Maximo: Ghosts to Glory Stats and Records

Stats time!

Total Game Completion% 64%

Maximo: Ghosts to Glory Review

Maximo is a game that I sort of just bought on a whim. It showed up when I was looking at various PS2 platformers and I figured it’d be a good pick. The gameplay is solid and there’s a lot of interesting things here but also some gameplay mechanics which have not aged well. Ultimately I would call this a very good game but you should be warned that it is also a difficult one so this will not be a cakewalk.

The game starts with King Maximo running into the treasure room but he’s too late. Achilles has taken over the kingdom, kidnapped all of the princesses and then murders Maximo. Fortunately the Grim Reaper isn’t a big fan of how this all turned out so he decides to help Maximo. He will prevent the lead’s soul from leaving so he can keep coming back to life. In exchange Maximo has to take Achilles down for the count. Honestly it’s not really a bad deal. Maximo wants revenge either way so now he’s ready for action.

The gameplay here is that of a classic 3D platformer. You can double jump and slash at your enemies. Along the way you’ll get different equipment like a shield that you can throw and elemental additions to your sword so you can fire some energy blasts. The weapons aren’t breakable per say but they run out eventually. For example, you can swing your fire sword 2 times before it turns normal and you can use your shield for around 20 times before it vanishes. SO you have to use your techniques wisely.

Now here’s the first main change to the average formula. You start off in a level and then have to get to the end to clear it. There is no save option within the levels, only when you get back to the hub world or when you defeat a boss. Sometimes that means you will have to defeat several areas in a row before you can save. Also, saving costs 100 coins which can actually be a little difficult to obtain. Throughout the levels there are power ups and equipment you can buy but you should always skip those and just save up for the save points.

Save whenever you can because you never know when you’ll lose. The game is deceptively hard here. Sometimes what looks like a simple jump can take you out of the running. If you fall into a pit or lava it’s an instant death even if you have 3 health bars. This is definitely the worst mechanic here. It just adds a lot of extra stress to the levels when you really just want to calm down and keep it moving. It does force you to get really good at the controls though because replaying areas is always rough. So just go slow.

Most enemies you can outrange so hit them as they approach. I never figured out how to hit the bomb enemy without taking damage unless I have a shield though. Making any kind of contact with him ends up hurting you too so you have to really decide if this is what you have to do. If you can skip the enemy then you probably should. The bosses can be tough to learn to you’ll also want to take your time there. For the final boss you really just have to focus on your reaction times. Don’t try and chase the opponent or you’ll always be behind. Instead wait until the attack is coming through and then quickly counter.

I have to give a special shoutout to the final boss because it’s executed really well. The screen goes dark and all you can hear is your heartbeat as the creature gets closer and closer. It’s the kind of boss you would expect in an Alien or Resident Evil type game. The horror elements worked out quite nicely here. In general the bosses had a good amount of effort put into them.

Another gampelay element I should mention is you will obtain many temporary power ups as you defeat enemies and go through the levels. You keep them until you lose a life. There is an exception to this though and that is that you can put some abilities into a locked slot so they stick with you. For example you may start out with about 4 locked slots and 14 normal ones. As you beat each boss you get a new locked slot. You’ll always be losing some abilities when you lose but make sure you are always transferring the best abilities to the locked slots so that you don’t lose them. It’s really handy to always know that you’ve still got the best tricks at the ready.

The story is pretty solid here. I would have liked some more cutscenes to be honest but we had full voice acting a lot of action going on so I was still engaged. There’s even the solid cliffhanger at the end that gets you hyped for what is to come next. They didn’t really spare anything on the budget here without a doubt. The soundtrack is less memorable since I can’t recall a single tune. I guess it all just blends into the stages but I would consider that to be a knock against the game.

The graphics are really good and those have certainly aged well. Maximo is very much a game that encourages exploration so it’s fortunate that it looks good. It would be sad if you were travelling around and every area looked the same or something like that. It may not have been a massive blow but I’m always glad when the graphics are on point. There isn’t really a lot of replay value to be found here though. Once you beat the game there is really not a lot to do so make sure you have fun on the playthrough. I wouldn’t say the game is very long either but you should be able to get it at a good price. Plus the difficulty will probably make it last a bit longer.

