If you’ve ever cruised down the left-hand lane of Shaikh Zayed Road, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what Maximum Car is about: road rage, with missiles and a zany announcer shouting at you over an eighties electric guitar OST.
Developed and released yesterday by tea&cheese, which describes itself as a “juvenile entertainment system”, Maximum Car is an 8-bit freemium racer sees you boost, drift, fire and smash your way across a twisting multi-lane highway towards the finish line.
Along the way, your destruction of rival racers and hapless non-combatants is cheered on by a boxing announcer-like voice dropping line after cheesy line after you smash through a trans-am (“I hope he has comprehensive insurance!”). Another one to make you smile is “Looks like we won’t be exchanging details”.
The controls are simple. Acceleration is automatic, tapping the left or right side of the screen steers your vehicle in that respective direction and rapidly tapping the opposite side of the screen when in a turn starts a drift. Swipe up on the right side of the screen when the red bar is full to initiate a boost. Do the same on the left side to fire a set of missiles when the blue bar is loaded. Drifting is easy to pull off when facing a series of turns in the same direction but less so when it comes to rapidly switching between left and right – your fingers need to readjust and this takes some getting used to.
The graphics are a cross between the PlayStation 1 and Sega Mega Drive. You can see all the polygons. Low, medium and high settings are available to make Maximum Car compatible with a broad range of smartphones. We played high on an HTC 10.
There are 100 races spread over five zones in the game. These include the starting Tropical set, a Sci-fi collection and the final Explosion zone, which sounds particularly fascinating. You’re not only incentivised to finish first in every race but also to target and destroy specific rival vehicles. A takedown occurs either by ramming a vehicle (preferably when propelled by a boost), a good old-fashioned side swipe, or ridiculously accurate missile, which tracks vehicles along a lane but has a cool-down period. The better the enemy vehicle, the more times you’ll be required to destroy it before it can be unlocked. Some are weak, requiring only a single missile or tap on the back, while others take a few hits. Taking down an enemy vehicle provides a satisfying slow-mo camera panning of your opponent going boom in the air while you zip past to leave them in dust. However, even after unlocking a new vehicle, you’ll still need to spend in-game gold coins to purchase it, which feels a bit unnecessary.
Besides finishing in the top three, coins are earned through fulfilling in-game challenges, such as a set number of near misses, as well as pulling off a solid drift. You can also purchase coins. In addition to buying new vehicles, coins can be spend upgrading durability, speed and steering of your car. They can also be spent on an immediate boost or missile at the start of a race, though you do get both within 10 seconds of starting.
As this is a freemium game, you’re only able to take part in three races at a time. Once these are up, you have a number of options should you want to keep racing: wait 3.5 hours to get three more race tokens, watch a 30-second video ad to unlock this many tokens, or purchase the tokens yourself.
You can purchase 20 race tokens for Dh4, 100 for Dh16, or an unlimited supply for Dh21. For the criminally lazy, there’s also the option to spend Dh25 to get an infinite supply of tokens and all tracks unlocked.
To get through races for this review, we opted to watch the videos. They’re far less intrusive than pop-up banners, something that has ruined more than one freemium game.
Thankfully, Maximum Car also offers an Endless mode. Go down a track of your choice and tally up a high score based on how many opponents you overtake/blow up. It’s a great way to get free practice on a track while honing your general offensive technique.
You keep going until your car’s taken too much damage to go on. At the end, you’re given a score based on how much damage you caused and how many vehicles you took out or overtook. My high score is 18, which comprises of six takedowns and 12 overtakes in 2:10:82.
Why Dubai will relate to this game
Maximum Car opens with a disclaimer: “This is a video game where stuff explodes and is really cool. Drive safe in real life.” When people late for work go past you at 140kmph on Al Khail in the morning, they could be aiming for a near miss achievement. Instead of firing a rocket at the back of your vehicle, these speed demons become the missile, roaring down on your rear as you desperately indicate right and pray they give you half a second to safely exit the SZR fast lane.
Thankfully, however, not too many people drift around bends. Unless it’s just rained.
Maximum Car: TLDR
A retro, fast-paced, fun, freemium (but fair) racer with solid mechanics underpinned by great commentary and a thumping soundtrack.