873426_largerHack'n slash beat'em ups aren't exactly a new thing on any platform, and since the arrival (and success) of Castle Crashers many have tried and many have failed to recapture the essence of the genre.

Unfortunately, most of those attempts have been (or at least attempted to be) comedic and visually childish in nature, aiming for a cutesy Cartoon Network-like style instead of the dark and eerie visuals of the classics such as Golden Axe. Maximus [$0.99] is one of these games, only it gets it very, very right.

I will admit that I was put off by the visual style when I first glanced at the screenies and will also admit, ashamedly, that I wasn't particularly fond of Castle Crashers. But after several mere seconds with Maximus in my hot, sweaty little hands, I knew I was onto something oh, so good.

Story-wise, Maximus is nothing new – save the girl, blah blah blah, though it is told in such an immensely humorous, self deprecating way, the actual story arc need not even matter. The cut scenes are a highlight and will have you giggling like a little girl.

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The developers at Mooff Games clearly have fond memories of Sega's iconic steel on steel forest romp, Golden Axe. From the squat, cartoon version of Tyris Flare, the heroine of the Sega series, to the entire stage set on the back of a giant bird, the nods to one of history's greatest beat'em ups are frequent and unabashed. Maximus doesn't only pay homage to Golden Axe, however. Icons from retro pop-culture are strewn throughout the levels, from a boss resembling a morbidly obese Skeletor, to the ghost-like image, compete with Jedi robes, that Maximus becomes when he knocks on heaven's door. And as for the game's main villain, Mr. B, well I'll leave that for you to find out, but he's recognizable in more than a few ways.

As with the graphics, the action is insanely over the top. Barely a second goes by without being inundated by the plethora of enemy characters, all hell bent on ending your journey before you reach the obligatory end of level boss. This brings me to one of the only negative points about Maximus... sometimes the action can get a little too hectic, resulting in your character being hidden behind a wall of enemy sprites and the only thing you can really do to escape the mass beating is hit that button and hope.

mzl.iommrglcThe controls in Maximus are smoother than George Clooney and simpler than Harry and Lloyd. You take control of your character by thumbing the left hand side of the screen. As you move your fifth digit about, a small white dot shoots about the screen, displaying the direction in which your character will run. Your right hand needn't feel left out, as on that side of the screen is the attack button, which is later joined by a second (heavy) attack button, a plus sign, which connects both attack buttons and unleashes a brutal combo attack, and a magic button, allowing some real Golden Axe-like demon-slaying from above.

The extra attacks and magic need to be earned by leveling up, RPG style, and adding even more to the depth is the ability to select and equip items that can be purchased or earned during the game or via a "one-armed bandit" before each stage. You collect coins throughout the game, which can be used to upgrade your character's stats and/or buy extra weapons, armor and even pets that help dish out the whup-ass.

There are four characters to select from, including Julius Meridius Maximus - the swashbuckler; Frank the Destroyer - who looks like the lovechild of Obelix and Balrog; Bishop - a Robin Hood like chap; and finally, Tyris Flare, erm, I mean Alyssa, complete with red and white bikini.

mzl.jgkggcxrAs well as the player characters, the game is packed to the brim with enemies from all walks of life and um, death. There are more nods to Golden Axe with the likes of skeleton warriors and even the little gnome-type guys who you kick up the jacksie, forcing them to drop food.

There are fourteen main levels in Maximus and extra modes become available upon the completion of certain levels, including a survival mode and a boss vs boss mode, where you spectate and gamble away your hard-earned coins. There's also a mode called "Feasting Pit", which… well, I don't know. The game is telling me I need to complete level nine, which I have done, but it still won't open for me. (Update: The Feasting Pit mode is unlocked by completing level nine on "hard mode", this information was accidentally left out and an update has been released to fix this, along with other small bug fixes.)

