Capcom was gracious enough to send us a playable version of Maximo, the long-awaited 3D tribute to Ghosts 'N Goblins. The demo build contains a fully playable version of the game's first area, a gruesome graveyard world, replete with armed skeletons, soul-sucking ghosts, and plague-ridden zombies. If you've played any of the classic Ghosts 'N Goblins games, you'll definitely find parallels between Maximo's first area and those of the classic games. The deforming levels found in the later games are present in Maximo's first area, and they play a pretty huge role--they'll create jumpable platforms that are unavailable in previous games, making your casual stroll through the landsof the dead a bit more tense than you'd like. A host of other small touches further cement the game's heritage. It all adds up to something that seems very special, albeit classically unforgiving.
Upon returning home from a righteous crusade, as the story goes, the valiant knight Maximo finds his homeland in shambles. The evil wizard Achille is responsible; he has made himself king, forced Maximo's lady Sophia into matrimony, and is using huge drills to do something unthinkable to the land. While you're not immediately privy as to what exactly the drills are for, the fact that undead creatures are now roaming the land and that Death himself is pretty unhappy with Achille does reveal some clues. In any event, your job is to travel through these newly razed lands, clear out the infernal menace, and rescue your beloved.
From what we've been able see, Maximo is an awesome hybrid of a 3D platformer and a combat-based action game. Your character is very mobile, as the situations he's in will warrant, and he has a nice set of combat abilities that are highly expandable by the power-ups you'll find. You have a double jump at your disposal, which you're sure to make much use of. Combine a double jump with a vertical sword attack (the triangle button by default), and you'll land on the ground with a vicious downward thrust, which sends forth a shockwave that damages all surrounding enemies. On the ground, you'll have access to both vertical and horizontal slashes, both of which can be modified heavily by power-ups. One of the first ones you find, in fact, adds a second slash to your horizontal sword attack, resulting in a nice one-two combo. Meanwhile, pressing forward along with the vertical slash causes you to execute a thrust attack. Using the R1 button allows you to block enemy attacks with your shield, but it also becomes an offensive weapon, in its own right, after you pick up an early power-up. You'll be able to hurl it from a distance and take out remote enemies.
The game's early stages provide you with many ample opportunities to use these abilities. It all begins in the area familiar to those who have been following the game since its playable debut at the last E3 expo. It's essentially a linear romp through a stretch of the graveyard world, and it serves to familiarize you with all the elements you'll encounter in the world's later stages. It'll also prepare you for the game's tense pacing. You see, in Maximo, enemies will seldom be visible in the environments until it's almost too late. Instead, as you walk through the maps, coffins will spring out from the ground, open up, and expel creatures that will attack you. If you run into the coffins, you'll take damage, but you can destroy them as they surface. Attack too soon, however, and the creature inside will attack you before you recover from your attack. It is possible, though, to time it perfectly--you can destroy the coffin while damaging the creature with one stroke and then finish it off with the second, provided you have the second-strike power-up, of course. The enemies we've encountered thus far are mostly variations of standard zombies and skeletons, the latter being far more plentiful. We've fought with weak, slow skeletons, faster, stronger ones, and ones that are fully armored and carrying swords and shields. We've also come across some that "teleport" by sinking into the ground, appearing behind you, and striking you while you're unaware. Another kind hurls a large ax like you would your shield, and his range is pretty deadly. Yet another is decked out in full armor, carries a polearm, and marches in time. Enemies generally attack you en masse; several coffins will spring out over a given patch of turf, and their inhabitants will swarm you. You'll be able to drive them off for a second with a jumping shockwave, but it's best to hightail it shortly thereafter and take them on at your leisure.
After you complete each stage, you'll enter a sort of hub world, which, for all intents and purposes, is a mini level in and of itself. From here is where you'll access the rest of the areas within the graveyard world. To do so, you must seek out a marker somewhere on the hub map and destroy it to enter. As there are enemies populating this hub world, you might not always make it there in one piece. The individual stages all share the graveyard motif, but they do radically different things with it. The effects are very satisfying. One, for instance, starts out in a narrow canyon and soon leads you through a series of cliffs, pieces of which crumble as you walk through them. If you remember those evil, skull-spewing golem towers from the Ghosts 'N Goblins games, then you'll be all too familiar with one of the most prominent horrors of this area. These are essentially the same as the ones from the classic games, but they're much taller, and the skulls they spit are bathed in eerily glowing particles. Another stage expands on this sort of platform hell but makes it ever more menacing due to the presence of flowing lava at your feet.
Maximo, as you've probably gathered, has us pretty excited and quite eager to see more. At this point, the only thing plaguing it at this point is a bit of intermittent slowdown, which seems to occur most frequently in areas where you're wading through water. We'll have more on it very soon, so keep your eyes on this space.