in a great while, open to reveal wizards. If youíre familiar with the GNG series, you know what happens next. Maximo is either transformed into a helpless baby or a feeble old man. I loved this part of the game and its quite funny in the way its implemented. And just like the original game, Maximo can also gain an upgrade to golden armor as well. This is all quite cool, but there have been some additions to thes series as well that make it seem more modern.

One of the ways that the game has changed is in the way the levels unfold. Itís no longer a strictly linear quest because Maximo is structured so that after the first level, players can then move into a central area where they can save or transport to other levels.This gives Maximo a much less structured feel and makes the gameplay feel a lot more open-ended. This allows you play various levels in the order you want and you can save between levels in the main areaís reflecting pool. While finding the pools isnít difficult, trying to time when you want to save can be a bit hard. Players also have to factor in the fact that saving your progress this is expensive as well, costing 100 coins per move. This means youíll have to accumulate as many as possible during each mission and use the coins wisely during each level and not waste them on useless extras.

Once all the levels in the area have been completed, a castle opens up and you can face the boss enemy in a final battle. These confrontations can be quite difficult and you may need to fight a boss multiple times in order to beat them. The good news is that there are some familiar faces here, so GNG veterans may have and advantage in knowing kind of what to expect. The mini-levels themselves are short yet challenging, with loads of enemies, hidden areas and unexpected surprises throughout. Sometimes this can be annoying as the ground unexpectedly gives way under your feet, which can be aggravating. Luckily, this usually happens only once at a time, unless youíre really stupid. While the missions are short, there are usually a lot of skeletons and ghosts to battle. This sounds easier than it is because there are several types of skeletons and monsters on each level, and each one of these has different attack patterns. Players will also have to be careful to avoid the blue Ravens who steal their koins.

One of the biggest changes in Maximo is the system of upgrades and abilities which is now much more elaborate. Along the way there are some power-ups which can aid you in your progress. You can find many upgrades and health potions throughout each level but thereís a catch. For every level of armor you get, another power-bar section appears giving Maximo the ability to take more hits. This is important to understand because the relationship is not immediately apparent. Youíll also have to use the sword and shield upgrades wisely as well, since both have special abilities that can only sustain a limited number of hits so using these wisely is important. Another thing to keep your eyes on are the lock boxes which contain all the abilities youíve earned, such as higher jumps or shield throwing abilities. You can either buy these or win them by defeating enemies in battle. There are only a limited number of spaces in your locks but these canít be lost when you lose a life. As you can tell, keeping track of all this can be a pain at times, but the system generally works well. With all of this going on, itís no surprise that mastering each level requires some patience and practice. Itís quite rewarding however, since each one has secret areas and hidden paths and it takes time to thoroughly explore these many different paths.

Maximoís excellent production values are highlighted by its brilliant anime-style character designs and fluid animation, not to mention the beautiful, detailed environments. The game looks amazingly good and has a great cartoon feel to it throughout. While its dark and creepy, its never excessively violent and the attacks seem more slapstick than anything else. One of the best aspects of the game is that the classic theme from the original games has returned in Maximo, though its been made more elaborate thanks to the full orchestra implementation. The sound effects are decent as well and add to the brilliant music to work well together in creating an evocative atmosphere. Overall, Maximo is one of the better looking platform games to come out for the PS2 and makes good use of the systemís hardware.

The Ghosts Ďn Goblins lineage shows most impressively in its excellent controls and tight gameplay. Moving and attacking is easy and fun because of the straightforward approach and simple level design. While some of the platforms are difficult to navigate, there not impossible because the control is tight and responsive. This allows the character to have plenty of flexibility without becoming overly complicated, allowing you to concentrate on the task at hand. While the high polish in the gameplay is generally good, Maximo suffers from some camera problems, which often end up in awkward positions. This makes it frequently difficult to effectively judge your position in comparison to the next platform, causing you to leap to your death unnecessarily. This can make the game incredibly frustrating, and though you can push the shift keys to gain a direct behind the character perspective, itís still not perfect but acceptable. However, this is an excellent platform game, which is both challenging and fun. Itís nice to see that the seriesí difficulty hasnít been watered down for the Ďmainstreamí players, which might frustrate those who donít like a challenge. However, itís this very difficulty that makes Maximo so satisfying. From a technical standpoint, itís not perfect and suffers from too many camera issues. That said, the arcade style gameplay has the classic arcade balance between difficulty and simplicity, making it quite an addictive game. Maximo may not be the easiest game in the world but it plays smoothly and rarely resorts to cheap moves. While itís got many new elements and much more sophisticated abilities and inventory management systems, the spirit of the original Ghosts ní Goblins series lives on. The many players who loved the original series will find that far from being a rehash, Maximo resurrects the classic gameplay without losing the essential elements of its appeal. This is a solid update however, and even those who never played the original should find plenty to enjoy as well.