Oh well, there is so much content in this gem of a title that a small bug that I'm certain will be quickly fixed, cannot put even a single drop of the wet stuff on my hack'n slash parade. One other miniscule gripe is that some of the larger sprite textures are obviously scaled up, standing out particularly on Retina devices. It's not a deal-breaker but it does somewhat pop you out of the immersion of an otherwise all-enveloping gaming experience.

Ultimately, Maximus is an action role-playing game with fantastic controls, vibrant visuals, epic movie-score sound, massive boss battles and my favorite - loving references to a load of pop-culture phenomena that I fondly remember from my days as a tyke, as well as most certainly quite a few that I missed. There is more goodness than could be possibly covered in any review within Maximus. It's a game with something for everyone, a retro romp the likes of which Ax battler would be proud and it is certainly being shown the love by the community over in the forums. Grab Maximus now. It's free, and if you don't like it, well… you have no soul.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • RunningWild

    Wow! So much love. I'm in!

    • Thered3065

      мy coυѕιɴ ιѕ мαĸιɴɢ $51/нoυr oɴlιɴe. υɴeмployed ғor α coυple oғ yeαrѕ αɴd prevιoυѕ yeαr ѕнe ɢoт α $1З619cнecĸ wιтн oɴlιɴe joв ғor α coυple oғ dαyѕ. ѕee мore αт... http://is­&#46­gd/PSD7aV

      freemium
      game that is 100% playable without in-app purchases provided you put in
      a little elbow grease. Time equals money and these people worked hard
      to make this game, a little compensation isn't too much to ask.

  • TheEvilRobot

    Just got it. Awesome game

  • Simon Marriott

    thanks for the review Karl (and Touch Arcade) :) Brock's death SFX is actually my co-workers fat kid crying, just a random easter egg.. (theres too many to remember ha..)

  • SumoSplash

    Smoother than George Clooney? How about smoother than a milk shake? LOL.

  • hoodwinkedfool

    Yeeesh those metaphors

  • phonecats

    I PLAY THIS GAME EVERY DAYYYYYYYYY

  • themostunclean

    I really dig the devs devotion to this game and the community.

    That being said, I'm just not getting the same kind if "warm fuzzies" from it that the reviewer did. Nothing seems to stand out above the dozens if other freemium hack-n-slash grindfests on the App Store.

    It may just be me, I've gotten really bored with many popular iOS game genres lately.

  • DranDran

    Damn good fun for a freemium game. Not a big fan of the spin the wheel betting slot machine, would rathet have a shop item with stuff to buy.. But still, great fun.

  • 7lilwhitewolf7

    I have no soul plus the fact that i hate everything about this game and type of genre i shouldnt even ex...

  • wigzisonfire

    Very surprised by the high score given to this game. Yes I thought it was quite fun, but the grind heavy freemium focus had me bored after about 15mins, and spoiled what could have been an ok game IMO.

    On that note how has there been no mention of the IAP heavy focus of this game in the review!? It feels like TA needs to adopt Pocket Gamers 7day review method for freemium titles.

    Anyway, there is no way this game deserves the same 4.5 rating as a BADLAND or Kingdom rush!!!! It's a 3.5 if I'm being generous.

    • kioshi

      What grind? Can't say about the hard mode since I haven't played it, but I beat the core normal game without repeating levels. I died sometimes like in any other game, but I didn't even die once in the bosses, this game is easy.

    • http://twitter.com/JaredTA Jared Nelson

      Oh god no. Spending 7 days reviewing a free game which you could just download and try for yourself is a monumental waste of time. I'm about at the point of just not reviewing free games anymore period.

      • wigzisonfire

        PLEASE do!!! i would love for you to spend your time reviewing the games that help inform my real money purchases.

        Like you said if we can all just download Free games anyway what is the point reviewing it, we can just get it and decide for ourselves.

        It's reviews on games such as Agricola and Warhammer Quest that are what we all crave, your opinions are invaluable in deciding whether to throw down dollar on those purchases or not!

  • iphigenia

    Isn't "Mooff" what Clarus the Dogcow says?