Overall, Maximo is a fun game. The title is challenging without being too frustrating. If you try hard enough you can certainly beat any level. I just think that the save feature should be after every level. Additionally it should not cost money. That mechanic doesn’t add anything to the experience and just holds the game back. There are tokens you can get to obtain more continues but even that is more tedious than just doing it normally. So if this game was being used as a test for a new kind of saving system then I can say that it didn’t work for me. I’d stay with the classic saving methods. If you are prepared for a challenge and want to play a solid platformer then I definitely recommend this one.

Overall 7/10

Ruff Trigger: The Vanocore Conspiracy Review

Ruff Trigger is one of those games where you can tell that there wasn’t a lot of playtesting for balance. The controls are fine enough but everything can be cheesed really easily and the difficulty level ends up being very low. The plot will have you scratching your head at times with how random it is. So all in all this doesn’t have that AAA feel but the gameplay itself is pretty fun and the game gets some points for having so many cutscenes.

The game starts with Ruff being put on another mission. He has to round up the Piglots that have been scattered across various planets. These look like little gerbils that will follow you around. Ruff isn’t thrilled at having a mission and complains about it, but the guy complains about everything in this game so the boss wisely ignores him. Can Ruff manage to track these guys down? Meanwhile there’s a mysterious Hulk-like creature who keeps showing up to get absolutely destroyed by Ruff before retreating. What’s his deal?

Wait, what about the Vanocore Conspiracy?? Well, that doesn’t come into play until the final 2 levels and it pretty much meaningless to the plot. There’s no time to process what the two villainesses even want to do so I don’t know why this was included in the game’s title. I guess it sounds cool though and maybe some parts just didn’t end up making it into the final product. There’s enough lore and characters here where this could have been a cool series. Alas, that was just not to be this time.

So the gameplay is your classic 3D shooter but with a little twist. Rather than running to the end of the level, you will periodically be stopped to go and grab some Piglots. You have to transport them to a teleporter which will get them out of the area. Sometimes this will be mandatory and other times it will be optional. It’s usually a good idea to warp all of the ones that you see though because they get you a lot of money which you can use to buy more guns and armor. Money is a resource you will have a whole lot of by the end so don’t be cheap and just buy the maximum armor every time. It’s like having a permanent second health bar.

Your guns are also incredibly powerful to the point where you can beat most bosses in under a minute. The only exceptions are the bosses that you have to beat with Piglots rather than firepower. Those bosses usually have you pick up the piglot and drop them into a teleporter in the middle of the field. As long as you run and jump the whole time then you’ll be one step ahead of the boss so don’t worry about being taken down for the count. The game is really not that hard as I mentioned. Just stick to your guns and you’re good.

Just lock on so you can move from side to side and that will dodge all enemy attacks as all they can do it fire in a straight line. When there are more than pone opponent, just knock them off one at a time. Now, there is a Werewolf mode in the game but you never have to use it. Seriously, I didn’t see any reason to do so. The attacks are very slow and none of them are as efficient as the guns so why bother? This is what I’m thinking of when I’m talking about game balance. The werewolf form is seemingly supposed to be very strong considering that it has a short time limit and you have to look for bottles to replenish this. Then why is it better to be in human form? It doesn’t make any sense.

Also, don’t bother using hand to hand combat. If a bunch of enemies attack you then just jump and do a ground pound. I guarantee that this is the much better way to handle those enemies and the best part is that you will hit them all at once. This way you’re never in any real danger. None of the enemies can hit you when you’re above them like that so I found this to be a good way to get some space. It’s extremely handy in the final level of the game. There are also a handful of racing levels. They aren’t super polished but it was a nice change of pace, I definitely had fun with those.

As for the graphics, I thought those were surprisingly good. Not saying the game looks amazing or anything but it does have quite a few cutscenes and the character models are on point. There are 1-2 levels which are intentionally dark which can be cheesy but the rest of the game looks good. The sound isn’t as good though as there is no decent sound mixing. Some cutscenes are super quiet while others suddenly get loud. That part felt really unpolished. Likewise, the dialogue could use some work. Ruff comes across as a really annoying kind of guy who is constantly complaining without having any good reasons for doing so. It’s hard to even see what the dynamic is between him and the main heroine. I guess they’re kind of together but still like to talk tough the whole time? Naturally she gets kidnapped right away which hurts her hype.

