Got Game?

by Wilma Jandoc


‘Maximo’ unleashes
maximum frustration

Platform: PlayStation 2
Developer: Capcom

By Wilma Jandoc

Those who remember the absurd difficulty of Devil May Cry by Capcom can get ready for more of the same in its new PlayStation 2 game Maximo.

In this action-adventure game, young King Maximo returns home after a war to find that his once-trusted adviser, Achille, usurped the throne, imprisoned four wise sorceresses, tricked Maximo's sweetheart, Sophia, into marriage and turned the kingdom into the land of the living dead.

Achille wastes no time in dispatching the king to the underworld, where the Grim Reaper makes him a deal: He will return Maximo to the mortal realm if the king collects the spirits Achille freed. "If there's no more dead," the Reaper rasps, "then I'm out of a job."

Thus does Maximo start his quest to free the sorceresses and reclaim his kingdom.

Unlike most games, your equipment is not invincible. You start with an iron shield, which can take 10 hits before it breaks and you must buy a new one. You can find or buy stronger shields that can withstand more hits. He also has a "utility belt" that holds tokens that grant special abilities, such as stronger sword attacks. Maximo has three token slots that can be increased to a maximum of seven.

Maximo starts with three lives, and his health is represented by how much armor he wears. He starts off fully armored and slowly loses equipment each time he's hit, until he's running around in just heart-covered boxer shorts.

If you collect all the treasures and hidden items in a stage, you'll "master" that stage. If you master all stages, you unlock a secret.

Maximo's controls make it clear that Capcom did not learn its lesson from Devil May Cry, resurrecting the system that made that game a terror to play, with added grievances.

The square and triangle buttons release sword attacks, while jumping, perhaps your second-most important move, is assigned to the un-intuitive X button. Keep this in mind, or you may find yourself throwing your shield (a function of the circle button) when you mean to jump over boiling lava.

And you can't change your button configuration, so you're stuck with it. Responses to button presses are sluggish, making you vulnerable to enemy attacks more often than not.

Camera angles are decent with a limited first-person view. With a tap of the L1 button, the camera swings behind Maximo to give you a view of what's ahead. But you cannot switch the camera while you're moving, which often is when such a view is needed.

Maximo has no automatic targeting, which can leave you slashing at air as enemies merrily hack at you from the sides.

Saving and continuing the game are big hassles, though admittedly secondary to the shoddy controls. Each save costs 100 Koins (found along the path or in treasure chests), while continues start at one Death Coin (earned by gathering the freed spirits) and increase every few times you use that option. Unless you haven't saved for several stages, it's easier, cheaper and less strain on your heart to quit the game once you lose all your lives.

At least there are checkpoints to dull the pain of death; if you lose a life, you'll start the stage at the last checkpoint. But that's small consolation.

Maximo has been hailed as a return to "classic" gaming, with puzzles that challenge your brain power and teach the tough lessons of frugality and strategy.

It may be all that, but even in today's gaming world full of strategy guides, other games have done the same, and better. If players don't have decent control over the game character, even the best-crafted challenge is wasted.

And if "classic gaming" means creating a 3-D world with controls meant for 2-D side-scrollers, then it's better to stick with the newer generation. (This comes from a person who grew up with video games and played Pong and 4-bit Atari games.)

Oh, well. Every generation has its duds, and Maximo is part of this one's.

Wilma Jandoc covers the universe
of video games and anime for the
Star-Bulletin. She can be emailed at

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