Platform games were the foundation of video gaming, until other genres came along to usurp its position.
However, that could all change this year, if gaming fans put down their overheated controllers long enough to take a look at "Maximo," a fantastic title just hitting store shelves from Capcom for the PlayStation 2.
"Maximo" is a worthy rival to the recently released "Jak and Daxter."
Maximo is a handsome devil, clad in armor and swinging a broadsword. He's back from the wars to find his kingdom has been subverted by evil sorcerer Achille, once Max's trusted adviser.
Worse yet, Max's bride-to-be, the enchanting Sophia, has been forced to tie the knot with Achille. Your job, should you choose to accept it - rescue the four sorceresses who used to run the land, dump Achille, rescue the fair Sophia and get back the kingdom.
Maximo returns from battle with just a sword and shield. It's the abilities he collects as he battles the undead that turns him into a powerhouse capable of doing battle with Achille himself.
And it's those amazing abilities that help make the game as good as it is. There are a number of power-ups for Max's sword, including one that ignites the blade in flame, another that freezes enemies in their tracks.
There are three levels of shields and a collection of items to pick up along the path, including coins you can use to purchase special items and save your game. You start with three lives, and while that might seem generous, the army of ghouls and the leaping required means you'll be covering the same ground for a while.
That's a bit of a sore point. It's been a while since I've played a game that provides just a handful of lives and such a stingy "save" ability. Most gamers don't appreciate having to start a game over three or four times; save as you go should be a feature of all games.
There are some hilarious moments to keep you smiling as you fight. Max's armor, for instance, indicates his life status. As he loses pieces of armor, his life gauge is dropping. When he gets down to his boxer shorts, it's just about time to say good-bye.
"Maximo" is one of those games which can be played as a life-and-death challenge or as a fun way to pass an afternoon. If you decide to just zip through the early stages, you'll find you're missing the money and items you'll need later on. I played both ways at various points, and being thorough is the way to go.
Graphics get a solid A. The use of color is a joy to behold, and details in the vast areas are amazing. There is plenty of variety as the game progresses, and you will never tire of watching the game unfold.
Control gets a B+. There was a minor problem with the camera - it's not always where you want it, and that sometimes makes jumping an iffy proposition. Otherwise, Maximo responds quickly and precisely to whatever you ask him to do.
Sound gets a B. The effects are excellent, the music innocuous. A perfect combination.
"Maximo" is an A title all the way, one of those games you simply have to have. You won't be disappointed.
"Maximo" is rated T, for ages 13 and up.
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