There isn’t really any replay value here. Continuing the game takes you right back to the final level and there’s no stage select. So this is one game where you’ll be putting it down for good after playing through the end. It’s not exactly out of the ordinary but replay value is always a good thing to have. You can get the game for fairly cheap right now though so there’s enough value here to still have a good time.

Overall, Ruff Trigger is a fun game. It’s got solid gameplay and graphics going for it. While the game isn’t super polished and the story isn’t very well thought out, the gameplay is the key thing here. You’ll feel very nostalgic playing through this PS2 experience and I do think that a sequel could have really helped to iron out the rough patches. It’s a shame that this one didn’t do better but I can’t blame people for not buying it. Look at how many years it took me to buy this game right? It serves its purpose as a fun little platformer and you’ll get some humor out of the story cutscenes. At the end of the day it’ll end up being rather memorable thanks to all of this.

Overall 7/10

Crash: Mind over Mutant Review

At long last it’s time to play the next big Crash game. It keeps the monster hacking from the last title but changes the mechanics of how it works a bit. The gameplay is solid but the game is held back by some questionable design choices like the fact that you can’t actually fast travel between lands. So effectively you have a giant hub world but have to actually walk back and forth between each level. I’m still wondering why they would do that but we’ll go into it in a moment. For now I’ll just say this is certainly the weakest Crash game but still a decent game overall.

The game starts with Cortex coming up with his latest scheme to take over the world. He has these VR goggles that will put you into an environment that is so realistic and top tier that you can’t help but get sucked in. Even Crash’s best friend Crunch and his sister Coco were not able to resist. Crash and Aku must now try to stop Cortex before it’s too late but what can these two do without some kind of backup? It’ll be tough but either way they will aim to give this their very best shot. After all if they can’t win…who can!?

So the gameplay is your average 3D Crash style for the platforming elements. You can run, jump, spin, and even dig in this game. You have to typically get to the end of a level or beat up enemies to proceed. There are quite a few sections for combat here but the battles are never too hard. It’s the kind of game where if you die, you appear close to where you died, so you never have to backtrack a whole lot. I definitely enjoyed that at least. Nothing’s worse than having to redo a large section. For the monster jacking, you can store up to 2 monsters at a time and switch through them at will. The downside to having two monsters is that you can’t play as Crash which makes some of the platforming impossible. So typically you will want to stick to one monster which is the perfect setup. Particularly if you pick the Hedgehog as one of them since he’s so fast.

When you’re going through all of the back tracking, it’s very helpful to have someone like this at the ready. When you defeat an enemy you are given the option to take control of it or keep on going. Don’t worry about not taking the right one, any area that needs a specific ability will warp an enemy to you in those instances. So it’s a fun enough gimmick although it feels like we’ve gone far away from the original Crash structure. It’s fun getting to fire off energy blasts and slow down time so the monster abilities are always fun. The slowing down time aspect is quite powerful so they make sure you don’t get to control those monsters until the end of the game.

So lets talk about the backtracking since this mechanic did not work. Basically the island is so huge that it connects to around 6 areas. I want to say in real time if you had to travel the whole island it would probably take you around an hour or so. Fortunately you never have to do that in one time but say you beat the desert world, you’ll be told to go back home. From there you have to head to the school then home, then back to the desert, etc. Most games would have a teleporter or something which would be incredibly useful here. Unfortunately this was not included for a gag. At the very end of the game one of the villains mocks Crash for running around the whole game and quickly whips up some teleporters.

Yes, you gain the ability to fast travel to any point at the final level in the game. By this point it’s so late that it doesn’t actually help out a lot. I suppose if there are some good post game content to play through then it would be nice but this should have been around for the base game. Trust me when I say this would have been incredibly useful to have had a lot sooner. It’s just tedious to run back and forth as well as being very time consuming. You’ll spend more time running around than actually playing the game which is really an issue here. The decision just doesn’t make sense to me.

