Review by Skinny Minnie
The Fable: King Me, Check Her!
Once upon a time there lived a spunky young king named Maximo
who ruled over five colorful and whimsical three-dimensional lands.
Whenever this king was off fighting distant wars to protect his
kingdom, the court at Castle Maximo was controlled by a council
of four lovely Sorceresses. At these times, court advisor Sorcerer
Achille would watch over Princess Sophia, Maximo's betrothed.
After emerging victorious in battles far and wide, Maximo returned
home one stormy night. Unlocking the gilded gates to his illustrious
abode, he had nary a clue that his beloved lands had recently
been cursed. A reality smack came from just inside his front door
in the form of Sorcerer Achille's magical scepter, which killed
Maximo and sent him hurtling into the afterlife. In Maximo's absence,
Achille had forced Sophia into unholy matrimony and set himself
up as the new king, locking the four governing Sorceresses away
at the farthest reaches of the kingdom!
Achille had also used his powerful magic to drill an immense
hole right down to the underworld. He drew up all manner of souls
and created an undead army to help him protect his unrightfully
claimed lands. This upheaval to the Hereafter did not escape the
notice of the sarcastic but amenable Grim Reaper, who also witnessed
the untimely demise of King Maximo. Grimmy, realizing that his
own job could soon be in peril as there were less and less souls
to govern, struck up a deal with the great warrior. Grim would
send the king back to his own world, in exchange for the promise
that Maximo would stop Achille. Besides sparing his life, Grim
promised that an additional debt of gratitude would be paid if
Maximo was successful. Our hero was also told to find and free
the four imprisoned Sorceresses, as they would be his best chance
of help with this Herculean task ...
Game Play Heyday ...
After the graphically impressive and intriguing opening cutscenes,
our charismatic 3D hero is deposited into the first transformed
world, now known as the Boneyard. In this foggy burial land you
will find classic platform "koins" scattered about,
but as soon as you direct Maximo in the third person toward them
for automatic pickup, the thrills begin! Mountains lurch up out
of nowhere or the terrain cracks wide open right underneath our
hero's boots, revealing fiery lava pits that require quick reflexes
to avoid falling into! New secret passages are unearthed and the
previous ways blocked or lost in sudden landslides. Bell-clanging
stone towers spurt up as Maximo approaches, tossing dangerous
groups of glowing purple skulls that crunch as they bounce down
hills. Black tar acts as quicksand if Maximo pauses as he strides
through it, and deadly, bubbling red lava contains bobbing paths
of floating wooden coffins.
As you progress through this game you will also encounter many
of Achille's comical, cartoon-like, brightly rendered minions.
Cackling, cloaked wizards pop out of treasure chests and cast
temporary, colorful bubbling spells on our hero that turn him
into a limping old man or a creeping baby. Plant pods rise up
from the bogs and burst open to reveal facetious, long-haired
hippie creatures! Purplish sections of cemetery land sport bony
remains that break through the earth and try pulling Maximo in
as he passes. Lush tropical jungles harbor both mobile thorny
overgrowth and giant purple flowers that arise and spit forth
spinning, chomping, red and yellow fish! Goat devils attack on
green plateaus, and doomed souls lift Maximo off golden masonry
suspended over fire and brimstone, depositing our wriggling hero
into deadly endless voids! Sword-wielding skeletons spontaneously
generate from underground, sporting colorful shields or even pirate
attire. Translucent green waters ripple with scaly crocodiles
and bomb-throwing swamp zombies.
There are, however, redeeming qualities to this fighting even
if you are an inexperienced or unwilling action gamer. Enemies
have limited areas they patrol and they will stay confined to
these places for one thing. You can often lure them to the outer
fringes of their little territories one by one to make confrontations
easier, or you can run out of range entirely for a breather. Baddies
do not regenerate once felled, so Maximo will then be free to
explore an area fully or even backtrack to a scene later for hoarded
power-ups. You can even choose to send Maximo running or jumping
right past the baddies and they won't follow him very far, though
you'll miss a lot of pickups (and lower your score for a level)
if you do. Finally, there is a complete lack of gore in this game,
making it more suitable for families.
