112th played so far
Platform: Playstation 2
Year of Release: 2001
So from one knight to another. Today we’re discussing Maximo, a guy who went out on a quest, came back, found his kingdom taken over by an evil chancellor, his princess kidnapped, and tries to get all of that reversed. And then he gets killed. And gets revived by Death and set to fight undead to end this. (Death doesn’t like undead. They’ve slipped away from him).
I’ll admit, there’s a few more twists and turns in that than you’d have in an average game. And with its heritage, it needed it to reach the level required to meet its predecessor. You see, any other more profit-focused company would have marketed this as the game it sort of is: a 3D reimagining of the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series, a game we’ll get to at some point, which moved the genre from platform-based undead avoiding and fighting to 3D action… undead avoiding and fighting. An interesting concept to start with.
This is truely a game that is and isn’t like a lot of other games. You see, when Peter asked me to describe the game, having played it before he had a chance to, the closest game I could compare it to that we played before was Sly Cooper, as well as other similar 3D action platformish games (I suppose similar to Mario 64 too, but with less of an adventure/quest bend and more ‘follow the path and discover secret’ parts). I then had a bit of a go and it really reminded me of the Playstation classic MediEvil where the humour has been traded for a steeper difficulty curve and more of a horror feel. At the same time, it feels different than that. There’s more direct attack action, with a lot of reliance on your swords and destroying hordes of zombies, skeletons and ghosts (and trust me, there are plenty of that). It doesn’t entirely match up with the aforementioned games.
With that said, thematically the game is quite different than those other games. Instead of fun furry characters or happy plumbers, you’re a knight fighting your way through undead-filled environments, investing graveyards, mountains, lava-filled caves and other dark environments. As enemies you mostly encounter skeletons and zombies, either plain up or carrying different weapons and armor. More annoying though are the incidental enemies. This starts with ghosts, and later includes crows (or possibly ravens as a reference to Edgar Allen Poe), stealing your collectibles, as well as strange towers/totem poles who spit boulders at you.
More worrying, however, is what you do with the set pieces you find in the graveyards that litter the levels. They’re strange enough as a setting, of course, though it fits the theme of the game. The glowing tombstones in the game are more sinister. You see, they’re the most likely object you want to smash, as they release spirits you want to capture. Somewhat sinister, but quite interesting, adding a bit of darkness to the game. That, most of all, might be fascinating part about the game. It’s got a quite dark theme, but thanks to the manga art style used, colours and style, it looks quite a bit lighter than that. You’re breaking into tombs and smashing tombstones, but get the feelings it’s just all not that bad. This isn’t helped either by the fact that if you lose enough health, you end up walking around in your boxer shorts. White with red dots, of course.
Back to gameplay then. The game plays okay, but has some places where it hasn’t aged well. The main issue (as so often with these games) is camera control. Unlike the more responsive camera from most other games, the camera in this game is very slow in following you. This means that at every slightly tricky jump, you want to pause for a moment and position yourself and the camera first, or else you’re unlikely to make the jump. Furthermore the controls can be a bit fiddly – if you’re not sure what you’re doing, the camera controls are in the way. Blocking feels counter intuitive. Overall, mostly, it can simply be incredibly difficult to find out what buttons you actually have to press and do so intuitively.
What does not help is the lack of any explanation within game so if you are playing this without the instruction manual there are many things which are hard to work out. How to activate the checkpoints is a prime example of this… at no point does it tell you that you need to double jump then stab the ground to be able to use them. The same goes for the power-ups which are just given as symbols that mean nothing… then suddenly out of the blue you accidentally press a button and you throw your shield at an enemy. In a good way this therefore rewards experimentation… on the flip side it makes sections of the game far more difficult than needed. Also, where the hell are the save points!?
Beyond that, the game is surprisingly tough – even the jumps where the camera cooperates are tricky at times. Some of difficulty when fighting comes from enemies crowding you (a point where the camera gets in your way), but just as often, it’s because of the strategic setup – an enemy using an attack you didn’t expect, or coming from somewhere else than normal. Not just because they sometimes pop up from right underneath your feet, but also because they make use of a height difference or their larger weapons. In many ways the difficulty of the game, the liberal use of zombies and the slightly cartoony graphics is what marks this out as a Capcom game.
If there’s one things that points to the age of the game, it’s not its graphics or sound – both aren’t fantastic, but hold up reasonable well. The one thing that seems to hold it back are the control, and with that mostly the camera that doesn’t always match. Even so, a good game to play, helped in a large part by its offbeat theme that does a lot to create the right atmosphere.
I must admit that this was a game that’s been catching my eye since I saw that it was in the list of games we borrowed (Thanks again Chris!). I’m glad we got a chance to play it too, as it is a game that offers its own nice atmosphere and a good game in the 3D action platforming mold. Difficult, frustratingly so at times, but fun to play.
The real thing that kept this game fun was the theme behind it, the look and feel, the touch of humour and the darkness behind it. It’s a game I can’t imagine working as well if it hadn’t had any of that.