  • Kwok Man

    Thanks for the BIG review Karl, Franks the lovechild of Obelix and Abobo from double dragon! I too am not a fan of Castle Crashes but their style (and Dan Paladin) is an important inspiration to us. Sorry to those that didn't like the game, we knew that brawlers were hard to make fun and stimulating (way harder than shmups)

  • Doc Robby

    Just played this game for 35 minutes and have already hit a pay wall with an offer of 10 continues for .99 cents or I have to start all over...
    Seriously?
    The game is not even that good (just my opinion - lots of button mashing) and it takes an incredible amount of grinding to just make a bit of money when of course you can get so much more money.... for a price of course.
    A suggestion to the developers: Make this game more user friendly by either charging a flat rate with the ability to complete the game without In-App purchases, or offer a free game with MUCH more items included with the In-App purchases for a reasonable amount of money. Otherwise I really believe that your game will be off the radar in no time.
    TA, you're entitled to your opinions in your reviews, but I have a hard time seeing how this game deserved a 4.5 stars.

    • themostunclean

      Well put.

      Be wary of any review of a freemium game that has no mention of how that model is implemented.

    • Simon Marriott

      What I can say is we try to be as fair as possible to everyone when it comes to monetizing and we really did try to design the game so it's beatable first time around without having to spend money - we're a tiny team who really just want to focus on making good games and not ruin it with blockers, we definitely don't intend to be like that.

      That being said, we will try to improve the game for everyone going forward, more balancing, content and hopefully a multiplayer - and none of those will we be charging for.

      • Nicholas May

        Keep up the good work! I think you're all doing a great job and don't let the naysayers get you down. I grew up with Golden Axe and appreciated the multiple nods to it (especially the owl king stage and skeleton knight). It certainly has potential to be the next Castle Crashers for Ipad with a little more expansion and of course multiplayer (which you are working on).
        As for those that complain about buying continues I suggest you step up to the challenge and save them for when you really need them (like in the dreaded feasting pit which has to be a multiplayer thing right?). If you ever played the old school beat-em-ups you would realize that Maximus is rather forgiving compared to some. Learn enemy patterns and figure out your characters strengths (I play the archer because of his speed and his decoys are the closest we have to extra players at the moment).
        A list of weapons/pets/armor/accessories would be nice. You could also offer a coin doubler for .99 cents for those that want to spend less time grinding (though to be honest I did no grinding in normal mode, and I liked how hard mode really forces you to do more than just hack and slash- it took a while but defeating the Polar Boys in Hard Mode was pretty satisfying). I wouldn't mind the difficulty increasing if I could get a way to block projectiles/flames because you can't always avoid them.
        I can't wait to see what you come up with next; more levels, more mounts, more characters, multiplayer or whatever it might be I am looking forward to it (just keep up your blend of pop culture; I wouldn't mind some princess bride/legend nods as well if you feel so inclined).

    • Nicholas May

      Button mashing? You can simply hold down the A or B button and the attack will continue hence no need to button mash. If anything there could be a slight tutorial level at the beginning that reveals the basic abilities before sapping them away (to be earned through levels again). And this game deserved some praise for striving to give us the kind of old school challenge we had in the 8-bit era. I don't like how people complain about a freemium game that is 100% playable without in-app purchases provided you put in a little elbow grease. Time equals money and these people worked hard to make this game, a little compensation isn't too much to ask.

  • MrSAhkerEsq

    Games with IAP pay walls should be barred from getting more than 4 stars as these cancerous micro transactions go against the very ethos of being a true gamer.

    • Kwok Man

      Games with IAP walls shouldn't exist, I agree. However, we did make this game with the intention that noobs reach stage 4 before it gets moderately challenging, completing the game in a week (without spending a cent, even though we spent 9 months in development)

      Business savvy friends point out we are generous bordering stupidity to give away Toon Shooters and now this game without more monetization and we should learn from successful devs. We set a clear boundary that no sleazy ads or business bullshit was getting in to ruin our games and we came up with the idea that continues could be a fair option (one that you don't get in Toon Shooter, our other slightly harder game)

      Me and Simon are obviously not businessmen, or remotely intelligent, we are gamers that can't find a decent Shmup or Brawler on IOS and this drives us to make games that, bottom line, we actually find fun. Lets see how long we can stick around with such a childish philosophy.

