Maximum Car by Ancient Games, Tea & Cheese, and I Fight Bears has a lot going for it. Combining intense speed, flashy visuals and responsive controls in homage to Out Run and Burnout, it’s hard not to enjoy the game’s shameless adrenaline fixation, stylized voxel artwork and huge supply of optional challenges.
However, before we proceed with the review, there’s an elephant in the room to tackle. Maximum Car is free, and as with many free-to-play titles, it’s loaded with game-stalling money-grabs, in the form of Gameplay Tokens. Each race costs a Gameplay Token, which can only be collected by watching advertisements, or waiting for a lengthy timer to count down. While I certainly understand the economics behind this decision, I’ve never been fond of freemium time-sinks in racing games, as this monetization scheme feels more at home in strategy games and clickers. That said, if you’re willing to stay near Wifi or sacrifice your data to watch videos after every three races, Maximum Car is mostly playable without spending any money. I, however, am devoid of the patience for this sort of exercise, so I immediately purchased an endless supply of Gameplay Tokens for $5, thanking the developers for their hard work, and continued on my merry way.
Maximum Car’s gameplay is very similar to Horizon Chase, in that your vehicle automatically blazes at high speeds along a walled highway, aiming to progress from last to first place during the course of a race, using drifts, boosts and weapons to your advantage. Swiping up on the right side of the screen activates a boost, while swiping up on the left side launches a missile. The game’s main hook lies in its explosions, and for the most part, they deliver. Boosting past an adversary and immediately launching a missile into your next foe is extremely satisfying, especially as each destroyed competitor can eventually be unlocked, once they’ve been destroyed a set number of times.
Each of the game’s 5 different worlds boasts 20 levels of somewhat repetitive design. The game might have benefited by varying lighting or road design a little more between each level, but unfortunately, once you’ve seen one level in each of the worlds, you’ve basically seen it all. Thankfully, the gameplay is frantic enough to deter the eye from wandering too much, and the framerate is usually rock solid, even on my iPhone 6. When running at full speed, Maximum Car’s vividly-colored levels and creatively-designed voxel cars really are a joy to behold.
Sound design in Maximum Car is highly involved, though whether or not that’s a good thing is ultimately up to the player’s own sense of humor. The game’s voiceover character is meant to be a parody on old-school racing announcers, starting out with quips such as “Devastation!” and “I hope they have insurance!”, working his way up to lines like “You’ve achieved something in life!” and “The problems that caused the recession aren’t fixed!”. While the announcer is admittedly an entertaining inclusion, his lines top out at a couple dozen different samples, so the humor might wear off for some players. Thankfully, the developers have included the option to toggle commentary, sound effects and music separately, which should allow all players to find a combination that works best for them.
Maximum Car isn’t a perfect game. The timer mechanics definitely feel out-of-place in a racing title, and the self-aware announcer might deter some players. However, even with these issues, I still found myself addicted to the speed of the chase, as well the game’s varied and humorous collection of collectible voxel cars. I highly recommend grabbing the free download, even if only to test the waters before spending any money. It’s an enjoyable 3-4 hour romp, and well worth the $5 Gameplay Token unlock for any adrenaline addicts starved for an arcade-inspired, explosive experience on iOS.