Your coordination and strategic abilities will not only be tested
in battling Achille's otherworldly armies, but also in leaping
on to both static and moving objects like tortoises, coffins,
tree trunks, statues, slippery ice, and abominably shaped stones.
Even as these objects must be landed on, you will be leaping to
them over deadly boiling lava, fiery flames, claw-snapping traps,
oceanic whirlpools, and tentacle-laden marshes. As challenging
as some of these areas are, Maximo himself does give physical
and aural warnings should he be on the verge of potentially plummeting
to his doom. Even if he does wave his arms around, yell "Whoa!"
and then fall off of a large precipice, quick reflexes on the
jump button while spinning him around will land him back on the
solid ground from whence he fell. Although the amazing Maximo
can begin a jump even if he is already falling in midair, short
plunges to his doom usually can't be recovered from.
Try Some Puzzles for a Spell ...
Plot-twisting, steadily increasing, pulse-pounding action does
abound in this title, but puzzle-solving and thoughtful, thorough
exploring are also keys to your success. Certain secret pathways
can only be discovered by jumping from tombstones, fountains,
trees, hills, or bridges up to barely accessible heights and surveying
the surroundings from above. Temples have rainbow-colored stained
glass portraits that can be broken and leapt right through, revealing
hidden rooms and power-ups. Certain gates harboring treasures
can be unlocked with keys found on expired baddies, but others
require the use of brainpower to discover alternate entryways.
There are stony hills hiding blocked caves that can reveal goodies
when slashed open. Other treasures are secreted on tough-to-reach
precipices. Pickups can also be found in buried treasure chests
that Maximo can unearth by jumping around randomly at various
locations, and still others are dropped by fallen enemies.
The pickups themselves include armor, specialized keys, diamonds,
and red hearts that represent extra lives. You will also occasionally
find coveted sword enhancements like the Frostbiter, the Flame
Tongue, Armageddon, or Pure Blade, which deplete with use. Special
magic spells are also dropped by extinguished enemies; these can
produce unique magical attacks or even temporary invincibility.
The hard-to-find Mask of Sorrow, for example, can be used when
maximum armor is worn. This temporarily turns Maximo into a green
demon who is able to extinguish whole groups of enemies instantly.
With the Shield of Midas, Maximo can draw diamonds or koins into
inventory that would otherwise be out of reach. Some sword enhancement
refills and armor can also be bought if enough koins are collected.
You can "lock in" limited numbers of magic spells to
keep them, but you will lose all others any time Maximo dies,
so choose wisely. The game is intuitive to jump right in and play,
but the amount and sheer variation of powers available as you
progress adds greater complexity and strategy to this title.
Every land also has differently shaped "spirit containers,"
appearing as bubbly tombstones, glowing toilet bowls, blue flame-spouting
brass vases, and cute, icy snowmen with pirate hooks! Breaking
them open reveals blue angel spirits that can be caught and turned
into red koins that the Grim Reaper will take in exchange for
another chance at life, should Maximo lose all the extra lives
he has gathered. Beware though, as blue angel-stealing ghosts
lurk about who will attempt to pass through Maximo and raid his
How the King Is Reigned In ...
As you control Maximo through each of the five vividly detailed
3D lands, you will use simple PS2 button commands. These cause
Maximo to jump, slash with his sword to attack Achille's minions,
and block enemy blows with his shield. Maximo can also throw his
shield like a long-range boomerang at a distant or hard-to-reach
enemy, and he will catch it again automatically. The left analog
stick moves Maximo in all directions at a walk or a run depending
upon how hard you push it. The commands are basic, can be repeated
quickly for a double jump or double slash, and can be combined
for more complex overhead or spinning strikes. Special magical
power-ups taken into inventory are used with these same four buttons.
One additional trigger button centers the view back directly behind
Maximo a little more quickly than the camera would normally follow,
and another trigger can be used to look around without other movement.
Not One Bungle in the Fungal Jungle ...