There’s also a level up system built into the game which doesn’t seem to have much of a point. You get a little stronger and unlock new moves but I never noticed the difference and it takes a while to get level ups. So by the time you are stronger you’ll have beaten the game. I forget at what level I completed Crash but I think it was around 5-7. The game is easy enough where it won’t make a difference and so the whole mechanic may as well not even be here. As they say, if a mechanic doesn’t actually affect anything then you may as well have not had it in the first place.

Well, the graphics are good. During gameplay it all looks solid at least. The levels are colorful and everything is on point. My only issue is with the cutscenes that are going for a more experimental look this time around. Sometimes the cutscenes look like drawings where everything is as low budget as possible. Others use designs like something out of Jacob Two Two. The designs are always changing from cutscene to cutscene, Crash even looks like a Super Saiyan warrior at one point. Now that was definitely something that was a different experience. I’m not really into the experimental techniques myself so personally I think the best thing to do would have been to go with more traditional artwork. It would have just looked better.

At least you can say it does match the crazy plot though. The whole game is rather bonkers with how everyone falls for these goggles. A lot of the dialogue is so self aware it almost threatens to break the 4th wall. The characters aren’t very smart here and even the villains get humiliated by Cortex. The evil mask is certainly on the backfoot here. The scene where he is literally being milked by a machine while Cortex gloats and laughs is rather intense for the guy’s fans. Cortex is really the only villain who keeps his hype here. Perhaps this will even solidify him as the ultimate Crash villain for most. At this point, none of the others seem like they can keep up with him.

Overall, Mind over Mutants is a step down from the other Crash games but I would still call it a good game. Beyond the lack of fast travel, the rest of the gameplay is good and that’s the important thing. The soundtrack may not be too memorable but it works well enough. While the graphics aren’t very good, the story still has a good amount of funny moments and a lot happening at all times. I may not like Crash as a main character but Cortex has enough good lines for the both of them. If you need to complete your Crash experience then this is a good entry to check out. Otherwise you’re not really missing a whole lot though.

Overall 6/10

Grandia II Review

It’s time to take a look at an RPG that’s a part of a series I know the name of but that’s about it. I certainly had no idea on the plot or anything like that. It’s certainly a great RPG and one that has lasted throughout time. You’ll have a good time with this one as there are a bunch of likable characters and solid gameplay throughout.

The game starts out by introducing us to Ryudo. He’s effectively a solo hunter/bounty hunter that nobody likes. His career choice isn’t exactly a popular one and Ryudo isn’t known for his winning personality either. Well, one day he finds himself in a village where his next assignment will be difficult. He has to guard a girl named Elena as she heads off to a mysterious castle to perform a ceremony. It doesn’t go well though and she ends up absorbing the Wings of Valmar.

Elena is now considered corrupted and must find a her way to the master church in order to cure her affliction. It won’t be easy though so Ryudo will have to stay on the job a while longer. He doesn’t believe in either Granas or Valmar as the two gods and just wants to live his life as best he can. The two heroes will ultimately run into several allies, enemies, and even a whole conspiracy. All they will have is each other as the group of heroes prepare for their ultimate confrontation.

The story goes through a whole lot of twists and turns so this is really more of a basic summary. The main thing to remember here is to always watch your back. Ryudo has a pretty good sense of danger about him and usually suspects everyone at first. It’s a wise policy since most of these characters always have some kind of agenda at the ready. It’s impressive just how antagonistic Ryudo is at first. He insults everyone and is clearly not having any fun.

As the game goes on we learn more about his past and why Ryudo is the way that he is. He gets a lot of memorable dialogue throughout the game including a variation of Bully Maguire’s famous line “You missed the part where that’s my problem.” Ryudo is a very different kind of protagonist and is written very well. He’s memorable and not a lead that you are likely to forget anytime soon.

As for Elena, she’s a bit of a weaker heroine. I wasn’t on board for her during most of the game as she always follows the bosses even when they’re acting rather suspect. She’s slow on the uptake in that front and just takes a lot of time to get used to the real world. She finally does, but not until the very end of the game so it took some time.

