Capcom has just sent us a new playable demo of the US version of Maximo. As you've surely heard, the game was recently released in Japan, and for all intents and purposes, this demo is identical, save for the translation and a few omitted levels. We've managed to delve a bit deeper into the game and explore some of the later environments. In our last preview, we described at length the game's first area--the graveyard world, which is packed with all kinds of deadly obstacles and creatures. This time around, we'll take you through the next world--the dreadful swamp environment.
For those who've not yet heard of the game, Maximo is a 3D action platformer, with a definite emphasis on the action. Though it definitely has its share of precarious platforms to traverse, you'll find that the game is especially combat-heavy; enemies spawn at maddening frequency, and you're given a nice array of moves and weapons with which to dispatch them. Maximo's combat is significantly deeper than the combat in most games of its type, and the pacing of the battles, as well as their level of difficulty, is most welcome. Learning the attack patterns of each type of enemy is key to getting through each stage in one piece, and you'll constantly find yourself swarmed by various types of creatures at once. Luckily, Maximo is quite mobile, and his move set becomes more versatile as the game progresses, meaning you'll usually have some kind of escape route at hand.
Maximo is also an aesthetic descendent of Capcom's Ghosts 'N Goblins games. Much of the classic series' essence is re-created in this 3D game, resulting in an experience that will undoubtedly wrench the heartstrings of many veteran gamers. From its haunting theme to its general look and feel, Maximo makes more than one subtle reference to the notoriously challenging series, perhaps in ways above and beyond the game's presentation.
No doubt about it, Maximo is definitely a challenging game, even as far as 3D platformers go. As mentioned before, it puts an emphasis on pattern memorization, much like in the days of yore, and some of its platform romps are not to be taken lightly. Reckless play is punished a bit more severely than in most modern games, though deliberation isn't the best way to go about things either; sit too long and most likely a horde of unpleasant things will surely find you. When things get this unpleasant, though, you'll likely have more than a few ways to cope. As you play the game, you'll come across a whole bunch of different power-ups. Some are dropped by enemies, others you find in chests, and a couple are up for sale at the various "shop" stations littered throughout the environments. Basically all of these power-ups have an effect on combat: You'll find items that add to your attack frequency, lengthen your blade, let you fire motes of energy from your sword tip, and widen the area of your piercing shockwave, among other things. Others have less of an impact on direct combat--one adds a block to your life bar (or armor bar, as it were), while another lets you hurl your shield and retrieve remote items. While you can carry as many of these items as you like and enjoy the effects of every one you have, you can retain only a limited number of them upon death. You start the game being able to retain three, with one added as a bonus every time you clear an entire area. Toward the end of the game, you'll have access to a pretty formidable array of powers.
Maximo's swamp environments are a definite departure from the graveyard area, in regard to how they look and feel. From a gameplay standpoint, however, they're not too different, save for one key fact--movement is often a bit more constrained because you'll be wading through murky bog water much of the time. The general environment also seems a bit more static than the graveyard levels, though you will encounter quite a few more moving platforms, which will no doubt try your reflexes. The enemies you'll encounter will also be largely similar to the ones you saw in the graveyard world--skeletons of various types (armed with sword and shield, axes, or unarmed) and zombies in varying states of decomposition. Some new creatures make an appearance, though--huge, deadly crocodiles that lurk in the bogs, piranha-bearing ghouls, who are more than happy to sic their parasites on you, and some gigantic man-eating, spore-shooting plants. Rather than spawning from coffins out of the ground, the creatures in the swamp world spring out from inside of Venus flytraps, and you can't seem to destroy them as they emerge the way you can destroy the coffins.
As mentioned in earlier previews, Maximo's "hub worlds" take the form of actual stages themselves. That is to say, as you hustle about seeking the entrance to the next stage, you'll encounter enemies, obstacles, and power-ups. This definitely turns the maddening pace up a notch, as you really have no respite from the hordes of enemies. The swamp world's hub is built much like the graveyard world's: In the center rests a giant tree, which is where you'll undoubtedly face the area's boss after you clear every stage, and around it lies the geometry that makes up the area. Each of the individual stages is accessed through pillars of sorts that are scattered throughout the hub maps. Each of the swamp world's stages is markedly different in gameplay design, if not in looks, and each is quite challenging in its own right.
One stage is built around a citylike theme, and you'll find equal shares of elevated dwellings and inhospitable bogs. The stage's focal point is definitely a set of moving platforms near the end, under which rests a deadly deep pond inhabited by some kind of tentacled creature that's more than happy to make easy work of you, if you make a bit too much contact with the water. The platforms themselves are arranged on a massive, primitive structure that propels them in tight patterns, creating an all-too-familiar scenario--precarious jumps, with steady ground held by monsters that you must very carefully dispatch. Another stage takes you through a temple-like environment, replete with ghosts, skeletons, and zombies, with a couple of crocodiles thrown in for good measure. This one is a fairly straightforward run, with some bog areas mixed in, and it culminates in a Frogger-like log hop through a brisk stream. That last sequence is definitely the most challenging platform bit up until that point in the game. The third stage is probably the most visually distinct in the lot; it takes place on a blasted tar field, inside of which lie the ancient bones of dinosaurs. You'll be using these as platforms, you can be sure, and there is nary a stable spot on the map. If you happen to fall into the tar, chances are you're dead--the only way to cover ground while in the muck is to attack empty air, and the distance you advance isn't that great. Unless there is a shore somewhere nearby, you might not even bother. Collapsing surfaces further characterize the stage, under which, as you might imagine, lies soul-sapping tar. Hopping through these while avoiding the assaults of enemies will surely test you.
Maximo is definitely challenging. Clearing a stage is certainly satisfying, and there is a tangible bit of excitement in seeing what sort of environment lies ahead. You'll agree that this is a fleeting feeling these days. We experienced a bit of intermittent slowdown in some areas, but the effect was never show-stopping. In any event, the code we got seems more or less complete, so be sure to expect something along these lines when the game is released next month in the US. And be sure to check out the final review.