All five vast worlds to be conquered are unusual and exceptional,
not just in gameplay but in graphics and sound. Besides the foggy,
stony spookiness of the Boneyard, there is Great Dank (a gorgeous
tropical jungle complete with flowing green water, stone temples,
bamboo huts, and pretty trees sporting coral fungal "steps"),
Frozen Wastes (a blue and white arctic backdrop of snowy mountains
and icy caves with a large skeleton-pirate ship), Realm of Spirits
(a fiery underworld setting for pig devils, dragons, swirling
axes, and swinging pendulums), and finally a siege on Castle Maximo
Excellent sound effects and visual clues are used optimally as
regards each unique enemy's groans and gurgles; you will see bubbles
in the swamp and hear a crocodile's growl before it emerges. You
will see a neon green haze and hear the "Polterghost"
moan, the wind he stirs up whispering along behind him, before
he soars through Maximo and casts his vertigo/sleepwalker spell
on the king. Other sound effects offered include swords clanging,
water rushing, bluebirds cawing, and skeleton bones crunching
as the skeletons run! The unforgettable music matches each land
to a "T," being whimsical yet spooky for the main burial
land hook, then replete with jungle sounds and voodoo drums in
one land or full of yo-ho-ho pirate-like adventure in the next.
No matter what, the score is always extremely appropriate and
This Land Is Your Land, this Land Is My Land ... So Beat It,
Most lands contain five levels as well as a final boss. The first
four lands' oversized bosses guard one each of the four Sorceresses,
and all bosses require different tactics to eliminate. As you
rescue the Sorceresses, each one in turn will offer you advice
and a gift: a kiss (collecting all four kisses and locking them
in will garner you a special prize at the end), armor, or an extra
save. You won't face Achille and his demonic drill or rescue Princess
Sophia until all lands and other bosses are conquered first.
Each land also includes one place you can return to at level's
end to save your game, which costs 100 koins per save. Before
any level ends, you are subsisting on checkpoints that you lose
once all your lives are depleted and you visit the inimitable
Grim, passing him more red koins with every few visits. Every
time you finish a level you are given statistics on what percentage
of it you discovered compared to how much there really is. If
you want to better your score on any finished level of a land
you're in, you can travel back for a replay from the save area
without penalty. If that level is in another land, you can still
access it but it will cost you 100 koins for travel each way.
The Plot Does Thicken ...
One thing I loved about this high-octane game was that the plot
was continually referenced in cutscenes as the Sorceresses were
rescued one by one. At the end of one level, Achille punished
a skeleton captain for failing to kill Maximo. Achille brought
that skeleton back to life, then commanded his forces to torture
said captain until he died once more! In another level, three
of the rescued Sorceresses were together when Achille magically
appeared. He was holding the fourth Sorceress, Sephonie, whom
he had just murdered! As Achille made off with Sephonie's body,
an angered Grimmy appeared and helped Maximo to follow Achille
to the spirit world (Realm of Spirits) so Maximo could attempt
to retrieve the Sorceress ... The final ending was a real
lulu as well ... Speaking of which, was that actually a spiky
black tail I saw poking out of Princess Sophia's dress, or was
it just a hallucination brought on by my perpetual state of hyperventilation?
Don't you worry, because the plot did indeed twist more times
than the hips of Mamba Marie the Swamp Sorceress, and Grimmy said
he'd owe you big time when all was said and done, remember?
No Matter How You Slice it, King Maximo Rules!
Maximo: Ghosts to Glory is one of the most addicting,
angering, exciting, and unforgiving-as-all-get-out (when jumping
onto moving targets) games that I have ever played! There is never
a dull moment, and it truly sparkles with creative, unique, progressively
more challenging twists and turns around every corner. I never
played Capcom's original NES Ghouls and Ghosts or Ghosts
and Goblins games on which they loosely based Maximo: Ghosts
to Glory, so I can't compare them, but I've heard the originals
were more difficult than this new offering. You may find anyway
that you must replay a level multiple times to complete it, and
completion may be barely by the seat of Maximo's adorable heart-print
boxer shorts at that! Maximo can sport up to four levels of armor,
which in my case got cut right down to his skivvies by enemy blows
more times than I care to remember!
As a matter of fact, I would have had this review finished far
sooner, except my sword kept slicing up the paper too much! Somebody
please help me; I just have to put this game away! If I don't,
I'll be inexcusably late for my Maximo Anonymous meeting ...
Release Date: February 2002
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