      • Jake7905

        Don't let the negativity get to you guys, some people see the words "free" & "in-app-purchase" then automatically write the words "crap", "paywall", and "rip-off". It's a condition inherit to IOS gaming, and is more of reflex then a critique.

  • Doc Robby

    I have no problem giving out my money for a game where I get my money's worth. $19.99 for XCOM? No problem. $2.99 or more for a good game with reasonable In-App purchases? Been there, done that, and will do it again. The issue isn't if the developers of this game have worked really hard to create it, because I believe they did. Working hard however doesn't necessarily mean the same thing as working smart. For me, I found that once I reached level 5 death came quickly and I then was offered 10 continues for .99 cents. At this early point of the game, seeing how things were already headed with these type of In-App purchases, I realized that the cost/benefit ratio simply wasn't in my favor. If there are others who can play the game through without paying anything or even paying for what they see as their money's worth, more power to them and the developers. I simply wasn't one of them. And for someone to point out to me that this isn't even a button masher (as I stated in my earlier post) and that all you have to do is hold the buttons down... Well, this isn't helping your case as I interpret this as saying the game doesn't even live up to a button masher. I was there in the early 80's too shelling out tons of quarters for ridiculously hard games where you died in 10 minutes. Golden Axe being a good game or not... It was ridiculous then and it's ridiculous now. We were simply to young and immature to see that we were being robbed. This is why this business model eventually failed as better home games and consoles came out for a high flat price that made many developers and players happy. This being said, I fully support small developers who provide me with a game that is my money's worth. Again, I wish all the power and success and learning opportunities to the developers of this game, and for those who love it to fully support it.

    • philadendron

      Quit spending so much time analyzing cost/benefit ratios and just play the game until it isn't fun anymore. We are talking 99 cents, dude.

      • Doc Robby

        No, the .99 cents is just the beginning. That's the problem dude.

    • Kwok Man

      Thanks for raising the issue, perhaps stage 5 is more of a brick wall than we intended for some ppl and its worth considering the number of free continues. Definitely didn't want ppl to feel like they can't progress and were pressured into paying after 35 mins (or at any stage for that), tricky getting the perfect difficulty, most say too easy but at least one other guy mentioned stage 5. Stage 10 boss is a bigger issue we are gonna make that a tad easier so please forgive us when u reach that.

      • Doc Robby

        Right on Kwok Man! With this open attitude of yours I have no doubt that either this game or others that you create in the future will do very well! I really mean it when I say I want you guys to be successful. Thanks for your reply! :)

      • deejayucla

        Stage 10 boss is ok, perhaps the Blanka biting move should be toned down a bit.
        Stage 11 boss is tricky only because the boat rocking disallows sight. If this was intended, then fine, but it's tough to avoid objects when you can't see anything.

  • deejayucla

    I'm not sure what some of you are talking about. I've used two continues, but I'm on level 5 in gamer mode (the hardest, I think), and haven't spent a penny. I haven't grinded at all (I mean, I have died, and you keep the xp and gold you get on that level, but I didn't repeat levels just to grind gold/xp). Please note that if you don't continue, you start the level over, not the whole game.
    So far I really enjoyed it. Perhaps there may be a disparity between characters? I won't give it away, but some characters are more powerful than others, for sure.

    • deejayucla

      I think also some people don't realize that you don't HAVE to continue. If you don't push the continue button after you die, you'll go back to the level screen after a few seconds. That might need to be made more clear. Perhaps a "dont' continue" button as an alternative to continue.

Maximus™ Reviewed by Karl Burnett on . Rating: 4.5