Her counterpart Millenia was a lot more fun. Effectively this fighter is the embodiment of the Wings of Valmar and one of the most powerful demons around. Naturally that means that someone like Elena who is incredibly focused on the church of Granas does not take too kindly to her. They are polar opposites in personality as Millenia is very forceful and takes what she wants while Elena is a lot more passive.

Roan is a kid who joins the group as well and he’s got quite a few secrets to hide. He’s a nice enough kid even if you feel like he’s too young for this adventure for a while. Ultimately he does end up helping out the group when it counts though. He was also one of the first characters to really trust Millenia which was great for her character arc.

Then you have Mareg who is the power member of the group. He wants to destroy Melfice no matter what due to a tragedy that happened in his origin story. Mareg is always speaking in riddles and trying to be fancy. It may make his dialogue a little stiff but I wouldn’t say they overplay this angle too much. He may not rank quite up there with some of the other characters but he gets the job done.

The final main hero is Tio and she’s an android who has to try and develop a heart. That’s not an easy tasks for anyone but she gives it her all. She comes a bit late in the game but makes the most of her screen time and quickly became one of the more enjoyable members. It always makes for a powerful character arc to have a robot truly become alive like this.

There’s also Ryudo’s pet bird Skye but he doesn’t do as much as you would expect despite technically being around for the whole game. He likes to tease Ryudo once in a while. Selene is one of the big members of the Church of Granas so she gets a sizable role here. From the start she comes off as very forceful in trying to keep people safe so you don’t want to be near her when the knights come strolling in. I’ll give her this, she was very dedicated to the cause.

Then you have Melfice, Ryudo’s long laost brother. This guy was a difficult fighter and certainly not someone to take lightly. He’s one of the more interesting villains even if he isn’t around for a big part of the game. Ultimately he chosse power over everything which is rarely ever a good decision. It was interesting to see how in his village this was a popular idea though in the sense that you can’t create justice without power. To an extent that is true but it’s definitely easy to lose focus and start obsessing over power too much.

Zera is a big player in the story for sure. I’d say he’s your classic old guys in one of these RPGs. He has big plans and will do anything in order to make it to the end. Not the kind of guy you want to trust and he loves showing off with his big speeches and everything. It’s just what he does.

Towards the end of the game things get rather cosmic. One of the best cutscenes is when we actually got to see the origin of the big battle between Valmar and Granas. Typically this is the kind of thing you’d expect to hear about but never actually see so I was impressed when the game threw me a curve ball and actually showed this on screen. That was very impressive and a prequel could easily work with this concept. There’s a lot you could do for that war.

Throughout the game the graphics are definitely impressive. We even get some good soundtrack themes during the game. I like the battle themes and boss music. It’s not surprising that a big RPG like this could have a solid soundtrack but it’s always worth noting. It makes the battles all go smoothly as you would expect.

In the end the game took me over 30 hours to complete which is a very solid length. I had to train for several hours before the final bosses because of how difficult they were though. Once I got a certain character back into my party then things eased up though. I’m not sure if there is any replay value here though as it seems it’s the kind of game that takes you back to right before the final boss when you load it up. So this will be a game you just aim to beat all the way through.

The only two areas in the game that could be improved are that the cutscenes can’t be skipped as well as the attack options. The latter may not sound like a big deal but quite a few of the attacks here are very fancy so during the final battles you’ll be having to wait for many attacks to go trough. I would usually have reddit open or a manga while I was waiting between attacks. So if the game is ever remade they should definitely add a skip feature in and that would be perfect.

It may go without saying but the combat system is that of a turn based combat mode. It’s a lot like Mega Man X Command Mission where your turns are based on speed as opposed to things always going in the same order. So that makes investing in quick equipment well worth your while. Each character can also equip 6 skills from the books you collect as well as an egg which grants you the ability to use magic. Leveling all of your techniques up takes time so I recommend saving your points for the abilities that you will really want to use.

Overall, Grandia II is a great game. It’s got a very satisfying story to it and a good cast or characters. It’s also fairly long at over 30 hours so this is certainly not the kind of game that you can just complete in an instant. You’ll really have to apply yourself here and I recommend fighting enemies as often as you can because it will certainly catch up to you by the end. I cleared the game at around level 57 and it was still fairly difficult. So I definitely recommend this to any RPG fan.

Overall 8/10